Posts Tagged ‘Tower of Babel’

New Hope for Schools: Tower of Babel ☹, 19 + 1 = 18 ☹, and RoundTable ☺

January 21, 2015

Public education is a wonderful creation of human society. However, in our times, it’s troubled by two main obstacles, illustrated in a metaphor and a mathaphor.

#1 Obstacle: The Tower of Babel Effect 

Like people on the Tower of Babel, school decision makers (including teachers, parents, administrators, researchers, government policy makers, textbook authors and publishers) all speak different languages—even though they are speaking English.  They is due to the fact that they have:

  • little opportunity for collaboration, and
  • very different viewpoints, purposes, and expertise.

#2 Obstacle: The 19 + 1 = 18 Effect

The Mathaphor:  School quality is 19, add a new demand (+1), school quality goes down to 18.

Explanation: Ever-increasing demands on teachers leave them less able to address their students’ learning needs or to collaborate with colleagues. So, school quality goes down. Then, desperate new policies are mandated every year-–too quickly for teachers and schools to keep up. It’s a cycle of increasing negative outcomes.  Over three years, the process looks like 19 + 1 = 18 … 17 …16.

A Proposed Remedy: the 30/30 RoundTable

A 30/30 RoundTable is proposed for busy schools.  This carefully designed activity relieves these two main obstacles in that:

  1. 30 people have equal turns to give their viewpoints  in 30 minutes, reducing the Tower of Babel effect by increasing communication.
  2. There are no new demands because educators use it for their own purposes in their own existing groups–perhaps weekly in classrooms and monthly in meetings.

For More Information

My new book, New Hope for Schools: Findings of a teacher turned detective, explains these and other obstacles, remedies, and more. More details on the GEMS RoundTable can be found in blogs, posts and pages on this site.  My website,, describes RoundTable and other programs and offers author demonstrations, consulting, and workshops.


Clarifying Two Key Problems in Schools

September 19, 2014

Public education and schools are complex systems that may appear to vary from school to school, city to city, and country to country. Nevertheless, in my book, New Hope for Schools, I identify two key systemic problems, 19+1=18 and Tower of Babel.


If school quality is 19, and a new policy is added top down, school quality goes down to 18. It’s a cycle of increasing negative outcomes. Here’s how it works:

  • There are more and more external demands on teachers.
  • Teachers become less able to address their own students’ learning needs.
  • School quality goes down.

Then, desperate new policies are mandated every year –too quickly for teachers and schools to keep up. Over three years, the process can be illustrated as 19 +1 = 18 … 17 …16.

Tower of Babel:

School decision makers speak different languages because they have different expertise. Experienced teachers know how to teach. Administrators manage school business. Educational scholars know how to theorize. Educational lawmakers know law. These are very different skills.

New Hope for Schools explains this in detail, with examples. It provides new “systems” theory and a new, user-friendly participatory practice–the RoundTable– to clarify and address these problems.