Sphere College Project

A New World of Learning

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So Much to Tell

Oh, there’s just so much to tell. I’ve got about 20 irons in the fire. I don’t know which one is going to work out, so I’m just trying to keep them all hot. Yes, I do realize that without the details this is not a very satisfying post, but it’s a touch-and-go time here and I need to focus on keeping the College afloat. Either the College will become financially viable in the short term or I’ll be returning to the software industry for a while in order to continue to support the college. I can do that, of course, I would just prefer not to take my energy off of moving the college forward right now. We’ll see what happens and I’ll let you know what develops.

Ok, before I go tend to other things I’ll give you a tiny piece: today I contacted the UPenn Graduate School of Education. There may be some faculty members there who would be interested in learning more about the new model of higher education we’re working on and being involved in some way. I’ll be following up with them asap.

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Connecting Dots

There are many, many dots to connect. Here are a few:

We spend an enormous amount of money on incarcerating lots of people because they don’t have the skills to successfully contribute to our society. If they gained these skills, then we would save lots of tax money. The skills include the ability to communicate effectively with other people, possessing a good work ethic because they know their actions have an affect on the lives other people, recognition that treating other people well means that their own lives will be better, basic math skills for doing things like balancing checkbooks and calculating the amount of concrete needed to pour a foundation, and more generally, acknowledgement of when they don’t have enough knowledge to accomplish something.

And just as a musician selects the next thing they will practice to be the thing they have the most difficulty with, we need to provide effective education for the least educated members of society so we will have the most impact.

To appeal to this segment of the population that is already highly financially stressed, they need to know that they can access this education at no cost.

How can this possibly work? Well, there are already some successful models of high-quality higher education out there. Some of which I am aware include The Curtis Institute of Music, The Cooper Union and The Colburn School.

How are these institutions successful? They depend on alumni support, which Sphere College will do when we get to the point of having successful alumni who will want to give back to ensure that others have the same opportunity to attend Sphere College that they did. It’s like collecting tuition after students graduate and have the money rather than having them take out huge loans, creating more stress in their lives. Education and confronting oneself can be stressful enough in themselves!

How did these schools get started? They had benefactors who wanted to do something good for society. It seems to me there are two primary ways this could happen for Sphere College. First, by having lots of people give a little money, then we use that to get to the next level by writing grants. (BTW, for all of you who may be thinking “Why don’t you just write a grant?”, we’re working on it, but grants generally take a great deal of time and work to write, to be accepted and for the funding to make its way to the recipient. We do not yet have the infrastructure in place to do this work, so we must exist on individual contributions at this time.) Second, we could be put in contact with a benefactor who wants to have a positive impact on society through a sensible education program. This person just needs to become aware of the existence of the College.

If you have already contributed to Sphere College, we thank you. If not, please take a moment to visit the “DONATE!” tab to find out how to contribute to Sphere College. Any amount is greatly appreciated, and demonstrates broad support! And if you know of anyone who may be in a position to make a major gift, please connect us. I would be delighted to have the opportunity to answer any questions such an individual may have about the current status and future vision of the College.

IN THE CLASS we ended our series on Crucial Conversations. Particularly gratifying was to see Virginia sensibly employing some of the techniques from this study during our recent Steering Committee meeting in which we found ourselves in the middle of just such a conversation.

Next up: Chapter 1 from the book Looking for Spinoza. It seems a good follow-on to the crucial conversations topic.

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Pick Up the Phone

Hi everyone,

Here’s the case: for the American System to work we must have a sufficiently educated public who makes decisions based on fact, not fiction. When there are huge financial resources available to those in positions of power to employ techniques of rhetoric (the art of persuasion) to formulate public opinion through the media, we need an equally effective educational system. That system must work with the way people think, work and live. It will not have an agenda—it will seek to help students go through the transformation they want to go through. It will not add stress to their already stressful lives. You guessed it: I’m talking about Sphere College.

Here’s your call to action:

Take a few quiet moments to think of any “high net worth individuals” you know who want to do something good in the world. Contact them and say “Hey, there’s someone I think you should talk to. There’s an innovative education project project called Sphere College that may be the Next Big Thing in education and you may very well be interested in either supporting it or helping to garner support for it”. Ask whether it’s ok for me to contact them. If so, contact me and give me their contact info: email address or (preferably) telephone number. I’ll contact them and give them a brief overview of the College and see whether their curiosity is piqued for more. If you don’t know any “high net worth individuals”, then think of people you know who would know someone.

