Monday, April 21, 2008

Educational Arson

In January, I blogged about the need for "Disruptive Education." Many who believe that the current economic system is unsustainable think that the fixes will come from governments or big multinational companies. Not me. I am rooting for the entrepreneurs. And I think that the change to new technologies may be more rapid and disruptive than many expect. Many of our current large institutions are dinosaurs, built on a petro-economy. They may be replaced, not rebuilt. We are going to need a generation of new entrepreneurs. Revolutionaries with business models.

What is the role of a teacher in "disruptive education"? Well, I have started to introduce myself as an Educational Arsonist. Now, before you report me to the university's Board of Governors, let me explain what I mean. And provide some examples.

A little background on my educational pyromania. One of my alltime favorite quotes, from Jack London, is "I would rather be ashes than dust! ...The function of man is to live not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time." The reference to ashes is that they are the byproduct of fire, combustion, and explosions, while dust is the byproduct of slow decay.

Keats wrote: “Education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire.” When I began teaching 5 years ago, this quote inspired me, and it still does. My best teachers lit me up. The worst poured water on my fire. This quote made me realize that my role was to be an educational arsonist, not a member of the faculty bucket brigade. Particularly when teaching budding entrepreneurs, who are so often told that their idea won't work, that they are too young, and that they should take a less risky path.

So, here are some stories.

DC is a business student who took a class from me two years ago. After spending some time abroad, she is back at CSU and asked me to supervise some research on how to use enterprise based models to improve secondary education for girls in the developing world. It is great to see the spark in her eyes as she talks about various initiatives around the world, what's working, what isn't and trying to figure out why. She has also plugged into a powerful group of women from leading NGOs and companies that want to help her out. Next fall, she will start with the Peace Corps. Over the summer, she has been offered a research job to continue work in the area. I look forward to the many worthy things this young lady lights up with her enthusiasm and passion.

I have already posted on Phones4Loans, but this group is blowing me away. This project is a wildfire of enthusiasm. Take a look at the rapidly evolving website. Tyler has put together a great intro video, the team has drop off locations all around town.... We have students from across campus working together. Talking to local businesses about e-waste and microfinance. Doing interviews. Setting up websites and supply chains. What a combustible mix.

Lastly, our GSSE students are getting ready to head off for the field project part of the program in May. We have teams going to Peru, Mexico, Nepal, Ethiopia, Zambia, Cambodia, India and Bangladesh. Working on energy saving technologies, protecting biodiversity, affordable green housing, and helping establish new markets. Take a look, if you can stand the heat.

This is why I teach. I hope it doesn't get me fired.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Paul: Just stumbled onto your blog from Alltop. Looks interesting.
I fully agree with you that entrepreneurship will be a key disruptor of the current, dinosaur-like educational system. However, there is a chicken and egg problem in that there are too few people looking at new business ideas due to schools' unwillingness to think out of the box or to reflect much on the future. It's scary, but most educators don't seem to mind that they are churning out graduates that will keep on diminishing their chances to live well on a planet with a finite biosphere. There seems to be very little reflection on what it means to be a "successful" graduate these days.