July 10, 2023

Here is a question for you.

What would be different about schooling if we tried to see the good in people?

Instead of seeing a student as a "gifted student," or a "special education student," or a parent as a "good parent" or "bad parent," what if we just emptied our brain of what we know (or think we know) about the person and just started with the curiosity that comes with interacting with a human being?

Unfairly, people (or groups of people) have labels thrust on them by society (and remember, society is made of people, so it is us that places these labels on people). These labels will often determine how we interact with them. Without showing your hands, how many of us have walked into a meeting having already determined how the interaction will go? Most of the time we do this by anticipating the interaction by using predetermined labels.

But seeing the good in people is more than just interacting with people. Seeing the good in people has ramifications for how people think about our fellow travelers on this earth.

Imagine taking a die-hard Donald Trump supporter and a die-hard "liberal" and putting them in a room. Right now in society, we would expect any potential outcome of this scenario to end in conflict.

The reason I assume this outcome is because I am not seeing the good in people and have fallen into society's trap that there are two groups of political animals. Those that support the former president and those labeled as "liberals." 

But imagine if we viewed these two people in the room simply as human beings...nothing more, nothing less. Removing labels and seeing the good will result in different outcomes. It is hard to demonize a person or a group of people if we start by seeing the good in them.

Schools can do a lot to help foster a culture of seeing the good in people...and for the love of God, if anyone mentions an "evidenced-based" 8-step program to accomplish this task, then stop reading the newsletter now!!

Schools must address the structures in their systems that dehumanize kids. In a lot of ways, the "machinery" of schools leads to the dehumanization of students. In other words, the default setting for school culture (based on the systems in place) is to NOT see the good.

What can a school leader do to start humanizing students?

Maybe it's as simple as stop forcing students into remediation classes for the end-of-the-year test because they are labeled as "at-risk."

Don't allow outside political forces to label groups of students.

Stop the language of "low" or "high" students when talking about kids.

The list can go on, but you need to reflect on what your school does to dehumanize students.

About the author 

Tom Butler, Ph.D.

I believe that public education is for the public good and that education should be uncompromisingly learner-centered. The New Learning Ecosystem points us away from the old model of education that does not serve kids well. All educators regardless of where they work can help lead and contribute to the New Learning Ecosystem.

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