A few weeks ago, I began a journey to understand education so that I could try to measure whether or not my daughters were getting a good education. I care about this because I love my girls and because I will probably spend a significant amount of time and money to educate my daughters. I don’t want my children to waste their lives. I want my children to be able to use their God-given talents to live in freedom and pursue things that will bring them true joy.
Happiness is a victometric. It is a way to measure whether we are winning or losing. For me, losing means reaching the end of my life with the knowledge that I have wasted it. Winning means reaching the end of my life knowing that those who matter will say, “Well done.” If I can do that, I believe that I will die happy.
Why should an individual care about their own education? For the last several weeks, I’ve been questioning why others (Civilization, the Tribe, the Family) should care about education. Now, it’s time to consider the interests of the person being educated. Why should the learner care?
If the educational process is to be effective, the individual must eventually take responsibility for their own education and take ownership of it. Let’s imagine that we could have a conversation with our past selves. What would we tell ourselves?
As a parent, I have this opportunity, indirectly. Even though my oldest daughter is only five, I find myself telling her the same thing I would tell myself if I could go back in time. Get wise. More specifically, I tell her to seek wisdom. My desire is that all of my daughters grow up to be wise women.
What is wisdom? There are multiple definitions. The introduction to the Wikipedia article on wisdom says,
Wisdom is a deep understanding and realization of people, things, events or situations, resulting in the ability to apply perceptions, judgments and actions in keeping with this understanding. It often requires control of one’s emotional reactions (the “passions”) so that universal principles, reason and knowledge prevail to determine one’s actions. Wisdom is also the comprehension of what is true coupled with optimum judgment as to action.
My father-in-law has a more concise definition. He says, “Wisdom is skill in living.” As a data-driven systems engineer, I see wisdom as the ultimate decision support system. Wisdom enables us to make the best choice in any given situation. It helps us to rightly answer three decision-framing questions:
- Who am I?
- What situation am I in?
- What do people like me do in this situation?
As responsible individuals, we are faced with an incredible number of choices as we go through our lives. In an earlier post, I suggested that value is the sum of the good and bad outcomes of our decisions over time. Elsewhere, I encourage you to choose your objectives in life carefully, since the measure you use to keep score will affect your strategy and will shape your actions. Our decisions matter.
To illustrate this point, consider the young man who once asked his boss what the secret to his success was. The boss answered, “Making good decisions.” The young man pressed him for more detailed guidance, asking what helped him make good decisions. ”Experience.” replied his boss. Insistent, the young man asked how he could gain experience. The answer? ”By making bad decisions.”
In life, there are two ways to get experience. We can learn directly from our own mistakes, or we can learn indirectly from the mistakes and successes of others. Sir Isaac Newton said, “If I have been able to see further than others, it is because I have stood on the shoulders of giants.”
The educational process should guide us through the process of gaining experience. It should teach us who we are and what to do, based on the experience of others. The process should test us and give us our own chances to fail. When we make mistakes, our educational process should help us to learn from the mistakes, enabling us to make a better decision the next time.
Motivated by my awareness that I will spend an enormous amount of time and money educating my three daughters over the next 20+ years, I have been seeking ways that I can measure the success or failure of educational models for my children. I want to choose the best system of education, and be able to monitor the effectiveness of that system for my family.
So far, my search has led me to seek a personalized definition of education — “the process of turning on the lights” — and to ask who the major stakeholders in the education process are. I have hypothesized that Civilization, the Tribe, the Family, and the Individual all have a stake in the education of a person. Underpinning all of these is my belief that we were created by God, and that God cares actively about education as a way for us to come to know who created us and why.
This week, I want to examine the Family’s interest in education. As with many of these questions that explore the foundations of education, I initially thought that the answer to this question was fairly self-evident. Families care about education because that’s what families do. They send the kids to school in the morning, or teach their kids at home. But the more I thought about this, the less that seemed like a satisfying answer.
Educating a child represents a tremendous investment on the part of the family. Besides the cost of the educational program, the decision represents years of opportunity costs. While the child is in school, there are trips that the family cannot take, obligations that must be met, work that must be completed, hoops that must be jumped, and much more. Decades of decisions are heavily influenced by the child’s educational needs. Why would the family invest all of this time and effort into the child?
For the past few weeks, I’ve been exploring the question of whether we can measure the success or failure of education. First, I loosely defined education itself as, “The process of turning on the lights.” More specifically, “Education is the process of increasing human capital by learning from the experience of others.”
I then asked, “Who cares about education?” I believe that there are at least four different players that have a stake in the success or failure of an educational system. These four stakeholders (civilization, tribe, family, and individual) each care about education, in their own way. This week, I want to look at the tribe’s interest in education.
What happens if you drop a Roman on a desert island?
You may be wondering if this is the introduction to some corny joke. Given my enjoyment of the kind of humor that you would often find featured in your average summer camp skit, this is probably a good guess. However, believe me when I say that this is actually a serious question. If you do take me seriously, you might find yourself wondering what this could possibly have to do with education or victometrics.
Last week, I introduced four players that have a stake in the success or failure of an educational system, in my opinion. These four stakeholders (civilization, tribe, family, and individual) each care about education, in their own way. This week, I want to look at the interest that the Civilization has in education.
