Knowledge Guiding Change

Following my own advice, I took a few moments this morning to stop and think. I reflected on the efforts of so many who are struggling for quality education. I wasn’t thinking about the very public and petty fighting of politicos or the influential; I was thinking about regular folks in the trenches.

It’s believed that human nature is such that we are more inclined to unite against a thing or person that we hate rather than rally around something we love. Hate can be seen as a more unifying force than love. Frustrating and sad — but it’s a reasonable explanation for why it’s so hard to get people to rally on behalf of this country’s children. It almost sounds like an impossibility to overcome all of the forces working against the institution of public education. And they are real, powerful and many.

I have been asked before and again recently; how do you continue this fight against seemingly hopeless odds? I’ve never had a good explanation. But like most things, the answer is usually right in front of us; we just can’t see it until we are ready to.

I am a true believer in the idea that knowledge is powerful. Think about it; if we know something about human nature, can’t we then use that knowledge to change or direct an outcome? Sure we can; it’s done all the time — advertising, propaganda, persuasion of any kind.

So today, I have something to add to the advice “stop and think.” Listen, question, learn, and use the knowledge you have gained. As Francis Bacon (father of the scientific method) argued, inquiry will “…assure man’s mastery over the world.” Seek knowledge about the topic for which you wish to change.

And, please, ask questions. It makes people think.

P.S. I saw my book yesterday for the first time!


School Culture and Change

When I began fighting for school improvements, little did I know  how important school culture is to success.

In my last blog (Understanding Change), when I asked the question “who will take control of the direction [of reform],” I wasn’t thinking about the movie I was about to see but it played right into the question.

The movie, Won’t Back Down, may not have been intended to be interpreted the way I did, but here it is. I saw the “union thugs” dressed in red (stop) and the parent-troopers dressed in green (go). I saw the protest signs for “choice” and heard the familiar words of the reform wars —tenure and bad teachers, can’t and won’t.

Swept up in the emotion, I cheered for the underdogs and shared in the pain of the parents portrayed on the big screen. I’ve walked in their shoes, but, without the fairy tale ending.

What I didn’t see was a law that will force schools to improve. Rather, what the movie demonstrated was the power of ordinary people. What I saw was the right leadership rising up, and, the question of control of the direction of reform was answered. I saw community organizing to support a public school; community stepped up. And I saw the “culture” of the school change from one of hopelessness to one beneficial to both teaching and learning.

“If culture changes, everything changes.”

T. Donahoe 1997

I saw the change we need, but, understand that the means to that end must not harm children, destroy neighborhoods, or undermine the strong foundation of our institution of public education.

“Dreams, visions and wild hopes are mighty weapons…” Eric Hoffer 1951.

Let’s hope they aren’t being used for the wrong reasons.

Discover more about school culture and change.