Sunday, April 18, 2010

If we really wanted change, we'd stand at the door with a pill

Recently I attended a day-long symposium, Bridging the Knowing-Doing Gap, with Dennis Sparks and Bruce Beairsto. We had conversations about an idea Sparks writes about, "Individuals and organizations have an amazing capacity to maintain their current beliefs, ideas, and practices in the face of massive, well-intentioned efforts to change them." Why? At the session he referred to the book Change or Die. If a person has a heart attack, the doctor gives a prescription: to continue to live, take this medication, change what you eat, add exercise, de-stress and foster your relationships. What percentage of people, given the option of changing or dying, will change? A meagre 10%. Suppose you make it easy? Just take the pill. What percentage, given this very easy prescription to change rather than die, will opt for change? 20%.

But I've been thinking - it isn't simply that people don't want to change. It isn't even that we need to change how we give prescriptions, or who gives the prescriptions, or when we give the prescriptions. The problem isn't the prescription. The problem is that we give prescriptions and send people back to live in the world that's killing them - a world of friends who gather to drink beer and eat pizza every Thursday night, a fridge full of pre-packaged food, a job with deadlines that don't go away, a relationship that can't be mended by wishing it was so. We might argue that even if we make change so easy that we give a pill for the solution, most still don't change. But what if someone stood at the door and gave them a pill each day? I'm convinced you'd have 100% change.

In schools we continually prescribe change and then send educators back to schools that make it easier to continue unhealthy, even harmful, practices. We have buildings, schedules, reporting procedures, and expectations that are the beer and pizza of the heart patient. We make it so hard to make even simple changes to our practice that it's hard not to suspect that - really - no one wants education to change. We just want to blame others for not changing.

Photo: callme_crochet's photostream

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