Category Archives: Discipline

Feeling the Bern of Trump – In My Church

If you only have time to read one thing today (besides this blog), go here and read David Brooks talking about why he misses Obama.

Brooks’ book The Road to Character lists 15 keys at its conclusion.  #3 & 4 are:

  • Pride is the central vice
  • Humility is the central virtue.

Take the current leaders in the Presidential primaries and you’ll see this.

Bernie first, I’ll call him dynamite pride: the unfiltered belief that since the system sucks, we should blow it up.  Literally, “anything is better than this.”

Turning to Trump, I’ll call his nostalgia pride: the unexamined belief that the ‘good ole days’ are where we have to get back to – no matter what.  “Making America great again” can mean so many things and thus doesn’t mean anything.

In my church these two prides show themselves demographically.

  •  The olderlies (my daughter’s word when she was 4) suffer from nostalgia pride.  They want to make this church great again and there’s no hesitation (a la Trump) to harken back to a past memory or time when it was good.Memory
  • The younger crowd who, while committed to church (“I’m here aren’t I?”) want to blow it up – Bernie style.  Invoking “this is stupid” they can’t understand why we keep doing it this way.Dynamite

At 46, I’ve been a charter member of both of these camps – it just depends on when.

Here’s the problem: at root they both suffer from that central vice – pride.  Dynamite can’t hear nostalgia because dynamite only sees one solution – destruction.  Nostalgia can’t hear dynamite because it’s only view of a better church is historical.

If we truly want to follow that Crazy Carpenter, we have to do three things (revolutionary in their own right):

  1. Stop comparing our best to the other’s worst.  Is that my brother or sister in this crazy family or is that an idiot who doesn’t get it?  Family?  Oh, I need to listen to you.  Idiot? I have to shout you down.
  2. Stay in the room with difference.  Am I going to learn something from you?  Yes, but only if you’re different and I stay – and shut up – long enough.
  3. Trust the slow work of God.

Bernie dynamiters are right in that some things really need to change.  Trump nostalgics are right in that there’s 2000 years of hard-won Jesus history that shouldn’t be thrown out.  But both are wrong in what they deny.  Both lack the essential humility to say, “Not my will but yours be done.”  I’m more convinced than ever that the Spirit animates our work and our lives.  But we have to grow up – every day.  If we’re not willing to grow, why are we following that Crazy Carpenter?  Why does it matter?

Develop or Use

Imagine this: You get up and go to work.  When you arrive,

  • the doorman swings a 2×4 at your knees.Doorman
  • If you dodge him, then your assistant plunks down a dozen donuts on your desk as you sit down.
  • After sitting, said assistant straps you into your office chair with a time-lock of 8 hours on the belt.  You’re not to move until this afternoon.  (No it doesn’t matter if you need the bathroom, sorry).

Here’s my question: How long would you work there?

As Tom Haberstroh shows in this ESPN Magazine article,

Basketball-19

this is what the NBA is doing to its players.  The league is literally killing its players – not as overtly as the 2×4 wielding door-man, but relentlessly, drip by drip, over-scheduling.  NBA teams play 82 regular season games in about 160ish days.  If spread evenly that’d work out to an alternating sequence of game-day/rest-day.  But that’s not how the schedule works.

It looks a lot more – as Tom shows – like:

  • Monday – flight to Portland, play, flight to Utah
  • Tuesday – play Utah, flight to San Antonio
  • Wednesday – play San Antonio, fly home.

Combine the relentless physical pounding of an NBA game with the airline miles (54000 in the NBA v. 29000 in MLB) and you have players getting hurt in major numbers.

Here’s the take-away: The NBA is using its players.  In fact, it’s using them up.  What if the NBA developed them instead?  What if it developed a schedule that allowed players to get better as the season (or seasons) went along?

In your organization are you the NBA or the NBA?  Simply put, are you developing or using your people?

How do you know?  Simple, ask them.  NBA players are telling the league they’re getting used, but the NBA doesn’t seem to be listening.  Are you?

Cruz’s use of shame or winning @ all costs

I’m always curious how political campaigns work (or don’t).  Whether it’s watching the fictional characters of the West Wing, (Toby: “we have to get out of New Hampshire”)

or getting day-after stories like this one from Sasha Issenberg, it’s fun to think about.  Sasha, the author of Victory Lab, lays out how the Cruz campaign strategized in Iowa.  Because there were so many candidates and because Cruz had to do well in IA, the micro-analysis they did mattered.

What’s the line about the two guys hiking in the woods, “I don’t have to outrun the bear, I just have to outrun you”?  Cruz just had to outrun Rubio, Bush et al.  He did that.

But how?  That’s where it gets interesting.  The Cruz campaign decided in very specific instances to send a voter-violation mailer.  It shamed (or attempted to shame) marginal voters to show up at the caucus.  Here’s what I find interesting – these were voters that Cruz’s people weren’t counting on anyway. In their mind they weren’t going to show up (see the ‘F’ grade) up there?  But if they did, they would probably vote for Cruz.  So what did Cruz do?  He sent the voting violation mailers.

Did he get crap for it?  Sure.  Did he win Iowa?  Yes.  Are the two related?  I think so.

Cruz had to win Iowa.  Lose there and you’re toast.  But what’s his path now?  538 thinks it’s “get a 2nd in N.H. and then roll again in South Carolina“.  Can he micro-analyze again?  Will he send out similar South Carolina mailers?

We’ll see. No matter what, I have to admit that he saw these marginal Iowa votes and rolled the dice.  Ethical?  No.  Effective? Maybe.

50%? That’s Enough

Over this summer, I’ve read several how to teach innovation books.  The best was Tony Wagner’s Creating Innovators. Because of it, I’ve come to following conclusion:

I’m trying to teach too much content.

Or “I’m not pushing enough cognitive load out to my kids.”
IMG_0328So, I’m planning on 50% next year. From me – that is, I’m putting it out to the kids.  Looking like most other history courses in the universe, my 50% will comprise:

  • key-word outlines and write-ups from the readings,
  • lectures, discussion, simulations
  • review and assessments.

The other two 25% segments are going to come from

  • team-work (deliverables and peer-ratings) and
  • burning question (a historical question that you (the student) formulate and answer over the course of the quarter.

15166287248_67fa2983b3_kWhy my 50%? Because we – as a class – need a common story.  A backbone if you will.  In the 90’s (when I started), the constructivists told us to just release the hounds and that the academic fields would (magically) bloom with educational harvest.  That model sucked – still does.

Merrimack College student Kara Smith student teaching at the Lawrence Family Development Charter School, in Lawrence, MA on December 7, 2010.

However, we all have those rule-follower students (tell me what to do so I can get an A).  We want them to have to think for themselves.  More importantly, I want them to have to innovate and “do” history as opposed to listen to it.

So, if I want innovation, I have to be disciplined.  For me, discipline (in 2015-16) will look like:

  • Test-dates in concrete
  • 2 out of every 4 instructional days are 50% days (common-story/backbone days)
  • 1 day per week is a team-day (either simulation/discussion or team writing)
  • 1 day per week is for my kid’s Burning Question.  ** This doesn’t mean I’m not right next to them, checking on progress, asking questions, helping them refine.  It does mean that I’m killing something in my teaching schedule so they have time to do history.

Tony Wagner points out in his book, “Most of us don’t remember what was taught, but we remember how we learned.”

I’m trying for more ‘how’ and if that means less ‘what’, game on.