The Five Freedoms Project

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5 Things You Can Do: Balance

1. Balance Advocacy With Inquiry

As Myles Horton writes in The Long Haul, "Stretching people's minds is part of educating, but always in terms of a democratic goal. That means you have to trust people's ability to develop their capacity for working collectively to solve their own problems."  

Working together, finding common ground, and creating new possibilities through collaboratively arriving at new insights are all hallmarks of the democratic process. Indeed, balancing advocacy (intending to influence the thinking of others) with inquiry (seeking to understand the thinking of others) facilitates a shared commitment to problem-solving and consensus-building.

To learn more, click here.

 

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2. Balance Multiple Perspectives

For every parent (or teacher) who has suffered the anxiety of a parent-teacher conference, The Essential Conversation: What Parents and Teachers Can Learn from Each Other, by Sarah Lawrence-Lightfoot, provides an honest and insightful look at the undercurrents at play in the relationship between a child's parents and teachers.

Lawrence-Lightfoot, a Harvard professor of education, explores the reverberations of adults’ past experiences as students and how those experiences shape present-day interactions and interpretations of school. She reveals unacknowledged or even unrecognized psychological and social factors, including the different dynamics at work in conferences at poor inner-city schools versus wealthy suburban ones. And she offers useful advice for both parents and teachers on achieving the cooperation needed to find the right balance and reach the common goal of educating children.

To read The Essential Conversation, click here.

 

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3. Balance What Needs to Improve With What Needs to be Kept

The National School Reform Faculty’s (NSRF) dialogue protocols are valuable tools for educators to use in identifying area of improvement and sources of current organizational strength.

The Appreciative Inquiry Protocol helps guide individual, group, and/or school-wide professional inquiry. It provides a framework for beginning a type of action research that intentionally builds on what is good in our work rather than what is wrong and in need of fixing.

The Peeling The Onion Protocol provides a structured way to develop an appreciation for the complexity of a problem in order to avoid the inclination to start out by trying to “solve” the problem before it has been fully defined.

For free downloads of these and other protocols, click here.

 

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4. Balance Minority and Majority Voices

In the process of establishing a more democratic learning community, educators must bear in mind the crucial distinction between authoritarianism, which stifles individual voices and innovation, and authoritativeness, which is essential if young people are to be given the structured environment that can support their learning needs.

As Stanford professor Linda Darling-Hammond writes in The Right to Learn, “The middle ground between permissiveness and authoritarianism is authoritative practice. Authoritative treatment sets limits and consequences within a context that fosters dialogue, explicit teaching about how to assume responsibility, and democratic decision making … Authoritarian schools pursue control through imposed rules. Authoritative schools pursue mutual respect for democratically made decisions.”

To find the right balance between minority and majority voices, schools should be sure their governance structures are aligned with the values of the school and the needs of all stakeholders.

To see an example of one school’s attempt to strike this balance via its school-wide governance structure, click here.

 

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5. Balance Critical Lenses

At the Bay Coalition of Essential Schools (BayCES), a “lens” is a metaphor to communicate the idea of looking at evidence from various perspectives. The meaning of the metaphor is that you can look at the same thing through different lenses and construct very different interpretations of the same reality. “Each of us does this everyday,” says BayCES. “It is how we individually and collectively make sense of the world around us.”   

BayCES coaches use five “lenses” to intentionally examine what is happening from different perspectives. These lenses (or mental models) are idea systems that have been developed to interpret experience.  Each has a particular set of values, beliefs, and assumptions embedded within it.  BayCES makes the assumption that “no singular mental model or lens is sufficient to understand what we need to know to create a transformed and more equitable system.

“The purpose of using these lenses is to improve the predictability of our actions in relation to desired relationships and outcomes. That is, we believe we will increase the likelihood of successfully reaching any given set of objectives if we consider what is happening and what action to take from multiple perspectives — if we examine situations, relationships, institutions, and phenomena through multiple critical lenses.”

To learn more about BayCES’s five lenses of Critical Judgment, click here.

 

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