Last week, I sought to find a decent working definition of education. I still like, “Education is the process of turning on the lights.” This week, I’ve been grappling with the question, “Who cares about education?” It’s a serious question. While I don’t expect to have a comprehensive answer after only a week of thought, I do have some initial conclusions.
First, there are several groups that have a legitimate interest in education. I believe that it is important to recognize the fact that different groups do have a shared stake in education. If true, this means that the decisions about education are multi-stakeholder decisions.
Second, these different groups expect the educational process to deliver different value. One group might value the free-thinking abilities of an educated person while another might value the learner’s ability to perform a high-skill job very reliably. This means that educational decisions are multi-objective decisions, in addition to being multi-stakeholder.
In case you didn’t know, making a multi-stakeholder, multi-objective decision is difficult. Just think about the last time a group of people tried to decide on which movie to watch together. Now, think about how hard it is to get a bunch of people to decide on something that really matters.
The first step is to understand who the different stakeholders are and understand why this decision matters to them. Ask, “Who cares?”
A week ago, I pondered happiness as a measure of success. When I saw that Jens Bolch posted this article from TechCrunch, I couldn’t resist tying this in with my earlier post. If you have any interest in how to implement agile methodologies across a larger group, the article is a good read. If you have any interest in novel organizational structures, you’ll enjoy it.
I found the last page quite interesting. The authors have implemented a structure that maximizes the number of grown-ups in the company, and have used employee satisfaction (e.g. happiness) to measure their success. Nice!
My oldest daughter turned five years old a few weeks ago. One of my great joys has been to watch her discover her world. She is now starting to read, and I look forward to watching her discover the worlds that she will find between the pages of her books. As I watch her learn to read, as I see her struggle to piece together simple words, and as I see her face light up when she realizes that those funny symbols have meaning, I find myself thinking of her future and the formal education that she is beginning. For the next fifteen or twenty years, I expect that books and papers and tests and grades and such will festoon my home.
Education. What a concept! What a tremendous responsibility. I expect that I will invest countless hours over the next few decades — not to mention a tremendous amount of money — into the education of my daughters. This is a responsibility that I embrace gladly. But, before I plunge into the task, I find myself pausing to ask a question. How we will know whether or not we are succeeding?
I have been told that education is a journey. If this is true, it is a very long journey. How will I know that we are still on track?
Many have sought to find ways to measure the progress of education. This should not surprise us. When we consider the great love that parents have for their children, their willingness to sacrifice their own comfort so that their children can have better lives, and the high cost of education, we see that parents have a good reason to care deeply about the quality of the education that their children receive. At the most basic level, parents want to know that their children are learning. Parents want to leave a legacy for their children, and a good education is a great legacy.
As children mature into adults, many of us find that our future success is linked to the education that we received. As a professional, I’m keenly aware that my competitive edge is largely due to my ability to continue learning, even after completing my formal education. Many of my coworkers have personally invested their own time and money into their education. No one wants to pay good money and get nothing out of it. We care about the quality and effectiveness of the education that we receive.
Let’s not forget the broader community. The community is strengthened by the presence of well-educated citizens who can use their abilities to help meet the needs of the community. Inversely, poorly educated citizens require a greater investment from the community if they are to live up to their potential. At every level of society, the community should care about the quality and effectiveness of the educational system.
Since we care deeply about the results personally and collectively, how should we measure whether we are winning or losing when we evaluate our educational systems? Are there measures that we can use to keep score? Are there victometrics for education? From my vantage point, this seems to be a huge question. I feel like I’m pressed up against the granite of a huge mountain and asking how big it is. Before I can get any sense of scale on this, I feel the need to take a huge step back in order to gain perspective. In order to meaningfully measure education, I think I must revisit and restate what may seem obvious. So, here goes!
Victometrics are those things in our lives that we can observe and measure and that we use to monitor whether we are winning or losing. They are what we use to keep score. They go by different names in different circles. If you have used the Balanced Scorecard, you might use the name “Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)“ for your victometrics. If you have designed systems using the Department of Defense Architectural Framework (DoDAF), you may have used the name “Measures of Effectiveness (MOEs)” or “Measures of Performance (MOPs)” for your victometrics. In athletics, most people call them “points”. Hunters call them “trophies”. Victometrics are those things that we really need to monitor.
I am interested in finding victometrics in each of my various personal and professional pursuits. As a systemic, strategic thinker, I seek to be able to observe the world, orient my observations using a framework of principle and experience, channel observations that have been oriented to my framework into data-driven decisions, and take effective action that will produce measurable results. By monitoring my victometrics, I try to learn from my mistakes and increase my value and effectiveness. This is my personal creative method. Using my method, I seek to navigate uncertainty and pursue my objectives.
But, what objectives are worth pursuing? I think that this question should be asked at every level of an organization. Once asked, the answers should be aligned across the organization so that there is a coherent hierarchy of objectives. If every member of an organization, from the most senior and responsible to the most junior and inexperienced, understands the objectives that the organization is pursuing in the context of their daily functions, then an incredible organizational magnetism might start to work.
Read the rest of this entry »