Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Following the Map: values, opinions, policies, procedures, practice and change

People disagree for a plethora of reasons, but mostly because they have different sets of values and they are then put into a collaborative situation in which these values are subjected to scrutiny by the other groups or individuals ... Unfortunately, the non-educators who assume leadership roles in the "realm" of education tend to have their opinions turn into options and then into policies, procedures, and practice.   Alfie Kohn

Policies and procedures are what Seth Godin calls "the map".  Or rather he says "There is no map".  The whole point is that you should forge your own path and draw your own map of how to get there - but before you decide where you're going and how you're getting there, you first need to know where you are.  This leads me to probably the most powerful two sentences that I've read so far, the one where it feels like Seth is actually looking over my shoulder or right into my head:  
The ability to see the world as it is begins with an understanding that perhaps it's not your job to change what can't be changed.  Particularly if the act of working on that change harms you and your goals in the process.  
Basically what he is saying is leave the unchangeable alone, don't kill yourself trying to bring about change.  Learn what you can learn;  then move on.  

He goes on to write about 4 different kinds of people and how they respond to change.  Of these only one, the linchpin, is focused on outcomes and passionate about bringing about change, the rest actively or passively resist it:

  • The fundamentalist zealot:  change is seen as a threat, so is curiosity, so is competition.  Huge amounts of energy and passion are invested in maintaining his own view.
  • The bureaucrat:  follows the rules but brings little effort or passion to his job.
  • The whiner:  fears change, even though he has no passion for what he is currently doing so puts no effort into making things better, instead stays focused on keeping things as they are.
In situations where value is put on being a team player, it's often difficult to speak up and upset the status quo.  The three characters above are map followers, not map drawers.  Mistakes are seen in a negative light, detours are prohibited, policies and procedures continue to be drawn up, round pegs continue to be pushed into square holes and learning comes lower down the list of priorities than teaching to the test. 

Many schools today are a bit like this.  For a variety of reasons, some connected with government policies and funding, many schools cannot make changes to their programmes.  There are national curriculums, standardized tests, league tables, inspections.  There are also some educators and schools who are questioning these things, asking what is the purpose of education.  These people have realized that it's sometimes possible to get a new job without having to leave your old one, just by doing your old job in a new way, by focusing on the areas where it is possible to make a difference.  Sometimes you don't have to have permission to do your old job better, you just have to decide to do it.  Sometimes, though, it's just not possible, sometimes all you can do is to tear up the map and head out in a new direction.

Photo Credit:  Stuff close up:  where to go now? by Jeroen Bosman AttributionNoncommercialShare Alike

No comments:

Post a Comment