Thursday, June 27, 2013

The future builds on the past

Austin American Statesman
By Kyle Longley
Arizona State University 

Recently, on a plane, I struck up a conversation with an engineer. During our chat, he highlighted how college students earning degrees in the humanities and social sciences should pay more for their degrees, basically mimicking Gov. Rick Scott of Florida.

Ironically, in an earlier part of the conversation he had asked me why the United States continued to make the same mistakes in the interventions in Vietnam and Iraq. I pointedly noted that it related to people not knowing their history.

Read full article here.

STEM education is more than teaching and learning numbers

Austin American Statesman
By John Fitpatrick
Educate Texas
Despite steady gains in mathematics and science achievement, fewer than 75 percent of 2012 Texas high school graduates demonstrated college readiness in math, based on Texas Success Initiative indicators. Even fewer African-American (59 percent), Hispanic (68 percent), and economically disadvantaged (63 percent) students demonstrated the proficiency levels required for success in college level math. At the same time, national studies show the fastest growing high skill/high wage careers require a higher level of science, technology, engineering and math — or STEM — skills.

Quality STEM education, however, is not just about focusing on math and science and the related jobs, but instead teaches our kids the critical thinking, innovation and problem-solving skills all parents aspire to have their children learn. STEM classes and activities like FIRST Robotics not only increase rigor in the classroom, but excite teachers and ignite the natural enthusiasm and creativity for learning in all children. STEM curriculum reinforces the value of real-life practicum as well, engaging students in “hands-on” projects and assignments just like they will encounter in the workplace.

 Read full article here.

Critical Thinking and Sustainability

I was watching a recording of Dr. David Orr's talk, "Black Swans and the US Future: Creating Sustainable and Resilient Societies", when a question was raised at the end of the talk from a K-12 teacher group about what was the one thing teachers could do the classrooms. His answer, in my opinion, was right on target. I obtained a copy of the video of the talk and  extracted the clip of this question and his answer. I think you will find the short video interesting.

Critical Thinking and Sustainability from Paul Schumann on Vimeo.

This talk is part of the Hot Science - Cool Talks program of the Environmental Science Institute at UT Austin. You can watch the complete talk at

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Critical Thinking

Last year at the beginning of the election season, one of the State’s political parties launched a platform with a plank in it that opposed the teaching of critical thinking skills in public education.  After a large public outcry, this platform was edited to remove the offending thought. This issue came up in one of the planning meetings of the Central Texas Chapter of the World Future Society and the group present resolved to make critical thinking part of our program of activities. This is in line with our longstanding vision, “Raising awareness of the future and its impact on Central Texas”. Awareness is the first step of critical thinking, followed by, among other things, discernment. The group present in the planning meeting thought that critical thinking was an essential part of future’s studies, both normative and projective.

Intuitively it appears that we are in an era when critical thinking is necessary, not just for success, but survival. There are many trends, global and local, temporal and eternal, that affect us, some that we can change and some that we must just prepare for. Our future is one of very large, complex systems, which at this point we neither understand nor control. Some of these systems are intrinsically uncontrollable. And, we are entering the world of big data driven by our technological capability to accomplish, and spurred by the profit motive.  Moreover, as copious amounts of money are available, “opinions” based on data can be bought. We are already swimming in a vast sea of data and opinions.

Given the vast amount of data, I am reminded of a statement sometimes attributed to Mark Twain, “Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.” Well, maybe not intentional lies, but biases based upon values, not open minded logic. We will need a lot of critical thinking to, as Omar Khayyam phrased it, “The two and seventy jarring sects confute.”

But what is critical thinking? How is it used in real life? Is it a skill? Can it be taught? Is it something that should be a guiding principle of this organization? What is our role in fostering critical thinking?