If this ends up resulting in bringing support for Sphere College, then you can pat yourself on the back for being an important link in the process of building the College.

Ah, so many things are lined up it’s amazing. It’s going to be so fun when everything falls into place!

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The Next Big Thing

Am I going to far when I claim that Sphere College is the next big thing in education? I try to think of how it wouldn’t be, but I keep returning to the belief that providing people with an environment that truly works for them to learn, bringing people of different walks of life together to share their experiences and learn to communicate more effectively, discovering their passion for knowledge and acquiring the skills to achieve their life goals in a way that is fun for them seems to be precisely what we need right now. And there’s an excellent model for doing this for free: the Curtis Institute of Music is one of the finest music schools in the world, and it’s free. Imagine how the world will change when we raise the general level of education in our society!

Support keeps coming in, though. People also want to help in any way they can. Many people have offered to teach classes on many topics—we just need to build the infrastructure to be able to handle the details of the classes. Perhaps some people think that small donations for such a large project couldn’t be helpful. The opposite is true! Many small donations demonstrate wide-ranging support, and add up to large amounts, so please do take a moment to send in a small donation. And we wish a hearty thank you all those who have already donated!

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Crucial Conversations

Last night we had a wonderful class. As I mentioned yesterday, we are working with the topic Crucial Conversations. These are conversations in which there is something important at stake, opinions vary and emotions run high. It is in these kinds of conversations that our minds tend to shut down, and it happens right when we need to be operating at our highest level!

Michael created and distributed a very useful graphical representation of the flow of these conversations, shedding light on the process. Students really opened up to share their experiences and allowed some dissection of what had happened. Another student and I even volunteered to participate in a crucial conversation, with comments from the class from time to time about the effectiveness of how we were conducting ourselves. In discussions afterwards, students indicated that they found the class to be enlightening.

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Thanks, Dad

My, how time flies! I was updating this blog quite regularly and there was a regular following, then apparently I dropped off the face of the earth. What’s a bit surprising is that this blog still gets a number of hits per day, averaging around 30 and spiking up to 60 or so even when I’m not updating it. There was a time in the beginning when 30 hits in a day was very high!

My primary reason for taking a blogging break was that I must shift my focus to more effective forms of fundraising for the college. The truth of the matter is that the college must experience a significant increase in donations—either in size of donation or number of people giving small amounts, or both—in the coming weeks or we’ll be closing our doors for a while. I must seek an income for myself so that I can meet my personal financial obligations and continue to support the college as we figure out how to take the college to the next level. I haven’t perceived that the blog has contributed significantly to the income of the college, and was planning to write a blog entry stating that I was going to take a hiatus.

However, during my recent visit with my Dad in Brevard, NC I realized that he has been following the blog all along, and has been disappointed in the lack of updates. This is a serious oversight on my part, since if it were not for him the College simply would not have lasted this long at all. I have borrowed large chunks of money from him to support the College, and it has not been easy for him to do this. He has his own financial obligations, including medical expenses. Although he has insurance, his medical bills are high like everyone else’s. So to say “Thank You” to my Dad for his support I pledge to begin blogging again.

So Dad, along with the other members of the Sphere College community, I thank you.

To catch others up on some things that have been going on recently, here’s a bit of news:

I spent last week in Washington, DC attending a Buckminster Fuller Institute event announcing the winner of the 2010 Buckminster Fuller Challenge. At the event I met many fascinating people who are doing good work in the world according to principles outlined by R. Buckminster Fuller. I also had the opportunity to meet with (and stay with) several of my former students from Ursinus College. It was great to see you!

The Sphere College classes continue, led by Michael Reddy. We are currently discussing the book Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler. It’s a difficult and important topic, and it is our hope that increasing our skills with this kind of conversation will significantly enhance our ability to have the kinds of conversations that are inevitable while building an organization.

There’s so much more to say, but there’s also much to do, so I’m off to do some writing and connecting. Stay tuned!