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CTE needs you!

FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO MAY HAVE ATTENDED THE SECOND GENERAL SESSION OF THE ACTE ANNUAL CONVENTION in Las Vegas, I was wondering if you picked up on the reference Ford Motor Company Fund's Mike Schmidt made to Daniel Pink's book A Whole New Mind--Why Right-Brainers Will Rule The Future. As luck would have it, I had just finished reading that very book prior to the Convention and was delighted to see that someone else felt Pink's thinking had some implications for career and technical education (CTE) as well. As the title of the book would suggest, Pink asks us to consider right brainers as a legitimate resource for taking us into new unexplored worlds that will help us address the challenges of remaining relevant to those we serve.

Having grown up in a conservative family in a conservative state, I always viewed "artsy" people with some suspicion when it came to what they brought to the table during high-level strategic discussions focusing on challenges facing CTE. This was until I had the opportunity to read Pink's book. Now, all of a sudden, I fed somewhat ill-equipped to deal with the future that lies ahead and find myself seeking out these starboard stars to see what they think. There is hope for those of us who rely heavily on the left brain (i.e. the logical/analytic control center of our mind) and Pink proposes the notion that we can actually train our minds to be more comfortable with using its right side--which controls the way we look at life for meaning and with empathy.

Pink instructs his readers to keep a journal of examples they see that demonstrate both design genius and design disaster. He asks us to write down how each makes us feel and why. The logic of this activity is based on the theory that by overusing one side of our brain, we can trick the logic-oriented left hemisphere and clear the way for the creative right. Strangely enough, as I documented things such as why the 4-wheel drive button on my pick-up truck was located so close to the air conditioning vent that I often engaged the system accidentally on dry pavement, I found myself thinking creatively as to what a better design might look like. And the more I documented other examples of both good and poor designs, the more I began to view the world somewhat differently. No longer was I focusing on solving problems that were due primarily to outdated or poor designs, but rather I was looking for new ways to do something better. I think too many administrators, myself included, have always been rewarded for our ability to solve problems by using data, analysis and logic. As a result, we've become too focused on problems and not solutions. We've become right-brained challenged!

Pink makes an excellent argument for viewing the world somewhat differently and says that a "flatter world" will require us to be more creative in dealing with new opportunities that the left brain is ill-equipped to handle. What if we looked at CTE as a designer would and we were preparing our system for a new fashion line that was to make its debut for a new season? What would we keep from last year's offering? What would be completely new? What kind of product testing would we need to do before we offered it to our customers?

Pink would probably ask us to first describe our products with design flaws as well as those designs that were so successful that they may appear to be ageless. I'm sure we can come up with many examples of ageless design that can trace its roots all the way back to the Smith-Hughes Act of 1917. But what about our design flaws? What are the new designs that will take us into the next decade ( i.e. designs for a flatter world)? While my right brain is still in its early development, one movement that shouts for help from the left-brainers is how do we successfully move into the world of career clusters? It appears to me that many of us may be too set in our ways to objectively implement career clusters--a refreshing approach to workforce education that could be the most needed new design in CTE since the creation of the area vocational-technical school in the mid-1960s. Improved designs of education are badly needed and should dominate our strategic discussions about CTE. It's not as much about what we're selling as it is what our market is buying; it seems to me we've been trying to sell outdated designs for CTE far too long.

So here's my challenge to CTE educators. First, go out and get a copy of Pink's book. It's a very interesting and worthwhile read. Then work hard to suppress your left brain and ask yourself, what are some of the design flaws in CTE that I have experienced? In other words, if you could have a magic wand and be able to change things overnight, what would they be? How would you go about doing it? Don't let your left brain sabotage your right brain's efforts by interfering with what is only pragmatic or politically feasible.

Note: Daniel Pink will be the Opening General Session speaker at ACTE's Annual Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina, December 4-6. Purchase his book, A Whole New Mind--Why Right-Brainers Will Rule The Future, in the ACTE Store by visiting www. acteonline.org/shopacte.cfm.

Tom Friedemann is chief of staff at the Francis Turtle Technology Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He can be contacted by e-mail at TFriedemann@francistuttle.com.
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Title Annotation:THE LAST WORD; career and technical education
Author:Friedemann, Tom
Publication:Techniques
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2008
Words:941
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