A panel has been gathered to discuss critical thinking on June 18, 2013 at the monthly meeting of the CenTexWFS beginning at 6pm at Marie Callender’s 9503 Research Blvd #400  Austin, TX 78759
(512) 349-7151. It will be moderated by Paul Schumann and is composed of::

·         Phyliss Blees: educator, peace through commerce, conscious capitalism, creativity, lawyer
·         Carol Flake Chapman: journalist, editor, author, founding editor of Vanity Fair Magazine
·         Joyce Goia: futurist, trend analyst, editor of Herman Trend Alerts
·         Terrill Fisher: improv artist, comedian, training consultant
·         Jon Lebkowsky: programming, social media, editor of Extreme Democracy
·         Diane Miller: civic collaboration, project planning, dialog and deliberation

If you wish to attend, please visit the group’s web site for more information. There is an attendance fee of $25 that includes dinner that is payable at the event
Paul Schumann is a futurist and innovation consultant who is currently researching complexity science and its use in future’s studies. He is the author of four books – Innovate!, An Innovant’s Journey, Leadership in the Interactive Age and Superconductivity – and numerous articles, the latest of which is “1, 2, A Few and Many”. Follow his blog, Insights and Foresight, for more information.

Philomena Blees, J.D. is President of Peace Through Commerce, Inc. (“PTC”) and a Trustee of Conscious Capitalism, Inc.  She was founding Vice President, General Counsel, Treasurer and "Chief Problem Solver" of PTC and Conscious Capitalism’s parent corporation, Freedom Lights Our Word (FLOW), Inc.

Ms. Blees co-founded a school for gifted children in Austin, Texas, as well as two educational nonprofit organizations. She served in the office of General Counsel at the Texas State Treasury.  Prior to this, Ms. Blees was an active securities trader, and a partner in private practice in Honolulu, Hawaii concentrating in tax, real property, and business law.

Ms. Blees is active in the American Creativity Association (“ACA”) and co-founded ACA-Austin Global.

Ms. Blees received her law degree at the University of Hawaii Richardson School of Law and was 1st in her class. She is a member of the State Bar Associations of Texas and Hawaii, and is licensed to practice before the U.S. Tax Court, Federal District Court and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.  Ms. Blees loves running, hiking, dancing, music, movement, creativity, and reading and is active with her two beloved children and new daughter-in law.

Author of The Herman Trend Alert for the last seven years, Joyce Gioia [joy-yah] has been a professional futurist for decades. In fact, she joined the World Future Society back in the late 60s, when she graduated from college and is now a member of the national Board of Trustees. Once she became a consultant, she discovered that helping clients know what was coming could be her competitive advantage. Joyce is the author of five business books (three bestsellers) on the future of the workforce and workplace. A frequent speaker at association and corporate meetings, she informs and entertains her audiences with a combination of wit and wisdom. Besides holding three masters degrees, she is a Certified Management Consultant and Certified Speaking Professional. Joyce was recently honored by USA TODAY as their FIRST ROAD WARRIOR OF THE YEAR. She says that not only did critical thinking help her to win this award, she also uses it every day to make informed decisions for herself and others.

Jon Lebkowsky is an author, activist, sometimes journalist, and blogger who writes about the future of the Internet, digital culture, media, and society. He’s been actively associated with various forward-looking projects and organizations, including FringeWare (CEO), Whole Earth, WorldChanging, Viridian Design Movement, Mondo 2000, bOING bOING, Factsheet Five, the WELL, the Austin Chronicle, EFF-Austin (President), Society of Participatory Medicine (cofounder and former board member), Extreme Democracy (co-editor), Wireless Future (project manager), Digital Convergence Initiative (former board member), Plutopia Productions (cofounder), Polycot Consulting (cofounder and CEO), Social Web Strategies (cofounder), Project VRM, and Reality Augmented Blog. He’s currently a web strategist and developer via Polycot Associates. There’s more info at Wikipedia.

Diane Miller specializes in the design, facilitation and implementation of community engagement projects that help diverse groups of people work together to find common ground for action. For the last ten years, she has worked with Central Texas governments, businesses and community groups to address complex civic challenges. Before launching her firm, Civic Collaboration, in 2011, she was assistant director for a regional planning non-profit where she designed and executed numerous collaborative, multi-stakeholder initiatives on complicated and often divisive issues. She has designed and led community forums on an array of topics, from gentrification and regional planning, to education and health care.

Before working in community engagement, Diane worked in the field of organizational development, designing workshops and trainings focused on leadership, teamwork, and change management. She has a B.A. in liberal arts and has studied extensively in the areas of group dynamics, organizational and human development, and civic participatory processes. Diane currently serves on the board of The National Coalition on Dialogue and Deliberation. She has completed certification programs in public engagement from both the International Association for Public Participation and Fielding University.
This is the first entry on the new blog for CenTxWFS. History of an earlier blog can be found at