Unintended Consequences

Unintended Consequences

At the beginning of this year I testified in Olympia on a two bills and gave a report on a STEM education committee I was a part of. While I was waiting my turn, I listened intently to all the other education-focused testimony. The more innovative and positively disruptive the bill, the more I heard the phrase “unintended consequences”. It became very apparent to me that was a code phrase for “we’re not going to go near it because it’s either too much work, we’ll lose control of the status quo or we’ll be put out of work since we won’t have the skills or guts to carry out something like this”.

I heard it again recently from a principal when I was in a meeting. I could not believe my ears. This coming from a person who was supposed to be flipping the script and making change for kids of color. I politely, in my own way, let him know that the reason education has not evolved is because there’s an aversion to taking calculated risks that would benefit students in the long run. Many educators (particularly those in decision making position) are afraid to fail in any way, so they hide behind phrases like “it’s not based in research” or “there may be unintended consequences”.

I was telling this story to Zithri Saleem, our Director of Education and he mentioned a related discussion he heard that essentially asked this question: If everything that has happened in public education in the last 30 years was based on research that posed no threat of “unintended consequences”, then can we say what is and has been happening in public education was intentional?

If the answer is yes, are you OK with that?

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