People, Planet, Purpose

“It is easier to change the course of history than to change a history course”.
“Proposals for change in schools are often met with a thousand points of no

Liz, Julie and I are at the NAIS annual conference in Denver. We were joined by Trace who gave a great presentation yesterday. (On that, more later). The theme of the conference is People, Planet, Purpose Leading the Way to a Sustainable Future. The speakers, presentations and workshops are linked to themes of sustainability along five dimensions. Jim Collins of Built to Last and Good to Great was the keynote speaker.

The context was set by Bruce Stewart who, in his introduction, referred to the startling information presented in the video Did You Know *(also called Shift Happens ) made by Colorado teacher, Karl Fisch. It’s been popping up in mailboxes as an email send-around for a while now. Two parents have already sent it to me so I am linking it below so that you can also view it.

It is Jim Collins’s contention that “good is the enemy of great”. Greatness , he says, is not a function of circumstances but rather the consequence of discipline and conscious choice. Adverse circumstances and an uncertain changing environment are not the cause of failure. Rather lack of focus and discipline are the causes of failure.

For a society, a nation to be great, he contends, it needs not just a great economy but also great health care, symphony orchestras, social services. museums, not-for-profits and great schools. Collins believes that schools must reject the idea that they should become more like business. After all, he says, most businesses are mediocre.

One key for schools he says is to preserve core values while at the same time embracing and stimulating innovation and progress. And to do that it is necessary to distinguish between what is a core value and what is a mere barnacle of custom and practice.

*Here is Karl Fisch’s presentation, as edited by Scott Macleod. Choose from a variety of formats:

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