Making reforms happen

Is it possible to make reforms happen by taking direct action?
All of us who want particular reforms certainly wish we could change things right now by taking action. Usually, action gets a negative reaction. (libel, blackmail, vandalism, theft, arson, witch hunts, burning in effigy, drive-by shootings, etc.) Activism produces unintended consequences. Situations calling for reforms are maintained by underlying dynamics which are different from situations for making progress, solving problems, building infrastructure or creating communities.

What causes action to backfire when the active intentions are to create reforms?
Actions send a different message and those "in need of reform" are already traumatized, hyper-vigilant and suspicious of what is being said about them and to them. We're saying we want better educational experiences, more freedom of choice for each student and greater access to outside resources. The audience getting reformed hears a different message like:
  • "You're professionally incompetent, indifferent and part of this unacceptable problem"
  • "Your conduct is disgraceful, traitorous and toxic to our precious learners"
  • "Your value to the future solutions is negligible and highly over-rated by clueless idiots who share your blindness to the real problems"
  • "You're in need of an enemy and now you've got one to contend with until you stop doing your job as you have been all these years"
Why do teachers and school administrators read such devastating criticisms into talk of reforms, higher quality and better outcomes?
They're already on the defensive from increased accountability measures, bad press and hostile parents. Their fear-based outlook automatically turns complex situations into divisive stances, categorical conclusions and irresolvable stalemates. They are pre-disposed to over-react and take everything too personally.

Why are their feelings and predictable over-reactions not considered by most reformers who are anxious to take action?
Frustrations run high on both sides of the issue. The urgency to make reforms happen is as great as the apprehensions those reforms evoke for others. Everyone is looking in the mirror and seeing something other than themselves to point fingers at. Emotional intelligence is not usually in the mix. Left brain logic is being used to keep an oppressive lid on limbic hijackings.

How would right brain creativity, insight and non-judgmental awareness play into these dynamics?
The situation calls for an indirect approach that sidesteps the provocation of those predictable over-reactions. Restoring the oppositions' dignity, peace of mind or sense of possibilities often helps. Those in need of reform often need their minds boggled by regarding their resistance -- as a welcomed form of cooperation, significant revelations about the nature of the real problems and an impressive show of commitment to the resolution of the reform agenda. It can also transform the oppressive dynamics to stop pointing fingers and only use "I" statements like:
  • "I have concerns about how I'm coming across to you and affecting your states of mind"
  • "I'm intending to clarify my passion for education and I regret if I am escalating conflicts with my boisterous love of learning"
  • "I'm delighted with the ideas we're getting for our mutual consideration and varied viewpoints"
  • "I'm fascinated by the new choices I'm seeing for how to contribute here and to learn from how I'm perceived by the rest of you"

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