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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Evidence Driven Conversation and Decision Making

I have always been drawn by emotion, big speak, and generalizations.

My father-in-law would always respond to my big speak with the comment, "Where's your evidence?"

I was mostly stumped as I couldn't recall the specific fact, data, or analysis that led me to that conclusion.

Lately as I advocate for school improvement and betterment, I've been drawn into a deeper conversation about what works and what doesn't. Our decisions as a school community often draw on multiple resources that provide evidence for our decisions. Thanks to the Internet, I have access to all kinds of data and statistics to prove or disprove points.

For example, as I watched Trump and DeVos speak to a panel recently, Trump used a fact. It didn't seem truthful to me so I looked it up to find that Trump was correct. Yet, when he spoke about Sweden and violence in America, the facts he used were not supported.

We all have to bring the conversation deeper. We have to move from "sound bite debates" to deeper, more thoughtful speak, discourse, and debate about issues that really matter.

Trump won his campaign with sound bites that demeaned many and made him seem like he was the solution to the ills that pain many Americans, yet sound bites won't solve problems--good, deep, critical process will solve problems.

Intrigued by a conservative event that's happening soon, I looked up the website. I noticed a video on the front page spewing all kinds of bogus facts about why we need to support new gun laws. It was clear that the film was using techniques of propaganda to fire up the masses with respect to gun laws. Then I looked up the facts to find out that the film was truly exaggerating data and statistics to gain support.

As a people we have to go deeper, get stronger, and be more specific about our discussions, decisions, and solutions. We can't rely on sound bites, big speak, and loose conjecture. We have so much information at our fingertips and we have to use that information critically and work together with the experts to make good decisions.

If there's been any lesson with the new President, it's that we have to be evidence-driven in our decision making. We have to seek out the facts and truths of situations and use our best "collective genius" to solve problems, create, and innovate.

None of us alone know what's true and right for a country of such diverse needs, interests, and knowledge, yet I think we can all still agree that our common aim of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," is where we can begin the conversation.

Americans United: Speak Up and Act

It seems like there are forces that would like to divide Americans at this important time in our nation's history. As a people we have to work against this division and come together to continue to build a strong, free nation with the goal of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" for all citizens.

As I think of the theme of uniting Americans, I'm reaching for our common denominators--what can bring us together as a people.

A Good Life for Our Children, Grandchildren
It's difficult for me to imagine any American who would choose policy or activity that would hurt or hinder our children and grandchildren's future. What can we do to make a good life for those that will live long after we are here? It seems to me that as we consider this, we must pay special attention to the following areas of concern:
  • Clean water
  • Fertile land
  • Good schools
  • Safe neighborhoods
  • Basic rights of food, shelter, health care
If we look carefully at the data and statistics with regard to what is working for children and what is not, then we can begin to work on a child-centered agenda for our nation. 

Clean Water, Fertile Lands
To live well, we need clean water and fertile lands. To maintain our natural resources, we have to work with experts to make the best possible decisions for the short term and long term. Many want to turn their heads from this reality, but the truth is that countries that pay attention to this will be countries that maintain greater power and potential for the future. Short sighted, greedy policy will weaken our democracy. We have to work together in this regard.

Respect and Understanding of All People
America is and has been a nation of immigrants. Our diversity has made us strong. It's essential that we embrace this fact and work with it to provide "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" to all of America's people. When we lead with only some in mind, we weaken our democracy.

Clearly Americans are interested in jobs. To me, this is one reason that Trump won the presidency We have to create these jobs with a forward vision of our country. If we work to create good jobs with good policy, we will make our country stronger. A forward vision of job creation may include the following:
  • More well-paying jobs in public service in order to care for people's shelter, nutrition, health and education. The money for this can be created by more equitable taxation with regard to those who make far more money then they will ever need.
  • More well-paying jobs with regard to protecting our natural resources--let's keep America's natural resources including clean water, fertile land, and beautiful landscapes/waterscapes strong, forthcoming, and beautiful.
  • Investment in jobs of the future--the kinds of jobs that will better our world including biotechnology, clean energy, space exploration, and more.
  • Most Americans agree that it's time to re-think our foreign imports, particularly those imports that rely on slave labor and exasperate the world's inequality. Bring jobs home, pay well, and as Americans, lessen our material wealth--we don't need all the material things we have. Instead we need to buy less, pay more, share more often, and enjoy better quality products--products made in America.
Strong Communities
We need to focus heavily on the welfare of communities using a contextual lens. Good quality communities in America won't be cookie-cutter communities, but instead unique and distinct representing the context of the people, their lands, and their needs. In this respect, the government needs to think carefully about both the distinct and common factors that communities need to prosper, factors such as good health care, clean and fertile natural resources, natural/human-made beauty/architecture that inspires, recreation, the arts, and entertainment. The government needs to respect each community's uniqueness and support the common factors of culture and good living that support "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." With greater automaticity comes the need for greater service to one another and a greater need for recreation, the arts, and education. Infusing communities with sustainable gardens, great bike paths, parks, libraries, theaters, and more will elevate all of us to be good people of the future who prosper in strong, distinct communities throughout the country. 

Global Partner
We are intertwined with countries around the globe. The key is to work together so that every country can offer their citizens good living. We need to work to be a good global partner. When the world's people are treated with dignity and have what they need, many of the problems the world faces today will go away. We rely on one another and it's integral that we work with countries around the world with that in mind. 

Our troubling leadership today is waking all of us up to the need to get involved, have a vision, and work together towards forwarding our democracy and the opportunity for "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" for all people in America and beyond. I don't think that any citizen will argue with that. We have to be mindful of greed today, the kind of greed that is short-sighted and looking for gain for some rather than all. I don't deny individual ambition and the desire to do well, but I do worry about the kind of greed that takes and takes and takes without regard for the average individual--the many people that make up our wonderful nation and world. 

It's time for everyone to speak up and act with their best intelligence, understanding, and expertise-we cannot be satisfied with only a few making decisions for the many, but instead all Americans everywhere have to use their voice to make a difference. Our country and lives depend on it. 

Vacation Musings: A Busy Week

It's been one of those vacation weeks when I've felt like I've been in the center of lots of activity. This power-packed week began last week with a snow day, Valentine's Day, and other special teaching/learning events. Then there was Dad's 87th birthday, the swim championships, and SEL study group expectations/efforts. Phew!!!!

The many events went well, and now I'm delighted to have a quiet morning. I love to support positive effort and good work, but to do that, I realize I have to balance all that activity with quiet reading, writing, and resting too. No one can do it all.

With that in mind, I'm wondering about the days ahead and what takes priority. There's lots of family-related events to support in the coming months and I want to be there for those I love as they work towards their goals/dreams and celebrate some milestones too. At school there are many teaching endeavors to support and promote as we work to teach all the children well. As I've noted zillions of times, I have a great team, and the key is to work well with that team to support the learning community of students, families, colleagues, administrators, and community members in that regard. Like the good "teacher-grandmother" I desire to be, I want to be there to support the bright young people/minds that surround me.

In all, the theme will be to stick to the agenda, support the goals set, and quietly move ahead in that regard.