Against the grain…

Just to encourage those of you who are trying to hold on to some values and standards in a new America where both have been perverted beyond recognition, esp in education…..

Some of you may object to my categorization of this as ’culture’, but I think our whole culture is permeated by an adversarial and competitive approach in areas where those just don’t belong e.g. medicine, education, the military…. I mean, it’s one thing for schools to compete in athletics but quite another when one school gets trashed in local newspapers for not attaining high test scores.

Our military holds competition between units – great. But to force them into an adversarial relationship with their own government to get vital elements of their equipment and logistics in a time of combat is …. well, just not suporting the troops. That’s like low-bid toilet paper in the teachers’ restroom…. gad!

So I just thought I would quote from a Thomas Friedman column in the NYT from June 27 to show you that going against the grain, sticking to your values and standards, can often have surprisingly powerful effects.

“…one hospital taught its doctors to apologize when they make mistakes, and dramatically cut their malpractice claims. In Texas, a large auto dealership allowed every mechanic to spend freely whatever company money was necessary to do the job right, and saw their costs actually decline while customer satisfaction improved. A N.Y. street doughnut-seller trusted his customers to make their own change and found he could serve more people faster and build the loyalty that keeps them coming back.” These are from a book called “How” by Dov Seidman.

Even in the law, where the adversarial approach is built in, they warn againt litigation and a litigious mind set. What prompted Friedman’s column was an encounter with a rude person he felt obliged to treat nicely b/c she might put him on YouTube. Daily technology has outstripped the law so it’s probably useless to turn to the courts for redress (a hostile, expelled student returned one day with a cellphone camera and took pictures of me – she was caught on campus and the photos deleted).

So, the classroom teacher could try telling a parent that “their student” (that means their kid for people who don’t know ed-speak) doesn’t do anything in class. Maybe a principal could hear the news that the teacher is in charge of teaching, not the principal. Even a principal might refuse to destroy the curriculum in favor of high test scores (in my school and state, test scores have been raised by teaching to the test – in other states – I hope not in mine – low-scoring students are forced out of the system).

You never know what the result will be – a letter of reprimand in your file, an acknowledgement that you ARE the teacher….. who knows? Maybe, as in these cases Friedman cites, the outcome just might be outside the box of authoritarian, fear-driven, behaviorist-inspired, competitive, adversarial education.

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