Expect No Sense [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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Years ago, Doug said to me, “The problem with you is that you want things to make sense.” He was right. I did want the world to make sense. I still do.

However, I have over these many years come to recognize that what makes sense to me need not make sense to others. Doug might have well said to me that my sense-making was not lining up with the sense-making of others. For instance, I want education to be about stoking curiosity in hearts and minds rather than a brain-numbing passionless pursuit to pass standardized tests. High scores are lousy indicators of learning. No sense.

As a student I almost died sitting in a desk. I had to move to think. I still do. Kerri and I hold meetings by hiking trails. Here on Island our neighbors say, “You two are dedicated walkers!” Little do they know – little would they understand – that our walks are work sessions.

Our time here on Island has reinforced one of my favorite studies of things-that-don’t-make-sense-to-me: most people say they desire change but rebel vehemently against it when it arrives. It is a theme of my life, perhaps the organizing principle of my career, to be hired as an agent of change only to be met by a wild tsunami of resistance. White knuckles holding on to what is known, all the while screaming for a new path. It’s crazy.

I used to wonder why they hired me. Now, I’ve come to recognize white knuckle resistance as a phase. It’s messy but it is a necessary step to letting go.

It takes a sturdy ship and plenty of provisions to comfortably set sail for the edge. Most folks like a map and road snacks before they can settle into the car and hit the road to seek adventure. Change processes are like that. Paradoxical. Nonsensical. Just plain crazy.


read Kerri’s blog post on CRAZY


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Turn The Phrase [on Merely A Thought Monday]

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I just read this phrase and laughed aloud: Conversation in English is often full of phrases not to be taken literally.

It’s the word ‘often’ that got me chuckling. I’d have been more sober if ‘always’ had been the adverb. Conversation in English is always full of phrases not to be taken literally.

My head exploded! She turned the tables on me! You don’t say! I’ll be dogged. It’s nothing to sneeze at! It’s more than you can shake a stick at! I’d rather stick needles in my eyes!

Isn’t it the best of paradoxes? Language, at it’s best, is inexact. It is referential. It can only point toward experience.  It’s why we have legal opinions, religious debates and news pundits that scream at each other.  It’s why we have differing points of view.

“I didn’t say that!”

“That’s not what I meant.”

“Just what are you implying?”

Nothing. No thing. The absence of a thing. The absence of a thought (in English, a thought, however fleeting, is a noun, a thing).

Of course, in it’s inexactness, there is also an infinity of space. There is as much reason to reach, to ask, to discover as there is to push, negate, or differ. To put down your end of the rope. To shake hands not make fists. A common ground.

Word for word. Line for line. To the letter. It’s never black and white. In a toxic time, a poisoned well. Find the middle way. Heart felt. We need not stab each other in the back. Kill two birds with one stone. Pull your head out of the sand. It’s a piece of cake. It literally blew me away. They put down their swords. They reached across the aisle.

Well I’ll be! How ’bout them apples?


read Kerri’s blog post BOUT THEM APPLES


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Make No Sense

646. Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

I’m in Hutchinson, Kansas at the Ramada Inn. In the center courtyard of the Ramada is a swimming pool with an astronaut theme: there are mock lunar modules in the center of the pool. Over in the corner is a mural of the moon complete with 3 dimensional astronauts skipping across the lunar surface. It’s late at night and my room looks out on the moon pool so the effect is more bizarre than it might seem in the light of day. I’d wake my inner sociologist for a look but he’d snarl, “You woke me for a peak at Americana!” and then I’d be in hot water for the next few days. Did I mention there is a hot tub in the lunar landscape? I turns out that Hutchinson is the home of a most amazing museum of the cosmos. There is usually sense to be made and sometimes sense-making reveals a beautiful treasure.

When I try to make sense of education in this nation I hear Doug Durham’s voice echoing in my mind. I used to stomp into Doug’s office when the world seemed particularly cruel to students and shout, “But it doesn’t make any sense!” Doug would swivel his big bear body in his big swivel chair and say, “The trouble with you is that you want it to make sense. Stop trying to make sense of it and you’ll be happier.” I didn’t like that response the first time or the twentieth time I heard him say it – but he was right. Stop trying to make sense of the nonsense and you’ll be happier. Call the nonsense what it is, nonsense.

I understand the governor of Nebraska created a list ranking every school in the state, all 240 schools ordered from first to last according to a performance criteria. You’ll not be surprised to learn that there is absolutely no point to the list; it is nonsense though very many people, mostly non-educators, take it very seriously. It is as arbitrary as the test scores that drive the notion of ranking schools. Actually, if you squint at the list and you will see that the schools with the most funding are generally at the top of the governor’s list and those with the least money are generally at the bottom. If it was a list of funding inequity it would have meaning but instead it pretends to be a list of performance and so ignores the obvious.

I woke up my inner sociologist when I heard about the governor’s list and he was quite curt with me. He sneered, “You woke me up for this? Are you kidding! There’s no mystery here! This list makes perfect sense!” he snarled. “When in the history of western civilization has a privileged NOT stacked the deck against the rest of society and called it high performance?” He huffed as he rolled over saying, “Idealist!”

And now I’m in Hutchinson, Kansas. There is an amazing and inspirational history of the race to the moon told here in Hutchinson. There is also the most inspirational educator I’ve ever met.

All the while, a governor makes a list and checks it twice, to be poor is to be naughty and to be privileged is to be nice. And I’m enjoying this moment in the Ramada Inn precisely because there is some sense to be made of an astronaut standing in the corner by the swimming pool and none to be made of the governor’s notorious list. Won’t it be a lovely day when instead of list making we put our minds to creating great learning with the same verve that we used when once upon a time we made it our task to put a human being on the moon?