Challenge Conventional Assumptions

I have been reading “ThinkerToys” by Michael Michalko.  I am going to try to do one Thinkertoy exercise per day (or at least a few per week).  The goal is to help get my brain to be in a creative state more often than not.  I will attempt to share the exercises here.  Today I got in a debate on twitter challenging the local university system.  (thanks @ninky, @YuriArtibise and @jose602).  So when tonight’s Thinkertoy came up I figured that I would tackle the problem of “Lack of funding in Elementary Education”.

Exercise: False Faces

“All warfare is based on deception.” – Sun Tzu

The idea of this exercise is to reverse all your assumptions.  “Obviously, many things have to be taken for granted, and the purpose is not to pretend that one has the time to challenge every assumption, but instead to show nothing is sacrosanct.  Once you truly realize this, you are open to all sorts of discoveries…. Reversing your assumptions broadens your thinking.  You may often find yourself looking at the same thing as everybody else, yet seeing something different.  Many creative thinkers get their most original ideas when they challenge and reverse the obvious.”

To reverse a challenge:

1. State your challenge.

Lack of funding in Elementary Education is hurting education.

2. List your assumptions.

I think a little differently than most on this subject, so to make sure my guesses about the fundamental assumptions were correct I put a call out to twitter.  I got some good responses from (@acydlord, @casademora, @jivadevoe, @dr1665, @refriedchicken, @conrey and @claytonlz ).  From them I got the following list.

Some common assumptions about more funding is necessary to improve education in elementary schools are:

A. Lack of funds reduces effectiveness in reading, math, social skills, technology and the arts.

B. Teachers will not stay if they are not compensated well. (teacher retention) (x2)

C. Basic supplies are needed to properly educate.

D. Need more teachers. (smaller class sizes increase learning) (x2)

E. More technology in the class room makes education better.

3. Challenge the fundamental assumptions.

Each of these assumptions hold up to most arguments, except for assumption (A) which is fairly broad and vague.  Assumptions (B) and (D) are likely widely held.

4. Reverse each assumption. (What is the opposite?)

The reverse assumptions would be:

A. The original assumptions are too vague.  Reversing them doesn’t make a lot of sense.

B. Paying teachers less money would encourage them to stay at their current school and be more dedicated.

C. Student learn better and teachers teach better without basic school supplies.

D. Larger class sizes make for better learning enivornments.

E. Technology in the class room hinders learning.

5. Record differing view points that might prove useful to you.

At least three respondents held the different view point on more funding.

A. Current administration of schools has to change first.

B. More funding won’t help at all.

C. More creative use of funding is necessary, just more money won’t fix it.

6. Ask yourself how to accomplish each reversal.

How can we increase educational effectiveness in elementary schools without increasing funding?

A. Skipping

B. A school that pays teachers less money.

IDEA: Reward the best teachers with the freedom to compile and execute their own curriculum and set their own benchmarks for success.

C. Operate a school with no budget for school supplies.

IDEA: Partner with private companies to let them provide school supplies and in exchange let them sell advertising space on the school supplies.

D. A school that operates with class sizes of over 40 students.

IDEA: Use educational techniques that require collaboration by the students and allow the strongest students to teach the weakest students.

E. A school that doesn’t use technology in the classroom.

IDEA: Offer a back to basics curriculum that specializes in the core concepts using theory instead of technology.

Ideally, you should pick one of the ideas and work all the angles to implement it.  If I were to pick one idea to focus on it would be Item B above.  I think giving teachers back the creativity to teach how they see fit opposed to some government mandate would be far more appealing than more pay.  What are your thoughts?  On the exercise?  The assumptions?  The challenges?  The solutions?