Saturday, November 09, 2013

Note from Marion Brady


 Although I have not met Marion Brady in person he and I have known each other for several years. We first met on the defunct K12Admin listserv. 

Marion is a thought-leader in education. He has an education column in the Washington Post. His views on what is required to transform the education paradigm are profound and provocative (for those who embrace the outdated Industrial Age paradigm of education).

Marion asked me to share with you four premises that he believes, if enacted, would transform the education paradigm.

His note appears below.

I hope you will engage Marion in a dialogue about his premises.



 I've been trying for decades, with minimal success, to promote a simple idea acceptance of which would have major consequences on the institution. I'm wondering how you'd feel about distributing it and encouraging dialogue.

Stripped to essentials, I argue that:
(1) Good mental organization is the key to maximum intellectual performance.

(2) The core curriculum is a poor mental organizer. 

(3) All humans, from birth, use a far better one.

(4) Helping learners lift this organizer into consciousness and make deliberate use of it radically improves academic performance in ALL subjects.

Our natural organizer doesn't REPLACE school subjects, just makes them SUB-organizers.



Peter said...

Marion has summed up what many think. However, it seems to me that the industrial model is being further strengthened in the US and elsewhere. It is its nature. It seems US schools look out at the mass of reforms, research and endless conversations and decide it is safer to remain behind their thought walls and look after the kids the best they can.

In following my hobby as a school improver, I, have contacted over 50 US high schools and 40 individuals and offered to exchange ideas on school improvement and to pay my own way. I have yet to have a reply from any while over 1000 schools in the UK and worldwide have, changing their organisational culture from a linear model to a more humane, open and values driven vertical (mixed age) one. Of course the industrial model doesn't do communication (two-way); they are information-out systems only and offer minimal and limited information at that. Partnership and external input does not seem to be welcome but I can never blame teaching personnel for the system that blocks them.

This January, I have booked a flight to Phoenix and again, I have contacted schools, the university and teacher training colleges to share ways that schools could use to develop and support learning as a starter for systemic change and learning support (all at no cost).I could well arrive having found no-one to talk to, no-one to share information with and no-one who has replied to my emails.

What on earth has happened to US school principals, superintendents and others? Are they all locked so deeply into themselves, they no longer want to talk and discuss close up and personal, kids and learning and teachers and parents and how, together, they can do amazing things? If anyone is reading this and would like to share information and experience on how a school can change its learning relationships at no cost and be a better school, I shall be in Phoenix from the 18th Jan.

I shall be the sad guy, sipping coffee in the corner in the most innovative and lonely country in the people say.

Good luck, Marion Brady, one of my systems thinking heroes. We must have a coffee sometime. I'll read your book if you read mine!

Marion Brady said...

Hello again, Peter.
Years ago, I had several middle school principals lined up to pilot my course of study.

No Child Left Behind hit the fan, and every one of them apologized and said they were afraid to do anything other than test prep.

I paid $3,000 to buy back the publication rights to my most recent book. It's now online and free. Just go to my homepage and click on What's Worth Learning?

Francis M. Duffy, Ph.D. said...

Marion has been advocating for the transformation of education for many years. His distillation of his work into a handful of premises (as posted above) doesn't do justice to the substantial thinking and writing he has done.

Despite his efforts to "convince" politicians and educators about why education must be transformed (the "why")and about what that transformation should accomplish (the "what") it is the "how" question that stimulates "brain freeze" for those who might want to create the kinds of changes that Marion advocates.

The "how" of transformational change is what Charles Reigeluth and I specialize in. We have published many books and articles on the topic.

Yet, despite the work of people like Marion, Charles, and me (and many other revolutionaries) the old, outdated Industrial-Age paradigm of education remains firmly entrenched in Western societies.

I don't think we can dislodge the old paradigm. I now think we need to create parallel systems that operate in the same time and place as the old paradigm schools. If we create those parallel systems as successful examples of the "new paradigm" and if students in those new paradigm schools are surpassing expectations for their learning then I think we will be able to see the emergence, growth, and expansion of a new paradigm of education.

Then, as parents and communities see the benefits of a new paradigm education for their children the old systems will simply disappear as children are migrated into the new systems.

Maybe what I just said is a pipe dream, but it is one that excites me.


Francis M. Duffy, Ph.D. said...

Posted on behalf of Marion Brady...

Francis Duffy said, ... (I don't think we can dislodge the old paradigm.)

I agree, and have given thought to the matter.

For the last two or three years I've been approaching district superintendents about their alternative education programs, thinking they might be open to my working with kids whose test scores they know are going to hurt them.

Thus far they've been willing, but they hand off to someone else and that "someone else" becomes inaccessible.

In both my SUNY Press and Information Age books I laid out my thesis and followed it with explanations and examples of how it meshes with history, the social sciences, the humanities,language, the natural sciences, and mathematics, but the whole institution seems designed to perpetuate the status quo.

I can't say for certain that I'm making no headway. Just the other day I heard from a teacher teaching alternative classes in a southern state who was using Connections and was really gung-ho. Thinking I had a toe in the door, I asked him if he'd mind sharing his experiences on listservs to which he subscribed and he said he'd love to do that, but if district officials knew he wasn't on script he'd almost certainly be fired.

For those interested, my most recent book is online and free. (Cost me 3,000 to buy it back from the publisher.)

It's only a little over 100 pages, so it's a quick read. Just go to and click on the link to Connections.


Francis M. Duffy, Ph.D. said...

Posted on behalf of Sugata Mitra. For those of you who do not know Dr. Mitra i think you will find his research fascinating and valuable. Please visit to learn more about him.

In replying to Marion Brady's original premises, above, Sugata said...

His (Brady's) premise is correct, I believe. But I am not sure how this can be introduced into formal schooling.

I do this quietly through SOLEs, but to impact the system itself will take political will.


Sugata Mitra
Professor of Educational Technology, Newcastle University, UK

sigob said...

I've hopped back into the high school trenches after a number of years managing blended learning change initiatives in the post-secondary world. Having gone through the K-12 admin ranks, it is very refreshing (and energizing) to see what is happening on the ground.

In terms of systemic change design, I suspect the part of the innovations' lack of sustainable transformative power occurs because fundamental educational change is on par with fundamental religious change. While individuals change religions all the time, religions don't tend to evolve very quickly.

I think a lot of the work coming out of D.S. Wilson's multi-level selection theory and Jonathan Haidt's group social psychology to be pretty informative for systemic change design. Since my grad work the heuristics/darwin machines underpinning religious-like group social dynamics have continued to get more flushed out (see the evolution of thought since Atran's foundational In God's We Trust).

While you can pull in outside theories like Christensen's disruptive innovation work or others, I suspect getting a good grip on how new religious movements (NRM's) succeed provides a nice lens from which to re-analyze the system change energizers required to overcome adaptive group-level roadblocks.