Chapter 7

Establishing a National Corporation for Educational Empowerment
"None of us is as smart as all of us!"

Key Understanding: We need a central leadership and service capability to act on behalf of education as a whole so we can effectively focus and apply our national motivation and vast resources to analyze our education needs, design the most productive means of meeting those needs, and implementing the most powerful educational and management programs possible. We need to do this in such a way that would increase local control by adding resources available to states, districts, schools, students, and parents from which they can choose.

What if we could connect all of our resources and expertise as a nation and focus it on maximizing the power and opportunities for each person young and old to learn and achieve? What if that became a national mission similar to the Moon Mission of the 1960’s? Consider how the Moon Mission re-energized our nation and propelled dramatic progress in almost all areas of our productive lives! Now, visualize the even more dramatic results of a National Education Mission and how it would re-energize even more dramatically our nation as a whole and give birth to an increased level of freedom for each person to learn and develop virtually without limits!  Warren Bennis in his book, Organizing Genius: The Secrets of Creative Collaboration, in describing how great groups in the past have made tremendous advances in productivity and transformed our ways of life, writes on page 3:

... we have to recognize a new paradigm: not great leaders alone, but great leaders who exist in a fertile relationship with a Great Group. In these creative alliances, the leader and the team are able to achieve something together that neither could achieve alone.

We now know enough about the power of systems, the principles of learning, and the technology of storing and transmitting information that combined with what we know about modern comprehensive management  gives us the possibility of transforming education way beyond anything we could have dreamed before. To accomplish this we need a national infrastructure and management capability sufficient to cultivate, share, and apply the necessary intellectual capital to accomplish what can become the greatest educational revolution ever and finally bring education fully into the 21st Century.

This chapter will concentrate on the role of a National Corporation for Educational Empowerment in promoting an intelligent education system at all levels. The next chapter will discuss the individual student as an intelligent learning system. Subsequent chapters will cover schools, districts, families, etc. as intelligent learning/education systems. Each chapter will demonstrate the principles and components introduced in chapters 6 & 7 as it applies to each.

Declare a National Mission Statement and Commitment

The first step is to establish a national mission statement and commitment to increasing the success and achievement of all learners. This mission statement must reflect the common needs and aspirations of our diverse population and generate the excitement and motivation needed to move the resources of the nation toward this goal.

Establish a National Educational Empowerment Corporation to Take Leadership & Act On Behalf of Education as a Whole

This would be in the form of a non-profit corporation with a charter and with its members selected by a combination of government, educational associations, universities, and other stake holders appointments. Membership on the corporation should represent the best in the fields of education, learning, technology, management, and systems design. Appointments could be for a period of from two to four years, with reappointments possible for a second term.

The National Educational Empowerment Corporation would provide services to schools and other agencies, but not line authority. It would have authority to enter into contracts and to gather or develop intellectual capital with rights of ownership and/or licensing. It would work in relationship with other government agencies now in existence. It would call for expertise and form ad hoc project groups as needed to carry out its functions.

The National Educational Empowerment Corporation would have the following areas of responsibility and authority:

1. Review, study, and report the best of what is known about learning principles, educational design, systems thinking, management, and any other promising discipline as they relate to achieving the national commitment to empower all learners. This should result in a yearly report of findings, identifying additional areas of promise, issuing challenges for further study and research, and organizing this information in ways easily accessed by all interested stakeholders.

2. Establish a National Digitized, Computer-based, Anytime/Anywhere Learning System. This would be composed of the following: 

A.     Build a National Comprehensive Curriculum of Standard Objectives. There are an infinite number of ways curriculum can be organized, defined, categorized, cataloged, or systematized. That is the current state of affairs today. There are excellent curriculums at local, state, and national levels, but because they vary, efforts to connect and evaluate support materials and ideas become scattered. For example, the web has generated a myriad of education-related sites with tens of thousands of lesson plans and activities which become almost useless because of the lack of a common terminology or organization of subject matter. To sift through this ever-growing disarray becomes too time-consuming to be of much practical value to the average learner, teacher, or parent. We need a basic curriculum system that can act as a gathering place for educational development. It could act like the Dewey Decimal System used in libraries for classifying books and other publications according to subject matter. Other educational entities could still have their own curriculums and still benefit from the basic curriculum system. Resources could easily be cross-referenced by computer to connect the objectives as organized by the basic curriculum system to that of any other curriculum. Without the basic system, you have an infinite number of curriculums trying to relate to an infinite number of curriculums.

B.     Capability of Personal Student Profiles. This includes developing a computerized means of evaluating mastery of each objective. Again, the basic system does not preclude other methods and means, but it would be of immense help to all learners to have at least a basic way for them to evaluate their own competence for a particular objective or a means for their instructors to easily provide for such an evaluation. Individual learners, schools, or school districts could select the objectives they wish to monitor. The basic Personal Student Profile system would provide for each learner an always up-to-date status report of key objectives for which he or she has shown mastery and point the way to objectives that should be considered next. It would be like a map or geographical position device where you always know where you have traveled from, where you are now, and the main roads that lead to where you want to go. The basic system should provide for a learner, with password protection, being able to pursue further learning or checking of mastery anywhere with on-line computer access.

