On Administrators' Choice to Do Nothing

In this year's Leadership Day post, Scott McLeod has raised a number of important issues.

There’s a concept in the law known as willful blindness. The idea is that one deliberately takes steps to avoid seeing what’s right in one’s face. To how many of our school principals and superintendents does this concept apply? What can we do to help (make) them SEE?

“Hi. I know the world has changed. There is compelling evidence staring me in the face as an administrator that business as usual just isn’t going to suffice in this new digital, global society. Not if we are to prepare students for the next half century rather than the last. But you know what? No thanks. I choose to do nothing.

Nope. I’ll probably never understand that one…
I can definitely see where Scott is coming from and empathize with his frustration with many educator's rate of change. However, I'm not convinced the situation hinges solely on administrator choice. Education is complex and requires answers far more intricate that a mere change of administrator will. In explaining my point of view, I think the comments of Will Richardson and Sheryl Nussbaum-Beach are important and deserve repeating. I agree with both, and feel that each lies near the heart of the matter.

From Will (emphasis mine):
...The other reality is that many of them don’t want to hear this conversation because, if we’re doing our jobs well, we’re asking them to radically change their views of schooling and learning. And finally, while they might “see” these changes in their students and in society, most of them are not willing to risk under achieving on the traditional measures for the sake of adding networked learning into their curricula.
From Sheryl (emphasis mine):
...while they understand the need for change, [many administrators] are clueless as to what to do. None of them were given reculturing 101 in their leadership courses.

...I agree, most do get why. It is the “how” they need–we all need.

...We all start at ground zero when learning something new. Leaders have to go through Piaget’s stages of assimilation and accommodation just like students do.
In the end, I think that behind the "I choose to do nothing" facade lies a complex combination of a number of contributing factors. Key players include the fact that:
  • Most school administrators are not willing to risk under achieving on the traditional measures for the sake of adding networked learning into their curricula.
  • Few school administrators were given Reculturing 101 in their leadership courses or in their formal professional development since.
  • Education is riddled by powerful (and often invisible) political forces at work that neither we nor the greatest school administrators will ever be able to break. With so many hands in the pot, significant change often comes at great costs.
  • As horrible as this might sound, because schools have become traditional public centers of cultural activity, it's easy (for administrators and others) to forget the purpose of schooling. Is it athletics? Is it public performance? Is it to fashion identity? Is it to mold a citizenry? Is it to learn? Yes.
My two cents, for what it's worth.


Image source: Scott McLeod. If you're a school administrator and interested it taking steps toward better addressing the learning needs of your students, I highly recommend a careful perusal of the resources Dr. McLeod has recently shared with other leaders like you at this year's Leadership Boot Camp. Well worth your time.

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