I have become increasingly frustrated with the rancor and dissention that pervade discussions around education and so many other issues of our time. I believe that casting blame is a form of aggression.
In the field of education, many cast blame on teachers, unions, society, parents and anyone else that is connected to schools and children.
Then there are those who react to this aggression with additional aggression. They cast blame onto the accusers and anyone associated with them. The favorite targets in these contentious discussions are politicians, philanthropic organizations, central administration, and the hierarchical structures of schools.
There is an interesting phenomenon that occurs when we point one finger at someone else…Three others pointing back at us!
When we engage in finger-pointing conversations, they can quickly deteriorate into vitriolic exchanges. And these exchanges only serve, as my friend Jessica Cuthbertson says, “…to keep the status quo in place,” and add to the aggression of our time.
Let’s not forget that as each side blames and shames the other, the kids sit idly by watching adults behave like, well, adults. (While it is tempting to use the old adage of acting like children, I am reminded of Robert Fulghum’s book, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. #2 – Play Fair and #6 – Clean up your own mess).
When we react to aggression with additional aggression we leave no space for dialogue and the formulation of solutions.
I want to invite those who are interested into a different approach—that of warriorship. Oh, I’m not talking about the type of warriorship that involves combat and aggression. I am talking about a different type of warrior, one that engages the human spirit.
In her book, So Far From Home, Meg Wheatley says, “The Tibetan word for warrior, pawo, means one who is brave, one who vows never to use aggression…You cannot tell who these warriors are by their appearance, they look like normal people doing regular jobs….they go into the corridors of power to dismantle the beliefs and behaviors that are destroying life…and serve this dark time as warriors for the human spirit.” (p. x-xi)
I invite those who seek solutions to do exactly this: vow never to use aggression while going into the corridors of power to dismantle beliefs and behaviors that are destroying life.
We can re-create what it means to be educated in the US. We can reinvent the ways in which schools and schooling are done. And we can imaginer a profession that is respected and empowering. We don’t, however, have to do it by responding to current aggression with additional aggression. We can stand in contrast to what is and create a new way.
Does this mean that we all turn away and pretend that the aggression is not happening? No!
Does this mean that we stand by and do nothing? Of course not!
Does this mean that we ignore the inequities that are happening in our schools every day? Absolutely not!
Then, what do we do?
We act in a way that brings more kindness, compassion and understanding to the situation. It is from here that we can find and enact solutions to our most pressing issues.
What this means:
- We accept what is and we become people who stand in contrast to what is, freed from aggression, grasping and the confusion of this time (Wheatley, p. 11)
- We let curiosity guide us – rather than instant reactions and judgments – we become skilled in how to think about complex issues (Wheatley, p. 146)
- We acknowledge what is and create solutions within our own sphere of influence. These solutions stand in contrast to what is and can offer a different way.
So, how does one begin on the Warrior path?
- When something being said, written or done is upsetting to you, activate your observer and turn to wonder. Wonder about what is being triggered in you and why. Does that quality live in you?
- Think about what your “normal” reaction would be. Would you normally react with defensiveness? Anger? Sadness? Would you “blow them up” with your thoughts?
- Consider how you might choose differently. If you could suddenly take on the qualities of any of the peaceful warriors in history, how might this influence your reaction?
- From this place, where is there a solution?
- In your personal life, how often do you meet aggression with aggression, either physical or mental? How often do you “blow people up” with your thoughts?
- How is this pattern the same or different in your professional life?
- What is one issue or topic in education that pushes your buttons and causes you to react aggressively? How might you shift your thinking (and actions) towards solutions, rather than anger?