OneThing40: understanding is not for the faint of mind

Teaching young people to construct new models of their world

This design graces the back of my classic STELLA t-shirt

We live in a time when our problems defy ready answers.  In fact, they defy even thoughtful answers.  And I am thinking this is so because we’re generally thinking about things the way we always have . . . with a linear, static model.  Our schools are doing a poor job of preparing the next generation of problem solvers.

We’ve not taken to heart Albert Einstein’s dictum: “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

Longtime systems advocate Barry Richmond coined a term that describes the kind of person and thinking that we need – Systems Citizen.

Schools have to change in a big way for such hopes to be realized.  And it will take some courageous leadership to move communities who are under the weight of shrinking tax support and swelling results-oriented accountability.  It can be done.

Constructivism – the prime tenent of educational psychology for over a century, but largely ignored in the factory-model of education – compels teachers to provide tasks whereby our students must grapple with problems and, in solving them, generate new understanding.   Students, in fact, construct their new understanding through their own efforts.

Students really want to do this!

And teachers would really like doing this for them!

Enter Barry Richmond’s vision of a cadre of systems teachers leading young people to build and test their mental models. In Tracing Connections, a group of educators honor Barry’s work by laying out a blueprint for how to do this very thing – teach the next generation about systems and, thereby, foster insight and hope for change.

It will be hard, uphill work.  But it needs to be done.


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