Archive for the 'courage' Category

Inviting “big talk”

Make a life in which you are having the conversations you want to have.” — Laura Mott

Resilient people are proactive, and one of the ways they demonstrate that quality is by creating conversations that matter to them with their families and friends and in their work settings.

Think of those conversations as “big” rather than “small.”

While small talk has important purposes, large talk matters because it is far more likely to produce meaningful learning and to strengthen relationships.

During these conversations participants come to understand important things about themselves, each other, and the subject under discussion.

The world would be a better place, I believe, if such conversations were more frequently cultivated in families and the workplace.

In an earlier post I wrote that conversations for learning require:

• intentionality, 

• deep and mindful listening, 

• slowness that provides opportunities for thinking and elaboration, 

• an openness to learning based on a deep respect for the experiences and perspectives of others, and

an invitation, which may be as simple and straight forward as “please tell me more.” (Australian educator Edna Sackson explains how even difficult conversations can be improved when they begin with such invitations.)

What “requirements” would you add to my list?

3 primary threats to public education

We are not in an education crisis. We are in a crisis of poverty that is being exacerbated by the school accountability movement and the testing industry. At best, this movement has been misguided. At worst, it is an intentional set up to bring about the demise of the public education system – mandatory testing designed to produce poor results which leads to greater investment made in test preparation programs provided by the same companies who produce the tests, coupled with a related push for privatization of the educational system. All touted as a means to save us from this false crisis. Politics, not education, got us into this mess, and it is politics that must get us out of it. —Kristina L. Taylor

A robust system of public education is essential for a thriving democracy and a growing economy.

Historically, Americans have invested in public institutions.

Nikole Hannah-Jones describes that history in a piece titled, “Have We Lost Sight of the Promise of Public Schools?”:

“Early on, it was this investment in public institutions that set America apart from other countries. Public hospitals ensured that even the indigent received good medical care — health problems for some could turn into epidemics for us all. Public parks gave access to the great outdoors not just to the wealthy who could retreat to their country estates but to the masses in the nation’s cities. Every state invested in public universities. Public schools became widespread in the 1800s, not to provide an advantage for particular individuals but with the understanding that shuffling the wealthy and working class together (though not black Americans and other racial minorities) would create a common sense of citizenship and national identity, that it would tie together the fates of the haves and the have-nots and that doing so benefited the nation. A sense of the public good was a unifying force because it meant that the rich and the poor, the powerful and the meek, shared the spoils — as well as the burdens — of this messy democracy….”

Public schools today are being profoundly affected by strong social and political forces that those invested in the future of this country cannot ignore.

Those forces are part of a larger anti-public institution agenda that has been gaining momentum for several decades.

Public education as we know it has, in my view, three primary threats:

1. Radical capitalists who believe that maximum profit should be extracted from every revenue source, including those provided by taxpayers to support the public good.  A primary strategy to divert funds intended for public education is to denigrate and create distrust regarding teachers, teacher unions, and, most of all, public education in general.

2. Poverty and low-quality healthcare that has a particularly profound affect in impoverished neighborhoods and communities on the ability of young people to learn and on their overall well-being. (You can read more about the effects of poverty on children here and here.)

3. The possibility that unrelenting attacks on teachers and the consequences of high-stakes testing and other “reforms” will demoralize teachers and create a sense of resignation about the chances for meaningful improvement. That, in turn, would provide a further opportunity for radical capitalists to exert their will over public education.

Nonetheless, Hannah-Jones continues to place her faith in public schools:

“If there is hope for a renewal of our belief in public institutions and a common good, it may reside in the public schools. Nine of 10 children attend one, a rate of participation that few, if any, other public bodies can claim, and schools, as segregated as many are, remain one of the few institutions where Americans of different classes and races mix. The vast multiracial, socioeconomically diverse defense of public schools that DeVos set off may show that we have not yet given up on the ideals of the public — and on ourselves.”   

Although public education has been an important force for the common good over many generations of students, there is no guarantee that it will continue to play its historic role in American life.

It remains to be seen if the public good provided by public education is sufficiently resilient to withstand these threats as they are intensified over the next several years.

What would you add to or subtract from my list?

