The “A” in EAST


Matt Dozier

“What does EAST stand for?”

That’s a good question. This is the second in a four part series that examines the components that make EAST so powerful for our students and facilitators. It goes without saying that our students and facilitators are what makes EAST succeed the way it does and not be yet another “great idea that won’t work in the real world”. This week, our President and CEO Matt Dozier takes a look at the “A” in EAST: And.

I’m fascinated by the “little words”. We often read right past them; we don’t stop to consider them; sometimes we don’t even see them. But often, it’s the “little” words that hold the secret to the meaning of phrases, clauses, and documents. Sometimes the little words are the key to life, the universe, and everything else. Consider the infamous case of the so-called “Wicked Bible”. Published in England as a reprint of the King James Bible back in1631, it omitted one small – but crucial – word from the seventh commandment.

The word? “Not.”

Now once you’ve stopped laughing, consider how those three little letters hold the entire concept of that declaration in its metaphorical hand. Without them, it leads you straight down the road to pandemonium.

If you don’t believe me, you can go check the “Wicked Bible” out for yourself in the Bible Museum in Branson, Missouri. They own one of the last eleven copies of the “Wicked Bible” that are in existence after King Charles I led a completely understandable bible burning. Though most of them were destroyed, at least one copy sits under glass in the Ozarks, a short car-ride away from where I currently sit writing this. All because of a “Not.”

Small world, huh?

Today I want to look at another little three letter word that helps make up the acronym “EAST.” To prove my point, consider that it holds a lot more meaning than just a simple connector between the “E” and the “S”. The “A” in EAST stands for “And.” “And” is a powerful idea. I think our schools and our world would be far better off with more “ands” and far fewer “ors.”

Computing is based on “ors.” At the very heart of every computer command is a simple instruction for a switch to be either on or off. Computers exist in a binary mindset that we represent as a 1 or a 0. What a comforting concept. Something is either a 1 or a 0; entire programs can be boiled down into one of two options. The bad guys in Call of Duty could be as simple as 11101011010101010101011101110000011010101010, right? If you’ve ever tried to program anything, you begin to understand that it’s not quite that easy. There’s a large gap between the conceptual and the actual, even if both are built on the same logic train.

Have I confused you yet? Because I just confused myself. Let’s take a step away from the circuit board and the first person shooter and back into the real world. Too, often—far too often—people see the world in a binary fashion. Something is either one thing or another. There’s a right or a wrong answer. We tend to boil down the complexities of society and life as a series of choices based on a “this or that construction and that’s just not how the world works.

The forks in this metaphysical road are not two-pronged, they are most often twenty pronged. Our choices for dinner are not just burgers or pizza, we can have burgers or pizza or tacos or fish or salad or chicken or, or, or, ad infinitum. But if you want a great dinner you need to move beyond the or into the and. How great is it to have roast beef and potatoes and gravy and carrots and spinach and fresh yeast rolls and (most especially and) brownies! I’m hungry just thinking about it and having all those options are way better than just choosing between fish or chicken, right?

The “and” in EAST is critical to our work beyond the silly (yet delicious) examples above. Too many people in the educational world think that school is built on “or. You have to make choices and those choices draw lines around everything else you do in school, and I don’t think it should be that simple. We live in a world where too much emphasis is placed on three hours, one day a year, staring at a multiple-choice test. But because those tests exist, everything else about school is reverse engineered to lead inevitably to that test. There is so much more to learning than 6th period science—and that idea isn’t even binary, it assumes that there is only one option and that leads to school being six to eight one option experiences.

Students need to read the book and learn from their teachers and have their questions answered and find the answers to some questions themselves and experiment with and explore the things they’re learning and make mistakes and learn from their mistakes and teach others and explain what they learned and take a test. Unfortunately, the educational system is built on the premise that you learn from either lectures or exploring; testing or presenting. It doesn’t have to be this way.

We need solid, well crafted, courses that are rigorous in content and taught by gifted educators. We need to cover all the important stuff in each class in the 36 weeks we have for a school year. We need to be able to read, and write, and take tests…we need to embrace the “and.” It makes everything stronger.

EAST lives in the “and.” It’s in the center of our name. We believe that working in the connection points between education, service, career preparation, and innovation makes our students the best prepared and most dynamic in the country.

It’s a great place to be.

To read part one of Matt Dozier’s “What is EAST?” Series, click here

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