Posts Tagged ‘Martha Piper’


One of the great treats at Christmas time is holiday reading.  Added to this, I am very fortunate so many of my friends and family know that books are the ideal gift for me,  and you can expect that over the next few months I will likely punctuate some of my more regular posts with perspectives from some of my most recent holiday readings.

The first of these is W. Brett Wilson’s Redefining Success – Still Making Mistakes. For someone who is usually immersed in books by and/or for educators, it is great to do some reading outside of my comfort zone. Prior to his book, my knowledge of Wilson was his three years as a panelist on Dragon’s Den — a show that I regularly PVR.  I have always appreciated his humanity and compassion (particularly in comparison to others on the show), but I knew very little about the complex process of philanthropy, and even less about investment banking — two areas that have dominated much of Wilson’s life (and  book).

Wilson’s story lines up with some told by prominent Americans,  including Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, who are all committed to giving away much of their money during their life rather than leaving it as a legacy.  Wilson writes, “If you think you’re going to do your children a favour by leaving them a big inheritance, think again. Inter-generational wealth transfer is one of the most serious issues of our time.”

Wilson also reveals that philanthropy in business is a very strategic exercise, from finding the right projects, the right partners and the right opportunities to benefit important causes, to engaging the community and highlighting/profiling the company.

Beyond all of this, is a very powerful, personal story of refocusing life around family and friends, as well as his view on what we need in education — which obviously stood out with me.

Wilson argues for the importance of “teaching marketing, entrepreneurship and philanthropy beginning in elementary schools and continuing into all higher learning, either academic or in the trades.”  Given the excitement and engagement with Me to We, and similar movements often done as an “add-on” to curriculum, he makes a persuasive argument that these areas should actually be part of  core schooling – a course, he suggests, in changing the world.  Wilson says that the ways in which anyone can make an impact on, or in, the world comes down to offering their time, money or leadership. He states:

We as a society need to think more clearly about what each student needs to have at the end of the journey.  Every student needs a bundle of knowledge, skills and experiences.  The first group  of students who graduate with my three subjects – marketing, entrepreneurship and philanthropy – as part of their core curriculum will be a dramatically different caliber of student.  But until everyone speaks the same vernacular we’re not going to change the quality of student we produce. Until it has become core curriculum, it’s just another elective, and the impact will be negligible.

These core subjects will develop students’ leadership skills. And if we’re going to drive innovation and productivity, it’s as important to fill the bus with leaders as it have leaders driving the bus.  As University of Calgary President Elizabeth Cannon eloquently stated during our discussion on the subject, “We need to develop our students as whole people, being able to work across disciplines and across sectors.  That’s how we are going to make great citizens.”

While the language may not be the same, Wilson’s list reminds me of a talk by UBC’s former President and Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Martha Piper, where she also highlighted global citizenship and community service learning, among other key areas (Dr. Martha Piper And the Way Forward blog post here).

My challenge to Wilson would be one I offer to others suggesting what we need to add to schooling, is to also make the argument about what needs to come out of schooling. One of our greater challenges in an era full of wonderful ideas about what additions to make to schooling, is in an era when many are suggesting creating more “white space” and flexibility in schooling, at a time we are also considering limiting the hours of schooling.

So, I read the book to find out about the ‘truth’ behind the Dragon’s Den deals, and although interesting, it was the human story of lifelong learning that stood out for me, as well as a wonderful book for those interested in leadership.

Thanks to Pieter Dorsman, a parent in our community committed to making education better for everyone, for the gift of the book —  a great way to grow ideas.

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I have been a long-time admirer of the work of UBC’s former President and Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Martha Piper. And, in the past two weeks I have had two opportunities to hear her speak directly about the road ahead for education in British Columbia; first, in roundtable discussions focussing on the qualities of an Educated Citizen, with the Honourable George Abbott, B.C.’s Minister of Education, and this week as she keynoted the BC School Trustees Association 2011 Academy in Vancouver.

On both occasions, Dr. Piper referenced the work out of Singapore and the influence of Lee Kuan Yew on her thinking.  She recalled his advice, and the three key points he shared:

1) the importance of multiple languages

2) the value of being scientifically literate and technologically savvy

3)  the need to study cultures and religions

In the most recent session at the BCSTA Academy, Dr. Piper framed these key points in context to her five suggestions to foster creativity and global citizenship. She restated these suggestions, and not only “preparing students for the workforce”, as an essential role of our K-12 system:

1)  A Commitment to Languages

There are a series of new languages required to be competitive.  Should we  have all students learn two, or three languages?  How can we infuse literature from other countries and expose our students to foreign language films?  The research is clear that the learning of languages will boost creativity.

2)  Integrate Humanities and the Arts into Curriculum

We have become focussed on areas relatively easy to test.  Areas that we have agreed are increasingly important to support creativity push beyond these traditional core areas.   These areas will not be able to be evaluated on a bubble sheet, but will be used in the “test” of life and living.

3)  Embed Global Citizenship

We need to make connections to the real world, so students in a science class understand how the science in the lab is changing the “real” world.  These kind of connections need to be made at all levels, in all classes.

4)  Embrace Community Service Learning

We need to build citizenship in students and within communities that is part of the school experience.  As well, constructive projects that connect with and build community need to be a role for our schools.

5)  Build Unique Environments

Each community is different, so programs should be flexible enough to tailor to community needs to best serve the students of each school and district.

Dr. Piper put a different frame on some of the personalized learning discussions, but with familiar themes around global citizenship. However, her stress on languages is not one I hear often.  She spoke about our goals of creating tolerant, compassionate and respectful environments, making students feel welcome and secure as they pursue their passions.

We can all point to examples of teachers, programs and even schools embracing the ideals that Dr. Piper speaks about.  The challenge is acknowledging and sharing the great practices around them: the schools who have found ways to add Mandarin to their school day, or integrate Social Studies, Music and Math in their inquiry projects, or have a scope and sequence for global citizenship, or encouraging all students to participate in meaningful community engagement, or have taken ministry curriculum and tailored these documents for their schools.  There are excellent examples of these practices, but are largely pockets of innovation.

I have heard a number of speakers on their way forward, and found Dr. Piper’s views of incremental change and focussing on citizenship to resonate with many of my hopes for our system.

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