Ignorance is Bliss, For Awhile

If you were around in the 60s or 70s, then you’ll remember Sergeant Schultz from television’s Hogan’s Heroes. Whenever the plotting group of American prisoners in the German Prisoner of War camp had some scheme up their sleeves, to keep peace in the camp, Schultz would say, “I know nothing,” “I hear nothing,” and “I see nothing.” He didn’t want trouble. Don’t we all want to avoid trouble? Don’t we all want to go with the flow and not make ripples? Don’t we all want to be happy with no worries? Yes, and no.

To make a difference, be it as a school teacher, administrator, or engaged citizen, one must be willing to confront the facts. In public education, the facts are as varied as there are school children. However, teacher and principal observations are two excellent sources of information for evaluating effectiveness. When either a teacher or principal fails to meet the standards of practice, be they the New York State Teaching Standards or the ISLLC Standards for school leadership, steps can be taken to rectify the problem. Targeted professional development, mentoring, collegial support, or other efforts can make a difference in a struggling individual’s performance. However, if schools fail to seek out and use data to figure out how things are going, then they’re pulling a Schultz–knowing nothing, hearing nothing, and seeing nothing. Worst of all, the problems continue and worsen.

Paying attention to the environment is another example of using information to confront controversial issues. Granted, it is blissful to ignore the warning signs. Yet, to disregard the record-breaking droughts, rising sea level, severe storms, or ocean acidification is to put our health and those of our future generations at risk. Much like Schultz didn’t want to deal with the consequences, when we ignore the omnipresent warning signs on this fragile planet, we allow bad things to continue happening. For those of you who follow this blog, you know I’ve been leaning a little more into the environmental realm in recent weeks. You’ll also know that I completed my Climate Reality Leadership training this week–WOW. What a training!

The parallels I am finding behind climate change and those of school reform are striking. We know public education has its good and bad points, and we know it’s time to make lasting, important changes to our nation’s schools. Similarly, we know the weather is getting weirder by the day, and that the models call for much greater consequences if we fail to address climate change. We also know that in both education and government, things proceed very, very slowly and at times with seemingly little regard to the data. Lastly, we know how critically important education and a healthy climate are to our children’s future. Tragically, unlike education where reform is gaining traction, climate change remains a battle between acceptors and deniers. We must have a broader conversation about climate change, and we really should do it now. After all, we are seeing, hearing, and knowing that things are changing.

Check out Climate Reality for a better idea about climate change. Better yet, find a Climate Reality Leader to come and do an informational session on the topic in your region.

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