Sustaining resilience

I am not a physicist nor biologist, but two words come to mind when I think of the challenges we all face in sustaining resilience over time: entropy and atrophy.

en·tro·py: ˈentrəpē/noun: lack of order or predictability; gradual decline into disorder: synonyms: deterioration, degeneration, crumbling, decline, degradation, decomposition, breaking down, collapse

at·ro·phy: ˈatrəfē/verb: gradual decline in effectiveness or vigor due to underuse or neglect

Because of entropy and atrophy, resilience, like other human capacities, inevitably declines without attention, intention, and persistence.

That means that resilient people push back against entropy and atrophy by:

Developing routines and habits consistent with their values and goals. Resilient people understand that if too many demands are placed on their willpower it will fatigue and become overwhelmed.

Maintaining the discipline of doing difficult things, the things they would prefer not to do but know are important.

What do you do to remain resilient during challenging times?

Together we can achieve what none of us can accomplish alone

Without a community, it is nearly impossible to achieve voice: it takes a village to raise a Rosa Parks. Without a community, it is nearly impossible to exercise the “power of one” in a manner that multiplies: it took a village to translate Park’s act of personal integrity into social change. In a mass society like ours, community rarely comes ready-made. But creating community in the places where we live and work does not mean abandoning other parts of our lives to become full-time organizers. The steady companionship of two or three kindred spirits can kindle the courage we need to speak and act as citizens. —Parker Palmer

Resilient people understand that sustaining a commitment to significant change requires the support, guidance, and inspiration of a community.

But not all groups are created equal in their resilience and effectiveness.

Groups that make a difference:

• have skillful, committed leaders who maintain focus and momentum over time,

• ensure that group time is used productively to achieve the group’s goals,

• have a stable core membership,

• engage in high-impact activities,

• follow through on plans with accountability for results, and

• train group members to successfully complete agreed upon activities.

In schools such collective work requires strong teamwork which can take a variety of forms.

In the area of social justice and political change the group RESULTS sets the standard for grass roots advocacy. Its purpose is to end poverty by “improving access to education, health, and economic opportunity” through advocacy and education of policy makers.

More recently “Indivisible” groups are forming and beginning to take action in many communities throughout the United States. Their purpose is to create local pressure on members of Congress to counter the most destructive policies and actions of the new administration, and even at this early date it appears that they are beginning to have some success.

Indivisible’s advocacy is based “…on a simple idea: Donald Trump’s agenda doesn’t depend on Donald Trump. It depends on your elected members of Congress and whether they go along with him—or whether they fight back.”

If any or all of these approaches are appealing, I encourage you to get involved.

Remember:

• that demagogues win when citizens feel overwhelmed and become resigned to the status quo, and

• that together we can achieve what none of us can accomplish alone.

When you think you’re going crazy…

[I]t’s always possible that Trump himself is simply unable to distinguish between fact and fiction, or can’t be bothered to try. But the darker possibility is that the conflation is deliberate, not with the intention of deceiving, of substituting false for true, but of disrupting our ability to tell the two apart, or indeed, by advertising how vast is his own unconcern for the distinction, to lead us in time to be as indifferent, if only out of fatigue. —Andrew Coyne

lie: intransitive verb: to make an untrue statement with intent to deceive 

There are few greater tests to one’s resilience than to be in the presence of sustained lying.

A steady drip of lies, like water on rock, can gradually shape the contours of reality and even our sanity.

Here are three contemporary forms of lying that are shaping our political reality and sanity:

1. gas·lighting/verb, gerund, or present participle: manipulate someone by lying or other psychological means into questioning their own sanity

The repetition of a lie in the face of contrary evidence, including what we can see with our own eyes, can cause recipients of the lie to question their sense of reality.

I remember a story from decades ago, which may or may not be true, about a professional baseball player who asked his manager what he should have done when his wife caught him in bed with another woman. “Say you weren’t with the woman,” the manager said. “But she saw me,” the player repeated. “Tell her you don’t know what she’s talking about,” the manager replied. “And keep saying it.”

Big lie: noun: a false statement of outrageous magnitude employed in the belief that a lesser falsehood would not be credible, especially when used as a propaganda device by a politician or official body

A leading contemporary example is the “birther” big lie employed by our current president in an effort to discredit and undermine the presidency of his predecessor, which also served the purpose of attracting to him many of his core followers.

