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Why Do You Ask?

From asking questions that require an answer To asking questions that require a conversation.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Writers Intend: Readers Interpret - Apology Offered

When we write, most of us write with a purpose. Writers intend to say something, but at times can struggle with finding the correct words. [To me, this is one of the restrictions of blogging, and why I prefer face-to-face encounters on important topics.]

For my January 1st blog, I submitted my entry on all the conversations that occur around the beginning of each year. Resolutions are a tradition, I believe, that can have value, but often are left by the wayside when "life happens."

My intent for the entry - With so many people either writing or commenting in edublogosphere about the changes that need to occur, I wanted to make sure that we understand the cost we must bear in when we seek a change. {I am checking my words carefully here} It is easy to say we want change, that we want to be a part of the change, perhaps even be the faces of change, but research supports that over 90% of people hate change. How much do we hate change? So much that Alan Deutschman says it this way in referring to the choice of changing or dying:

What if you were given that choice? [CHANGE OR DIE] For real. What if it weren't just the hyperbolic rhetoric that conflates corporate performance with life and death? Not the overblown exhortations of a rabid boss, or a slick motivational speaker, or a self-dramatizing CEO. We're talking actual life or death now. Your own life or death. What if a well-informed, trusted authority figure said you had to make difficult and enduring changes in the way you think and act? If you didn't, your time would end soon -- a lot sooner than it had to. Could you change when change really mattered? When it mattered most?

Yes, you say?

Try again.

Yes?

You're probably deluding yourself.

You wouldn't change.

Don't believe it? You want odds? Here are the odds, the scientifically studied odds: nine to one. That's nine to one against you. How do you like those odds?

Interpretations - Two people I respect greatly, though I have never met them in person (important point to be built upon later), commented on my post.

Miguel Guhlin commented, "...because I'm overweight, that means that I can't stick to change?"

Mrs. Durff commented, "change is costly to be sure - what else do you want - i have already given my life..."

Again, let me be forthright...these are two of six people from whom I have learned more in the past year than anyone. I have a great amount of respect for their thoughts, practice, and commitment. My intent was not about weight loss, nor is there meant to be an implication that if one cannot lose weight, one is unfit for educational change. That is an erroneous conclusion of the analogy.

The analogy was intended to mean that educational change is much more difficult than any personal resolution, because it systemic, not individual. Be it weight loss, stop smoking, get fit, stay in touch with old friends, read 12 books a year, or any of the 42 Things one might list, individual resolve is easier to accomplish than systemic change because, the only one stopping you in an individual change is you (unless there is a medical, chemical, physical limitation beyond your control). Systemic change can be stopped at an number of points in the change continuum, thus making it more difficult and therefore demands a much higher level of commitment.

My intent was to say educational change is going to require more than most imagine. Who other than Kozol are willing to go on a fast for educational change? Who among us is really willing to die for the cause of American public education?

It won't take that level of commitment, you say. Consider that American public education is associated with the following entities: government, politics, billion-dollar industries, testing agencies, and families. Education concerns itself with: opportunities, economics, equality, career advancement, and other societal issues. Education is big; it is more than the classrooms where most educators find themselves each day.

We might say it won't take the level of commitment mentioned two paragraphs ago, but tell that to the likes of Ghandi or Martin Luther King, Jr. These non-violent protesters both saw their violent days. The final paragraph of Dr. King's final sermon serve as a reminder of the type of commitment we likely need. Dr. King delivered this speech in support of the striking sanitation workers at Mason Temple in Memphis, TN on April 3, 1968 — the day before he was assassinated. Granted, Dr. King was concerned about more than sanitation workers, but they were as important a segment as any other in the movement.
Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead. But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now. I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight. I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.
Then, " Early morning, April 4; Shot rings out in the Memphis sky; Free at last, they took your life; They could not take your pride" [U2 - Free at Last]

Using Dr. King's words and relating it to public education change in the US and things I have read recently on other blogs,

Well, I don't know what will happen now. We've got some difficult days ahead.
(True for us wanting educational change)

But it doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. And I don't mind.
(Hmmm. Is that true for enough of us? Will recently said he is not sure if change will take place in his lifetime - he's my age - I happen to agree. I'm not sure we have been in this long enough, deep enough, grassroots enough, and influential enough to say anyone has reached the mountaintop where there was a clear picture of the change we seek - The statement is not one of despair, it's certainty of change)

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I'm not concerned about that now.
(When you are willing to die for a cause, then you begin knowing how to live each day.)

I just want to do God's will. And He's allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I've looked over. And I've seen the promised land.
(Misinterpretation of Separation of Church and State restricts me from commenting on God's providence and guidance in our lives as we seek change. :-) Suffice it to say that the allusion of Moses and Aaron leading the Israelites from Egypt is not lost on me. Can we say with certainty that educational change, the kind we want to see, is coming?)

I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land. And I'm happy, tonight.
(Can we say this, and mean it? Is anyone of us content with the potential for change in education? We may not be alive when the change happens, can we accept that, and still give our lives to the cause?)

I'm not worried about anything. I'm not fearing any man.
(It's an election year. Educators are notorious for blaming elected officials, politicians, and the political process for our ills. Is anyone afraid of who might get elected this year, and what that could mean for public education? Is anyone worried about what could occur in an attempt to restructure or replace NCLB? As a Vietnam Vet friend of mine says, "Things are not so bad that they can't get worse.")

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.
(Again, Separation of Church & State issues prevent me comment :-))

An apology to two people I would like to one day meet and share time with.
First, Miguel - I am 6'2" and 230 lbs. I am out of shape, overweight, and committed to the kids I work with so I can help them prepare to be the best people they can become. I read and follow you because I see this in you. I did not know your concern about your weight, and would never write something here, or anywhere else, that would intentionally hurt you or anyone else. If that occurred, I am sorry.

Second, Mrs. Durff - You are an inspiration to me. I know you have given you life to education. If I offended you in any way, I apologize to you as well.

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2 Comments:

At 1:55 PM, Blogger Miguel said...

Ric, you're too serious. No offense was taken.

Please, imagine my blogging as tongue in cheek (wait! That's what I said about all my writing! fun, fun).

And, I really did find writing that supports your perspective. I'm looking forward to exploring that perspective over a few blog posts and I'll enjoy it less (well, not much) if I know you're going to revise your original blog posting to be less assertive!

And, gee, if you change it, you'll be pulling what Gary Stager described. Aren't we allowed to passionately disagree?

Warm regards,

Miguel

 
At 4:55 PM, Blogger Ric Murry said...

Miguel,

I've never been called "too serious" before. As a matter of fact, the main reason I don't get taken seriously is because I turn everything into a joke, or summarize things with a movie or Simpsons quote. My son bought me a SpiderPig shirt for Christmas. So perhaps, after being called "serious" I'm almost offended too. :-) I'm joking here.

Your comment is greatly appreciated, as I said in comment on your blog. I guess my major concern is that you (or anyone else) comes away thinking I would attack someone based on their appearance or personal issues.

On the other hand, I'm quite handy at attacking ideas. :->

I look forward to your future posts on the subject, and I will post as well. Wouldn't it be great if we came up with two divergent approaches to create a singular route to making exceptional change in education? Too cool. So let's get to it.

Perhaps we will shake hands one day soon.

Take care.

 

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