New Orleans: Toward a Learning Society

NEW ORLEANS: TOWARD A LEARNING SOCIETY

Prologue

In order to offer an appropriate perspective on the initiative outlined herein, the following quotation from No Limits to Learning: Bridging the Human Gap, A Report to the Club of Rome, (1978, reissued 1998) is submitted for the readers consideration:

“The purpose of this project is to bring to the forefront two intertwined questions which are fundamental to the survival and development of mankind.

One is whether what we call progress is perhaps so hectic and haphazard that world populations are utterly confused and out of step with the waves of change it causes for better or worse.  The idea implicit to this question is, though highly advanced in other ways, modern men and women are as yet unable to grasp fully the meaning and consequences of what they are doing.  Failing to understand the mutations they bring about in the natural environment and their own condition, they come to be increasingly at odds with the real world.  This is the human gap – already large and dangerous, and yet destined almost inevitably to get much wider.

The second question is, then, whether present trends can be controlled and the gap bridged before a tragic and grotesque fate overtakes homo sapiens.  To give a positive answer to this question, one must assume that the human being possesses still untapped resources of vision and creativity as well as moral energies that can be mobilized to bail humankind out of its predicament.  This may indeed seem a far-fetched assumption, but many of us consider it perfectly valid.  The average person, even when living in deprivation and obscurity, is endowed with an innate brain capacity, and hence a learning ability, which can be stimulated and enhanced far beyond current relatively modest levels.”

Aurelio Peccei, Founder, The Club of Rome (From The Forward)

Urban Transformation Proposal Outline – Considerations

Commitment to the life-long learning and growth of all citizens is the most advantageous vision a city can embrace in the relentlessly changing socio-economic environment of the 21st centuryToward this end, three important “human development” issues offer challenge and opportunity the city should now address:

1.     Information from public radio states: “Pre Katrina, 26% of the New Orleans (Louisiana, USA) population was reading at a 1st or 2nd Grade level, 30% at a 3rd or 4th Grade level, and 24% at a 5th or 6thGrade level, meaning 70% of the population was not able to fully comprehend the daily newspaper.”

2.     A 2004 New York Times editorial page graph labeled, “Where the Jobs Are” illustrates the two categories that led job growth for a decade (1994 – 2004):  “Jobs requiring people skills and emotional intelligence” and “Jobs requiring imagination and creativity.”

3.     A volume of research from the past decade, (including books by Daniel Goleman and Richard Florida) verifies the notion that all organizations and communities now seek: (1) emotionally intelligent people – for their dependability and stability as organizational and community participants, and (2) “highly creative” people – shown to be those who drive innovation and the success of organizations and communities.

To address these challenges and opportunities, this proposal seeks to capitalize on the following research:

1.     Development of intelligence is shown to lie in the power of social environments and cultures that can be orchestrated and choreographed to nurture growth of intelligence and health.

2.     Brain scientists verify the brain’s emotional centers are “hard wired” to reasoning.  The missing piece in development of intelligence is a focus on (“right brain”) emotional centers.

3.     700+ studies on students in social-emotional learning programs across the nation reveal an 11% to 17% increase on standardized test scores when matched with control groups. (See CASEL, The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning, The University of Illinois, Chicago, www.casel.org)

4.     The identifying characteristics of psychological health, (intellectual) creativity and emotional intelligence are so alike as to indicate appropriate nurture of any one should produce all three.

5.     Humans are motivated by a quest for autonomy, mastery and purpose, not external rewards

6.     There is much evidence that mankind’s next phase will be labeled the Age of Empathy wherein we realize the underlying power of relationships as the basis for a shift in perspective and priority.

7.     Global business trends consistently capitalize on cutting edge social science to inform growth.

A Complex Community Growth Agenda – Proposal

The proposed initiative offers opportunity for global leadership in organizing to grow individual and organizational health, intelligence and authenticity utilizing traditional social mechanisms (classrooms. entrepreneurial business ventures, community social and economic enterprise, communications media) for delivery of strategic components.  All key elements of the initiative are verified by extensive research.   Further, the effort’s compelling economic lure lies in its low investment cost to high value outcome ratio.

The strategy and plan are organized around a confluent (rational / emotional), social environment management practice (derived from a research proven, classroom management system design) that focuses intense nurturing on the intuitive / emotional centers associated with the brain’s right hemisphere – as key to “whole brain development” and emergence of emotional intelligence, (intellectual / foundational) creativity and psychological health, and thereby the self motivated, self directed, life long learner that is of such high value to the individual and society.

Community United to Reform Education (CURE) seeks to orchestrate the initiative’s strategy and plan by establishment of a Community Health Development Network that includes groups and individuals that participated in a CURE prototype neighborhood development effort, (’00-’05).  The network will be charged with organizing a traditional (World Health Organization) Healthy Cities Movement initiative, (now Healthy Communities Institute, http://www.healthycommunitiesinstitute.com) – a collaborative among representatives from business, institutions, government agencies and not-for-profit groups committed to pooling social resources and social capital (connections and know-how) to sponsor and oversee a twenty first century initiative for development of health and intelligence.

An outline of operations includes:

1.      Organization of an initial neighborhood social and economic growth demonstration model for neighborhood-by-neighborhood, citywide replication;

2.      Installation of Pre K early childhood development (and parenting) models in other neighborhoods to display a unique “confluent education social environment” focused upon the brain’s emotional centers, educate parents and promote learning society values; and

3.      Initiation of a city-wide version of “a project for the development of intelligence” derived from a media dominated, highly successful model conducted in the country of Venezuela, 1979 – ’83, to grow individual and organizational capacity and attract innovative people and organizations.

