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Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Responsibility is Yours for the Taking

Labor Day marks the official start of the fall campaign season. So expect to see a full-court press of advertising, dirty tricks, sleight of hand, and nothing resembling reasonable discourse for the next two months.

What we will likely see is a lot of immigrant bashing, blaming minorities for their own plight and bringing whites down with them, and other assorted intolerance of "others," which in today's politics is a pretty wide swath of the population.

The economic collapse brings out the need for scapegoats - who can be blamed? Repubs and conservatives blame the Dems and liberals, and vice versa. Whites blame people of color and vice-versa. Paranoids, otherwise known as liberatarians, blame Obama and Obama blames elitists (like Geitner perhaps?). Of course the joke is that the circular finger-pointing will leave no one standing after election day. The political aftermath may be worse than our economic condition.

At all levels of politics, leadership is in short supply. Everyone has an explanation for who is to blame and it is not the blamer! Example: in criticizing urban schools - teachers blame parents, parents blame teachers, students blame teachers, teachers blame administrators, and citizens blame all of the above. No one wants to look at their own contribution to the mess. Even in higher ed, I have become an end-around fighter. I like to call it, "proceed until apprehended." Keeps me looking good and shifts blame to all the administrators that stand in the way of my interests. Problem is, they get upset with me and feel they have to clean up my mess when they apprehend me. I'm generating progress while thwarting my own staying power. I saw the same thing in a NYT article today on public school teachers/administrators. Essentially their argument is that if administrators are blocking progress, let the teachers be administrators. But who will step up when those rallying teachers burn out doing double duty? "Let me do it" is not a solution as much as a shortcut that requires no dialogue or responsibility.

In the end, all this jockeying for position leaves the powerless even less powerful. That's probably the opposite of what many of the jockeys want or expect. Perhaps it's time to start thinking about including the supposed beneficiaries of our efforts to find out what they need to succeed.

Responsibility => Power:

1. have an open discussion with students and young people on a wide scale basis, not just the chosen representatives; likewise with union members, residents. A discussion continues until concluded - not for a set period of time while it is easy and the cameras are on.

2. dialogue up and down the chain of command and across stakeholders - keep it real and check the egos at the door. Call out presumptive and responsibility avoiding actions of yourself.

3. include parents, employees, voters, residents in a discussion of responsibility about education, crime, business, service provision, and the success of what we see as essential elements of our daily life. Again, a discussion continues until resolution and satisfaction are reached, not just until the hour is up. Don't have a meeting, have a dialogue.

It starts with you. What are you doing to take responsibility for the ills you see around you? And I am not referring to volunteering here - another form of "Let me do it."

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