4/27/11

Where are you on the Trust-Data Continuum?

Imagine a continuum, let's call this continuum the Trust-Data continuum. In one end of this continuum there is complete and utter dependence on data where we cannot make a move without incorporating it into our decision making and on the other end there is complete and utter trust in our inner knowledge where we fully and utterly trust our ideas and instincts alone. I have had to tread this line many times in my life and have learned that both extreme ends holds no solutions.

When I was pregnant with my first child we opted for a midwife, no drugs; the whole natural, trust your body, birthing process. It seemed the most healthy and natural option and we were so excited to go this route. Since we were considered 'low risk' we felt in our element choosing an out-of-hospital birth. Unfortunately, things did not go as expected. In short, we had a c-section. We did not plan on this of course, but that's what usually happens after almost 2 days of labor and no baby. With my second child, we again wanted a natural birth, but now being categorized as 'high risk' pregnancy due to a prior C-section, we needed the structure and security provided by the hospital. Although being at a hospital was protocol for a V-BAC (vaginal birth after c-section) I no longer fully trusted my body to do the right thing, and I too felt I needed to be in a hospital. I had moved from one end of the scale where I fully trusted my body to do the right thing, to the other end where I became dependent on the structure of a hospital to give me that sense of trust I needed. This ended up being a good thing, for I again had a c-section.

And yet another example.

I am a teacher in DC where the latest corporate reform efforts have taken hold of the system as they are in many other urban cities across the country. As an ardent advocate against these corporate reforms, which are all based on reward/punish paradigms, I am often asked, "What do we do then, with ineffective teachers?" I see reward-punish systems as essentially lacking in all forms of trust. Teachers are not trusted, schools are not trusted, hence we need data to see past the murky waters. The corporate reformers who are seeking to dismantle public education have done everything possible to form the negative myths that now intoxicate and choke the life out of our profession. This is very unfortunate news for our kids, for the public response is a need for more and more data, more oversight, more mania, more panic.
The more we surround and encapsulate education with testing, data and more testing, the more we squeeze the magic out of good teachers. Teacher who know how to teach need to be allowed to teach. My question is, with so many demands on teachers and hoops now set up for them to jump through, who would want to do this job in the future? What is the lure? In this situation, TRUST is the dire prescription. It will breathe back respect into a system that now operates like a dysfunctional home, where one sibling is openly favored and lauded over another.

I believe the answer to all life's problems lies somewhere in the middle of my Trust-Data continuum, with either end being way too fundamentalist and unbalanced to bring true, lasting success. Too much data and no trust is just as distorted as blind trust and no data.



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