Rationale: Individual and Neighborhood Growth as a Recipe for Urban Development

All individuals are born with the capacity to become “whole brain thinkers,” and emotionally intelligent, (intellectually) creative, psychologically healthy persons as our most authentic state of being.  This is the larger, more expansive version of the self that lies within each of us as our “in – born potential.”  Data now show we can orchestrate and choreograph social environments and cultural conditions to nurture this more authentic version of ourselves in a theoretically, life-long and unending spiral of learning and growth.

Growth into authenticity of the self is of unparalleled value.  It allows one to learn and grow through life at an accelerated pace, and to operate at consistently higher levels of perception and “well-being.”  One becomes more valuable to all social environments and cultures: family, school, work, social group, community, and so on.  In fact, the emergence of emotional intelligence, intellectual creativity, psychological health and authenticity is a kind of social panacea, addressing our most urgent challenges: crime, abuse of others and self-destructive behavior by minimizing so-called, “neuroses” or psychological dysfunction, i.e. fear based behavior.

Everything Grows:  A 21st Century Economic Development Strategy

Research shows the target audience all cities wish to attract: emotionally intelligent, (intellectually / foundationally) creative, psychologically healthy people and organizations, is motivated by several key concerns:

1.     likelihood for association with their own kind;

2.     opportunity for participation in building something new and meaningful;

3.     the allure of novel ideas and cutting edge thinking, and;

4.     an environment that appreciates their perspective and participation.

A city seeking to grow an emotionally intelligent, creative and psychologically healthy urban community through a structured, “bottom up” (neighborhood by neighborhood) /  “top down” (mass market, “evolutionary education” and health development) strategy and plan should not only receive national and international media attention that translates as “free advertising,” but serve as a demonstration model for displaying the very attributes that attract the target audience: self renewal and reinvention.

Operations Plan: An Office of Social Innovation

Concurrent with establishment of a Healthy Cities Movement Collaborative, the Community Health Development Network will organize a new Office of Social Innovation (OSI) to become responsible for acquisition of funding for all aspects and phases of the initiative in order to allow it to become a stand alone project that engages a “small army of grant writers.”  While the Healthy Cities Movement collaborative will sponsor and oversee this “initiative for development of health and intelligence” through a duly elected board of directors, the Office of Social Innovation will become responsible for organization and implementation of the initiative’s components and on-the-ground effort.   Because the Initiative seeks to eradicate poverty, transform education and catapult neighborhoods into a new kind of “community self – actualization,” social research suggests funding organizations and individual contributors should eventually “seek out” association with this twenty first century version of a Healthy Cities Movement effort.   As well, since no city has previously taken such a route to self renewal, making this, in fact, a “human development research project,” it is suggested that it be given a light hearted label: HeDRuP, for Human Development Research Project.

Such a move offers opportunity to create a brand, and using HeDRuP as the signature, a ‘guerilla marketing campaign’, to create curiosity and promote “right thinking” in order to attract support.  This effort could include components such as Yard Sign Messages, Nighttime Projections on buildings, and Water Paint Messages on sidewalks, as well as an intense social media campaign.  An example might be: There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”  Nelson Mandela                                Do what you can – HeDRuP.                                                                                                   

“The future belongs to the nation that best educates its citizens” – Barack Obama

“Why should society feel responsible only for the education of children, and not for the education of all adults of every age?” – Eric Fromm

BIBLIOGRAPHICAL REFERENCES:

The Mature Mind, H. A. Overstreet, 1949

The Further Reaches of Human Nature, A. H. Maslow, 1971

The Live Classroom: Innovation through Confluent Education and Gestalt, G. I. Brown, (Ed.) (with T. Yeomans, L. Grizzard), 1975

The First Grade Manual, G. H. Pilon, 1988

The Fifth DisciplineThe Art and Science of the Learning Organization, Peter Senge, 1990

Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes,  Alfie Kohn, 1993

Working With Emotional Intelligence, D. Goleman, 1997

Consilience, E. O. Wilson, 1998

A Framework for Understanding Poverty, Ruby K. Payne, 1998

The Schools Our Children Deserve: Moving Beyond Traditional Classrooms and “Tougher Standards,”  Alfie Kohn, 1999

Democracies in Flux: The Evolution of Social Capital in Contemporary Society, R. Putnam, 2002

Rise of the Creative Class, Richard Florida, 2005

A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future, Dan Pink, 2005

Learned Optimism: How to Change Your Mind and Your Life, M. Seligman, 2006

Intelligence and How to Get It, Richard Nisbett, 2009

DriveThe Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Dan Pink, 2009

The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World, Iain McGilchrist, 2009

The Empathic Civilization: The Race To Global Consciousness In A World In Crisis, Jeremy Rifkin, 2010

Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, Liz Wiseman / with Greg Mc Keown, 2010

The Age of Social Transformation, Peter Drucker, The Atlantic Monthly, November 1994

The Benefits of School-Based Social and Emotional Learning Programs: A CASEL Report, 2008 – Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL)

“Where The Jobs Are,” Op-Ed Chart, New York Times, February 2004

No Limits to Learning, Bridging the Human Gap, A Report to the Club of Rome, 1979 / 1998

Harvard Business Review, January / February 2010

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