Here’s the thing. I want to be immersed in a community of peers who can’t wait to get to work and share new ideas with whomever will listen. I want to look up to leaders who value transparency and rapport with their faculty as much as they value their next pay check. I want to spend the better part of each day working in a hot-bed of innovation where flexibility is the norm, and few structures remain unquestioned. I want an educational utopia where the glass ceiling of what is possible has been blown to smithereens. Is that too much to ask?
Ok, so I acknowledge that my perfectionist, driven nature can tend to create unrealistic expectations for myself and others. And I also acknowledge that at some point, life will never be perfect and systems will still be run by us fallible humans who will inevitably screw it up in every way possible. But should that be an excuse to be content with status quo? Did Steve Jobs, Henry Ford, Margret Sanger, or Coco Chanel say to themselves “You are already blessed with an amazing life–why rock the boat? Why strive so hard for more? Why try to improve upon good?” These individuals were driven by an idea bigger than the current boxes that surrounded them. Instead of looking for a platform to elevate their ideas, they built a second floor and invited people to join them in building the third, fourth and fifth.
I don’t get frustrated with people who are content, comfortable or don’t have the desire to live in a constant state of change. This world needs the calming presence and stability of those who have found the rare gift of contentment. I value the balance of people in my life who have learned to be happy in spite of the inefficiencies or less-than-ideal systems in which they find themselves. Some days, I wish I could get ride of this drive and enjoy more afternoons sitting under a tree, sipping a glass of wine, and talking about nothing more than the beauty of the changing leaves.
What frustrates me are the systems that not only stifle innovation but actively work to maintain the status quo or only incremental deviations from that standard. The Aussies call this “tall-poppy syndrome.” When one rises above, they make the others look short; therefore, the tall poppy should remember that its place is with those below it and return before its legs (stalk?) are taken out. In these systems, those who strive for excellence are called over-achievers; those who ask critical questions are labeled as whiners; and those who have big ideas are told to remember their place. Oh, and don’t forget the ever-present reminder about “how good we all have it” so who are you to mention the ways in which it could be improved?
Sometimes, I feel like public education across our great nation falls into this latter category, and it frustrates me. To. No. End. I’ve discovered that ideas and innovation are my crack–the more I get, the more I want, and the more I want, the more I seek, and the more I seek, the more ideas I have, and the cycle continues. When I read about our current discussions in education, and when I hear the ignorance that permeates our society, and when I see the marginalization of learning in a society that worships entertainment, I can’t help by look at our current system and see its inadequacies. I can’t help by broaden my gaze to our current culture and see how its values have contributed to these inadequacies. And then, I can’t help but begin to brainstorm how to fix all of them…one idea at a time.