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Deputy Head of School Blog

A Fresh Perspective on Education

In the late 1940s, the US Air Force experienced an epidemic of crashes involving several different types of aircraft. Many of the accidents were attributed to pilot error and, in the course of investigating the causes, Air Force officials re-examined the design of the cockpit itself, which had been based on the average physical dimensions of pilots from 1926. In 1950, the Air Force hired researcher Gilbert Daniels from Harvard to ascertain the degree of fit between pilots and the cockpit dimensions, which he defined as a pilot whose measurements across 10 physical characteristics were within the middle 30 percent of the range.

Gilbert's findings were astonishing – of the 4,063 pilots studied not a single one fell within the average range across all ten dimensions (Rose, 2016, p. 4). This was despite the Air Force already filtering pilot selection according to its own concept of the average, eliminating pilots from consideration who were either too tall or too short. The moral of the story, according to author Todd Rose (2016), is: Any system designed around the average person is doomed to fail (p. 8). This is the counterintuitive conclusion of his book, The End of Average – How We Succeed in a World That Values Sameness.

The idea of the average has been a fundamental organising principle of the systems that underpinned 20th-century society, from how factories were organised, to how civic policies and social rank operated, to how school systems and curricula were designed. The notion of average was critical to the quest for standardisation. In this context, the understanding of the individual lay not in the recognition of their unique talents and strengths; rather, it was arrived at by comparing them to the average and determining how far below or above the standard they measured (Rose, 2016, p. 37). It is an idea that holds little credibility any longer in the social sciences.

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Truth, A Hint of Hubris and the IB Evaluation

The ancient Roman historian, Tacitus, said that, "Truth is confirmed by inspection and delay; falsehood by haste and uncertainty." The accuracy of this statement was confirmed to the fullest extent in purpose and spirit during Mulgrave's IB evaluation visit that took place in the early days of October this school year. The truth is: Mulgrave is an outstanding school.

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Pluralism, Canada and Mulgrave

Canada, as a country, turns 149 years old tomorrow, inching ever closer to its auspicious sesquicentennial anniversary in 2017. I have lived in Canada all of my life and yet I am only now beginning to understand its complexity and the subtlety of its formation. It isn't perfect and those who are wont to throw stones at glass houses will find fault easily enough. It remains nevertheless a shining light in a world increasingly darkened with intolerance, distrust and xenophobia.

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The Continuum Teacher - How Teaching IB Engenders a Different Mindset

In his most recent blog post, Mr. MacIntyre illustrates how teaching in an IB continuum school, such as Mulgrave, is different than teaching in other types of schools - how it engenders a different mindset. He cites that through interdependence among colleagues, programmes and grades, Mulgrave teachers lift the learning of students and effectively abate the prevailing 'secondary achievement dip' that plagues many education systems around the world.

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The little boy stood on the downslope of the wetted sands staring out at the vast, oblique ocean. He waited for the next wave to crash the shore, planning his escape from its watery grasp at the last possible moment in a game of cat-and-mouse.

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Yale or Jail - Rethinking the University Admissions Game

On Tuesday of next week, Mulgrave is offering an Open Door session, 'You May be Wrong About University Admission – An Important Talk'. The focus will be on the latest thinking re-evaluating traditional views on what are the 'best' universities. The session will also highlight the concept of 'best-fit', the alignment of a student's interests, passions, and learning style and their university programme of choice. Malcom Gladwell details the long-term personal and economic benefits of 'best-fit' university choice in his latest book, David and Goliath, offering compelling counter examples to the idea that enrolling in an elite university is always the most productive pathway.

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The Fraser Institute released its annual BC Elementary Schools Report Card this week. Mulgrave was ranked number one for the third successive year. Although we are rated as the best in BC, we continue to find the process of ranking schools to be troubling, especially given the Fraser Institute's conceptually flawed and ill-conceived methodology.

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"We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." - T. S. Eliot

I have always been fond of T.S. Eliot's quote. It speaks of finding something meaningful in our work, of finding something purposeful. It reminds me that our pursuits are often a journey, and in those journeys we find what we value, and we come to value what we find.

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In my previous post, I detailed the findings from the latest Pan-Canadian Assessment Program (PCAP) tests written by a broad cross-section of Grade 8 students. The results generally continue an upward trend in girls' achievement and illustrate the growing achievement gap between girls and boys in reading and writing.

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