Choose healthy skepticism over cynicism

IMG_1365Successful leadership can sometimes be reduced to a small number of fundamental choices. Once those choices are made, they guide decisions and behavior in dozens of situations each week.

One of those choices is between healthy skepticism and cynicism.

Choosing healthy skepticism means that educators will bring a finely-honed critical intellect to their study of professional literature and to problem-solving and decision-making within the school community.

Healthy skepticism requires an open mind. It also requires the ability to identify biases, to evaluate the quality of evidence and its implications for practice, and to synthesize various perspectives on the subject at hand, among other skills.

Cynicism, on the other hand, only asks that we reflexively dismiss new ideas and the views of others. It blocks innovation and creates a downward spiral of energy that prevents continuous improvements in teaching and learning.

Healthy skepticism has two primary benefits:

• Healthy skepticism dramatically increases the probability that new ideas and practices will be thoroughly vetted and perhaps even pilot tested before receiving widespread adoption.

• Healthy skepticism invigorates the intellectual atmosphere of the school community, which, in turn, creates energy for continuous improvement.

Valuing and cultivating healthy skepticism demonstrates trust in educators’ professional judgement and ensures that the school community’s human and financial resources are invested in ideas and practices that are likely to make significant contributions to important goals.

Without healthy skepticism, school communities will mindlessly fall victim to educational fads or just as mindlessly reject the possibility of improvement. In either case, students needlessly suffer the consequences.

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