Saturday, October 16, 2010

education blame-o-meter

Just in case you've been wondering what in the world is wrong with American education, here is a handy tool to help figure things out. Just cut out the arrow, attach it with a pin at the center of the dial and spin. It helps if you cut the arrow and spinner base from card stock, so it will last for a few years and you can keep playing the same blame game until the cows come home or we completely destruct.

I was reading this morning about "Waiting for Superman" and learned that it comes down pretty hard on teachers unions. You can tell where their spinner went. But you can spin your own and draw your own conclusions. In the meantime, you might learn through the actual making of your own game what we really need in American education. Scissors, real tools and the chance to engage the hands in making real things.

I call it the strategic implementation of the hands. Make, fix, create. Click on the image above to enlarge it to a useful size. Feel free to reproduce this game to share with your friends. You will discover that they are already playing and are good at pointing the finger in at least one or two directions, and the blame-o-meter may be useful in pointing out that there are reasons for failing schools they may not have thought of yet. Please inform them of the wisdom of their hands.


  1. Yes there is plenty of blame to go around. I feel is comes down to cultural values. We can overcome any obstacle if our values are aligned. Mis-aligned, and unarticulated cultural values has lead us to the political mess we are in today.

    Look at the success of the Finnish school system.

    Every space on our "Blame-o-meter" could be labeled "Cultural Values".
    Any enterprise that moves our values positively and into alignment for the social good is a good thing. I think this describes the work you are doing.

  2. values are a complicated thing to get in alignment. Whose values? Corporate values? Set by the Chamber of Commerce and Wall Street? Or religious values? In a free society, does one religious institution have the right to impose on all?

    I go back to the child as craftsman. Inherent in each of us is the moral imperative to actually do something well. But all the others keep standing in the way of that in an effort to meet their own agendas.

  3. Richard B.8:55 PM

    How do you blame the Government on this chart. In Oz we blame them for everything.

  4. Richard, I threw the game together in 10 minutes time so didn't give a great deal of thought to who all could be blamed. Of course the government could be blamed. Another I could add would be the principal, or the school secretary. I think Will is on the right track in noting that all these things are a reflection of cultural values.

  5. Richard B2:50 AM

    So lets be more positive and dont play the blame game but ask the question what do we think has the greatest influence on education?
    For me it's Government policy that has the greatest impact. If you live in a country that spends a great more on its military than its teachers then what can you expect? What is the Finnish military budget compared to its education budget?
    When I talk with the Principal the bottom line is always the school's budget. This is determined by the policies of the Government. The pine that we build our models out of is not the best quality but is what we can afford.
    Why did they shut down so many school workshops in the States? Government policies, changing manufacturing base or a culture that wanted to play with computers instead?

  6. Anonymous5:55 AM

    As a retired teacher I would make that arrow stop with administration and parents. But I've been told that I was the problem. Come to think of it, hardly anybody ever missed my wood shop class.


  7. All this, again, is why I think the child as craftsman metaphor is so important. How do we perceive our children? Are they empty vessels to be filled to capacity by someone else's values, and information, or are they encouraged to learn and discover themselves through their own exploration of physical reality.

    At times of greatest insecurity, powers within society feel the need to steal and assert control. At precisely those times, children must be prepared for their own creative and adaptive emergence into human culture. We will never know where this is going until we arrive. But in the meantime, it seem much ado for all the wrong reasons.

  8. As a parent who educates at home, I have a lot of opinions about blame, but one thing that's missing in schools is the idea of reciprocal relationship between the teacher and the learner. Children, who many times have no experience, bring clear vision to any problem presented them. They don't shut down out of fear, or dismiss ideas because they've "been done before." They approach with clear eyes and a willing spirit--if they are nurtured and empowered--and many times their ideas contain the kernel of something new. We can learn FROM them, too. Sometimes experience can be a handicap as well as a boon.

  9. As a woodworker with lots of experience, I sometimes have the inclination to say, "not that won't work." I catch myself and ask,"show me how that works."

    Old Poet, you are right in pointing out that too often education is regarded as a one way street... a flow of information from the teacher to the learner, instead of being a reciprocal relationship of investigation. Recognizing the child as craftsman can be an important turning point in our visualization of how schools can work.