Medical vs School Reform

I ‘m hoping to start a conversation about Atul Gawande’s interesting article, Big Med, in the August 13/20 New Yorker. Actually the author goes from restaurants to hospitals—and I wonder how and why (and why not) it applies to education “reform”. Anyone out there who wants to tackle it with me? deb

9 Responses

  1. Deb….I’ve been looking at it too, with the same questions you ask. I don’t know what answers I’d have, but I’d be glad to take a closer look at it with you, Like you, I’ve tried some new ideas with school change. I’m still looking. There are some answers, I think. We need more courage to try them.

    Here’s my blog:

    and some of my earlier reform links:


    Tom King

  2. Do you have a link to this article? Our daughter in law has just finished her residency and become a full-fledged doc. In the past some Univ of Mn medical school folks approached me about helping them create a sort of SWS for medical school (but it did not happen). So I am interested in what Atul has to say.

  3. Deb…the big difference I see between Gawande’s examples of total quality commitment and our K12 is people want good, affordable menus, good affordable knee replacements, but too few kids and parents care enough or know enough about ed reform to insist on better learning for all.

    When I started the Saturn School of Tomorrow back in the early 90s, there was great interest in more ways for more kids to learn more. It waned in a hurry and now, inexplicably and incredibly, reformers are focused on standardized testing for standardized kids to standardize teachers.

    If this testing madness has resulted in one fewer child being left behind, I have yet to hear about it.

    My own lesson from Saturn School is that our Personal Learning Plan required of each learner, with primary input from the learner, then the parent, then the adviser and teacher, had more to do with improved learning than anything else.

    Today, there is no focus on the learner. Too few care enough about learning to care about higher quality learning, a menu that suits their needs, a well-prepared curriculum, topnotch delivery from a staff who are committed to quality.

    There are over 16,000 school districts, over 100,000 schools, millions of learners and no consistent plan for betterment.

    I’d be very interested in re-presenting, with you, Gawande’s guidelines for K12 reform.

    Let me know…cheers, Tom

    PS; You can check out Saturn and other topics in my blog at:

  4. I wonder if we engaged our local communities what impact that would have on overcoming some of the issues in educational reform? Right now, those furthest from the children are the ‘reformers.’ This makes little sense to me, but perhaps it does to others. In fact, I doubt there is any real reform happening. My experience is most change is done by fiat from afar largely based on theory from afar.


  5. We have a lot of the standardization that restaurants have but without high quality education. Schools are much more similar to Pizza Hut than Cheesecake Factory. Like Pizza Hut food, lessons today are bland and lack nutrition (for the mind). Kids like Pizza Hut food because it is full of fat and a little sweet, never spicy. The same with school lessons that are fat with lists to memorize and never challenge cultural norms or prejudices.

  6. Deborah,

    First, I have been a huge fan of your work for over 20 years. And I read Gawande’s piece and had exactly the same thought: that you could easily swap education for healthcare and ask the same questions and the obstacles and challenges had a lot of overlap. Perhaps the biggest difference is that health outcomes and education outcomes are very different and there is lots of disagreement about the latter. Progressive educators like you and I and the corporate reformers have very different objectives.

    But just because it is hard does not mean we should not try.

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