C.     Match Learning Options for Each Objective. Identify, gather, or develop a national repository of multiple learning options pinpointed to each objective. This would include digitized presentations, such as documentaries or direct instruction, and interactive learning programs. It would also include ideas for activities, games, and lesson plans learners, teachers, and parents could utilize. In many cases, these options would be developed by others as a contribution to the Anytime/Anywhere Learning System. In other cases, the Educational Empowerment Corporation would direct a team of developers to create a needed learning option. Because of economies of scale, whatever resources that would be needed to develop a learning option would be available. Because of the principle of plentitude, the resulting option would have its maximum impact for all learners. With some options, particularly ones created under its direction, the Corporation, acting on behalf of education as a whole, would acquire ownership or licensing rights allowing further development. Many options would be contributed by others, either as free donations, or paid with licensing agreements. The movie industry for example, could donate clips from movies. Video documentaries, like the ones on the Civil War by Ken Burns could be licensed. A number of excellent educational games and learning programs have failed to succeed in the marketplace, but could be acquired or licensed for use in the Anytime/Anywhere Learning System. The possibilities are unlimited. Just as important, the corporation would also be authorized to evaluate and rank options as to their potential value in helping learners achieve the connected objective and place or not place them in the System accordingly. Evaluations could also include information as to what learning styles the option fits best. Learners could then quickly pick the best option available.

D.    Develop a Standard, Computer-based, Personal Learning Management Program that can access Curriculum Objectives, Keep Track of the Learner’s Mastery of Objectives, and Access Desired Learning Options. This program should be available on a personal storage device, compact disk, DVD, or be downloadable on-line. It should be usable on any computer and with modifications on suitable hand-held or pocket computers. It should be easy to learn and use. Teachers should be able to develop their own presentations for use with the program. Study aides should be included that help a learner organize his or her learning efforts, schedule completion of projects, and provide for systematic review.

3. Conduct Research and Design Ever-More Proficient Prototypes of Educational Systems. The power of systems is in its wholeness. Each component of a system needs to synergistically interact with all other components for the good of the whole. An improvement of one component does not necessarily increase the effectiveness of the whole. In living systems or in our case intelligent learning systems, improvements in any component can lead to adjustments by the other components and reorganization of the whole. We want to encourage that process. But at the same time, it would be desirable to use modern management methods to continually develop prototypes of ever more proficient educational systems that include more and more of what we know about learning.

Kenneth G. Wilson, the Nobel-Prize winning physicist, and Bennett Davis in their book, Redesigning Education, dramatically review this important process. Several excerpts from pages 24 and 25 illustrate:

Although the process comprises different aspects, its success depends on their close integration. Indeed, the successful process of improving successive product models is best likened to an ongoing conversation – a continuous circuit of information through which researchers, development engineers, marketing executives, salespeople, and consumers constantly communicate their needs. …. The conversation that the redesign process and its succession of innovations fosters in industry has no counterpart in our schools.

There are other differences between industry’s and education’s approach to change. First each phase of industrial redesign is staffed by specialist trained and experienced in that phase. Scientists do research. Design engineers apply research results to practical problems and create products. Manufacturing engineers decide how to produce those products in the most efficient ways. … The efforts of each specialist complement the rest. …. Educational researchers, innovators, and teachers work in isolation from each other.

To reach our national mission, we must be able to utilize the same power of collaborative research and design that have resulted in the Boeing 777 airliner and other technological marvels. We can do this and continue to preserve our values of local control and choice. Certainly our advances in transportation, communication, and medicine have increased our freedom to pursue personally chosen goals. The same can be true of education.

Certainly, schools need to be engaged in reorganizing their structure and processes from the generic lock-step graded classrooms and isolated teachers who are expected to do virtually everything to better match each student with the most powerful and satisfying learning opportunities possible. This means creating a new division of labor and ways to provide the best, most effective learning opportunities to all students all of the time. The National Education Empowerment Corporation would be authorized to develop educational system prototypes to represent the best that collaborative research and design can come up with. These prototypes can be tested by computer simulations and wind tunnels (model schools).  This will give opportunity for specialists of all kinds to make their contributions to an integrated whole. It would provide dialog and interaction to a degree not available today. Being able to be a part of a developing whole should generate a tremendous outpouring of energy and ideas that would then be capable of being utilized effectively. Research could be more targeted and integrated with developing designs. School districts could contract with the National Education Empowerment Corporation to cooperatively apply chosen prototypes in their own schools and systems. They, in turn, become partners in the development and refinement of learning opportunities for all children. The process, like in all other areas of our productive society, would not be static. Prototypes would be continually redesigned to reach for higher and higher levels of effectiveness, capturing what is newly discovered, and providing the motivation and direction to develop new discoveries.

4. Facilitate the Development and Contribution of all Components of the Education Value Chain.  Many people and organizations contribute to a learner’s development, motivation, and opportunities. Parents and families play a tremendous role. Many others could be listed, such as churches, libraries, community and sports organizations, clubs, businesses, adult education, colleges, programmers, educational writers, etc. Each of these should be encouraged to continually improve their impact on empowering learning opportunities. The National Educational Empowerment Corporation could provide training in the skills and processes involved in becoming an intelligent learning/education system as well as interacting productively with other systems. For example, how parents can effectively interact with schools, or how youth organizations can align their efforts. For example, many areas of the basic national curriculum along with its learning options could well fit into the goals of many diverse groups. They can utilize those resources, and in turn make their contributions to the success of learners within their influence. Guided by a shared vision and access to a common infrastructure and means of communication, we can tap into the awesome power of distributed intelligence while enhancing our value of local control and personal choice.