Thursday, April 26, 2012

Reforming the Schools: Who is willing to sacrifice for it?

He who gives what he would as readily throw away, gives without generosity; for the essence of generosity is in self sacrifice.-- Henry Taylor
One of the most common and apparently pleasurable distractions for Americans has long been to jump on bandwagons. Nothing warms the heart and expands the self-regard more than to promote “reform” of one kind or another, especially if you, personally, don’t have to pay much for it.

Commitment is a problem. That sometimes means using up personal resources, time, money, attention, patience, to make things happen. But if you are particularly concerned to promote reform, then you might want to have a way to judge how much a person is willing to stand by you if things get sticky.

You may not ever expect someone to be willing to break the law for the sake of the reform, but you may be surprised, occasionally, at the enthusiasm for this that you encounter. (Gung Ho, we call them.) On the other hand, it’s not to much to ask someone who is willing to bother you with complaints, to put up or shut up: help, or don’t interfere. (Better yet, use The Little Red Hen’s Rule: no help, no bread.)

It is a long-standing American tradition to complain about the public schools. But it is a rare occurrence for anyone employed in them to resign his or her position over an issue of reform. Most are disinclined to personally confront a colleague even when they believe that person’s behavior to be unprofessional to the point of immorality or criminality.

What you need is a checklist, a survey of items ranging in intensity from very to minimally disruptive, which will give you an idea whether you, personally, or your colleagues, are sufficiently committed to change to bring it about.

For such an assessment instrument, see Assessing Role and Commitment

--- EGR