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Guest Thinkers

Mindful precedent

Below is an excerpt by one of my Master’s students from our online discussions about data-driven schooling practices. I liked the emphasis on mindful precedent

The last chapter [of On Common Ground] talked about barriers to action. Full disclosure: I am usually one of them.

The fifth barrier is described aptly as mindless precedent. In other words, some teachers will simply and automatically reject change because that’s not the way it’s always been done. Trust me when I say I love this phrase. To me, it helps explain some of the dumber “traditions” of high schools, ranging from prom queens to early senior graduation to valedictorian speeches at commencement. It’s everywhere, and it’s not going away.

However, I would like to ask about mindFUL precedent. Many times in administration I’ve detected (and/or endured) a quick dismissal those who question whether or not a reform is a good idea. Given that we’ve been reforming schools for about a century now, and still have the same basic problems (some learn much, many learn, most don’t learn enough) there is validity in some of those questions. At the beginning of last year two of our administers told our faculty on the first day back to school that the school is going to do “what’s best for kids” and that those who weren’t on board should find another job. Welcome back, indeed. Immediately most of our faculty tuned them out.

Reform efforts are critical. Continuing pursuit of better educational delivery is essential, and morally compelled. Reform must be completed in a school that is built on a foundation of trust, respect, and humility. If we as administrators pretend to have all of the answers, there are going to be a lot of people that suffer because of it. Calls to action are good, but we better know where we’re going, why we’re going, and how we’re going to get there.

When do leaders fall into the trap of ignoring mindFUL precedent? What are some things that we can do to avoid doing so? And how can we tell the difference between mindful and mindless precedent?


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