Friday, December 5, 2014

A Thought Exercise


Have you ever argued or debated with someone on an issue about which you were extremely passionate?  Have you felt the frustration as if your message was simply not getting across?  Have you felt that no matter what you knew was right, that nothing would change?

This about sums up what I have viewed as my role in the discussion on education.  I have felt passionate and argued about all the issues:
- national policies
- state statutes
- the legislative process
- venture philanthropy
- funding issues
- public vs. private vs. charter
- school board elections
- district leadership
- unions
- teacher evaluations
- high stakes testing
- teaching methods
- student learning
- poverty and hunger

I know I'm right about everything, because there could be no other reason for me to have these debates and arguments.  All my learning on these issues is done, and I still feel like we are going in the wrong direction.  So, I decided to do something a little differently.  I embarked on a mental exercise, and it's something we use in Geometry.  I attempted an Indirect Proof, or a Proof by Contradiction.  I wanted to take an issue, and make the assumption that those with whom I argued were actually correct.  That way, I can finely comb through their thought process and pinpoint the exact places they were wrong.  I had to begin my assumption with accepting that everything I thought was right was actually wrong.

So, I did that.  I'm still doing that.  But I'm encouraging everyone to do the same.  Let's assume that Arne Duncan is the best visionary Secretary of Education we have ever had, that Jeb Bush is correct about statewide policies, and Bill Gates is correct about efficiency, and Michelle Rhee was spot-on about teacher accountability, and Eli Broad is correct about leadership.  I must stop myself from accepting that these are evil people, as that would make me equally evil.  At the same time, let's imagine that I have been wrong, Diane Ravitch has been wrong, Peter Greene has been wrong, Mercedes Schneider has been wrong (although her research abilities are nuts), and Lily Eskelsen Garcia is wrong.  Just use an Indirect Proof for a second.

So, try that out.  Imagine, for a second, that hyper-accountability and data-mining and teacher-blame and childhood anxiety is right and good.  See where that takes you.  Let it blow your mind.

It has blown my mind (which is why I have not written in awhile), and I think it will be the beginning of my next big idea.


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