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  • Writer's pictureElliot Washor

Elliot Washor's TGIF 3.22.2024

“Are you with me now” A J Ryder

“A harder question:  Big Picture is in effect a greenfield site cleared within entrenched institutions. How many of the latter can incorporate the former and how rapidly?”


A great question coming out of this new book Unbeaching the Whale: Can Australia’s Schooling Be Reformed? by author/journalist Dean Ashenden that is asked about Big Picture’s work in Australia. The question is certainly applicable to all of us doing all sorts of BPL work. Who knows what is going to have the best ways forward in dealing with his question about the work we do. One thing I can say is that we are so past “rapidly.” We’ve always been muddlers and both muddling and learning take time. “Acceleration is a trend not a law.” This week I discussed quite a few of our initiatives while doing a Master Class. It will be going “live” in the next few months.

“Students feeling connected at home and at school are the top key factors in students being mentally healthy – We oughta be measuring connection scores” Ya Think? What a surprise! But…. at an ACLM webinar a leading psychiatrist delivered this message to an audience of mostly physicians. OK. I’ll definitely take it but did we need evidence from data to tell us about connectedness in order to act? Now that we have the data will schools finally make real changes similar to our advisory? At the Harbor Freight Conference in Florence, South Carolina, I had time with the head of workforce in South Carolina about another topic missed on this webinar on youth mental health. This one deals with finding meaning in your life through your interests and through relationships. His response was: How do we measure meaning? My response was the longest longitudinal study ever conducted found that doing meaningful work is in the top two for enjoying a good life. The other one being having healthy relationships which brings us back to the ACLM webinar on connectedness. It is easy to feel like we are the mouse that roars and that’s OK. If people are listening then, we can do our part with our design.


Catch and Hold 

 My time in Florence, South Carolina for the Harbor Freight Fellows Conference was just incredible. Chrishell and her team did something few of us have done. They worked long and hard to put the community, parents, students, business, industry, policymakers, educators, lawyers, workers and politicians in the same room and kept them together for two days. Everyone had a voice especially students who in this case were not the academic valedictorians but were talented in so many of the other ways of being smart. The photo here shows two trades teachers on the far left and right with three students, two welders and one mason in the center. Kaitlyn Donahue, the teacher on the left teaches welding and Rease Shird on the right teaches masonry. All the students are Harbor Freight Fellows. Alone each one’s personal stories were incredible but collectively they told the bigger picture of the changes that must take place and the audience was getting it. By the way, all the women welders including the teacher loved Beth’s photos of her team in pink overalls. They want to know where to get them.

As Charlie pointed out when it was his turn to MC, only 35% of our students are graduating with a four-year degree but our k-12 curriculum is based pretty exclusively on getting you into a 4-year college and that’s nuts. Is it any wonder that youth are leaving schools? The odd part about this is that it sounds like students leaving school is something new when in fact, students have always left. Yes, students are pushed out for all sorts of reasons that are borderline criminal and unjust but they also feel LEFT OUT because schools are not addressing who they are and want to become. Our k-12 curriculum has little meaning to the 65 percent of students not wanting to go or who have not finished college.


The top Big Four in this chart are what the system thinks is why students leave but as Charlie Mojo and I pointed out years ago it is the bottom Deeper Four below the waterline of the iceberg that are really the reasons why students feel left out and leave. Given our present situation where so many more students are not enrolling back in school post-COVID, a revision of Leaving to Learn is being printed. If we only pay attention to the top four, we will make adjustments to the already existing system that puts the onus on the students but if we pay attention to the Deeper Four, we will support the creation of cultures and communities where every young person will matter and fit.


  Heuristics are rules of thumb where we figure out how to do things in our own way that make people wrongfully think and believe a person has not thought about what you are doing. These heuristics become guidelines to figure out the mysteries of how to do things. Many times this is where real know-what is embedded in know-how. Therefore if you measure know-how, you don’t need as much written testing around know-what because if you think through know-how, you get to know–what. Can the IBPLC make these ways of being smart become more of a reality to schools that will then make less students feel left out? Youth development groups as well must figure this out lest, they behave in the exact same way that schools do and students again feel left out.


Youth will leave to pursue their heuristics if schools don’t provide an opportunity for them to carry them out. Yes, the Chisels Are Calling


Next week, I’m home and among other things will be at Deeper Learning. I’m delighted to be doing a Den with Carlos on his new book, Finding Your Leadership Soul  What Our Students Can Teach Us About Love, Care and Vulnerability


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