“Alternative facts”: a form of mind control and dominance used by demagogues in which information unsupported by objective reality is declared to be true (you can learn more about the history of this term here)

Examples: “You say 2 + 2 = 4. I say 2 + 2 = 5. Who’s to say which is right. Certainly not the lying media.”

You say “Climate change has widespread support in the scientific community. I say that it’s just a theory and that China thought it up. My theory is just as good as your theory.”

Taken together, the unrelenting landscape of falsehoods makes it understandable that Americans may be feeling a bit crazy these days and why 1984 has become a bestseller in recent weeks.

Why do leaders lie?

• because lies can be used to manipulate public policy, intimidate enemies, and exaggerate accomplishments

• because lies can be used as loyalty tests to see who repeats them, which is especially important for authoritarian leaders who value loyalty beyond all other things.

What can we do in the face of such lying and manipulation?

1. First, call lying what it is. Don’t minimize it by calling it “fake news” or “fabrication” or “falsehoods” or “alternative facts.”

2. Recognize that you are not crazy and that you are not alone.

3. If in doubt, do a reality check. Talk with others you respect to maintain your confidence in “reality.”

Stay in those conversations as long as necessary to restore your sanity and to give yourself courage to label the lying for what it is and to confront it at every opportunity.

Given that such leaders prevail when we become overwhelmed by and resigned to their lying, what are you doing to maintain your sanity and motivation for challenging it?

I am relying on the long-term resilience of…

• the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law

• the courage of countless individuals within government and outside of it who speak truth to power in the face of bullying and other forms of intimidation

• the power of existing and yet-to-be established groups that will empower citizens to stand for America’s founding principles and place in the world community

• a free and independent press that will relentlessly seek and tell the truth to the highest journalistic standards

considered judgment over raw opinion and impulsivity

• science and rational evidence-based decision making over ignorance and superstition

• the historic capacity of Americans to resist tyranny wherever it may arise

sanity-preserving humor over arrogance and vindictiveness

generosity over greed

a sense of “we” over “me”

Most of all, I’m relying on the resilience of love to prevail over hate, inclusiveness over exclusiveness, respect over disrespect, civility over incivility, and reasoned debate over emotion and propaganda.

I don’t know if any one of these qualities will be sufficient, but I am hopeful that in combination they will provide a brighter future for all of us.

In what do you place your hope?

“It begins when we are always afraid”

I wonder how many children’s lives might be saved if we educators disclosed what we know to each other. —Roland Barth

Resilient people are often called upon by circumstances to act courageously, and it’s a challenge they are likely to accept, although sometimes reluctantly.

Last week on the eve of Donald Trump’s promised announcement regarding foreign hacking I posted two back-to-back tweets:

“Couldn’t sleep last night because of excitement about Trump telling us what only he knows about hacking. Hope I don’t have to wait.”

And:

“Hope I don’t have to wait until tomorrow to find out what only Trump knows about hacking. Or forever. Can’t stand the excitement.”

Moments later a line from a a 1960s-era song ran through my head: “It begins when we are always afraid.”

I realized that in some part of my brain I was fearful of the kind of vicious attack suffered by others, even lowly sorts like myself, who dared criticize some aspect of the new political order.

Here are some of the lyrics from that song, “Stop, Hey What’s That Sound”:

“Paranoia strikes deep

into your life it will creep

it starts when you’re always afraid

step out of line the man come and take you away.”

We know who “the man” is. And we know who (and what) he has promised to take away.

And we have seen what has happened to those who dare criticize “the man” or his minions.

As the old saying goes, just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you.

But this isn’t a story about my courage, or my paranoia. I wasn’t acting courageously because I only thought about the risks after I posted the tweets.

It’s a story about the role that courage can play in our lives.

Each of us, many times a week, decides whether we will speak or act in the face of fear about known or unknown consequences.

Sometimes the consequences are real. The thing we fear may happen when we speak or act in accordance with our conscience.

It is also true that bad things do happen to people when we withhold “our truth” from others.

As Edmund Burke said more than two centuries ago:  “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

How do you decide if and when to speak and act?


Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 4,755 other followers

Archives

Categories

Recent Twitter Posts

Error: Twitter did not respond. Please wait a few minutes and refresh this page.