Monday, May 18, 2015

"If you want happiness for a lifetime, help the next generation." - Chinese saying

Investing in and caring for future generations is surely the hallmark of a mature society. It is the motivation of almost everyone I know who teaches.

The catch-22 of an education systems which produces so many students who feel like failures (and often have literally failed), where only a small minority leave as rigorous, independent thinkers, is the historic self-reinforcing downward spiral in all of our institutions--institutions which need generational-thinkers to mitigate the tendencies toward selfish and narcissistic behavior.

It's hard not see see a connection between our increasing inability as a society to think long-term and our system of schooling that makes it hard for the generationally-minded teacher to truly help a student.

Because of my recent post on W. Edwards Deming's ideas has kept me thinking about him, I remain struck by the need for those who manage a "system" to do all that they can to ensure the success of those in the system--rather than finding fault with and punishing them. It would be like HP saying, we'll, our computers are crummy because our workers are no good, so we're going to test and test and test them until we find the bad apples. Instead, we recognize the responsibility of the company to create good systems, to train and support their employees, and that the making of crummy products is not the fault of workers, but management.

My favorite definition of leadership is the act of training other leaders. Everything we do should contain a major component of helping the next generations deal with the difficult dilemmas ahead--instead of our creating the problems that they will need to solve, and then not giving them the cognitive or emotional tools to do so.

We're at senior night for our daughter's soccer team.  Each senior has answered a series of questions that the announcer is reading as the senior players are escorted onto the field with her parents at half time. One girl, a lively player, whose athleticism always seems to exude some sense of joy, is having her answers read.  One of the questions is: "Academic achievements?"  "Not applicable," she has responded. We all laugh, her energy and humor coming through. I later think about this. If she actually believes this, what did she spend the last twelve years doing? She hasn't failed, we have.

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