Res Novae, V

salvēte, amīcī et sodālēs! As I wrote the first draft of this post early Sunday evening, I stopped to think about a paradox of Change: the bigger the impending Change, the less evidence there often is of it … at least before it happens. I was thinking about the thousands of residents of Pompeii, Herculaneum, Stabiae, and Oplontis who assumed that there was “just another earthquake” – or just a few late-summer fires creating all that smoke on the summit of Mount Vesuvius. But this is hurricane season here on the East Coast of the United States, and I was also thinking about storms of the past … the ones that no one remembers, because they did not bring any changes other than a bit of needed rain, and the ones (like Hurricanes Fran and Floyd) that everyone in my part of the world remembers because they brought huge, destructive changes. My little corner of the world avoided most of the flooding and destruction that Hurricane Floyd wrought in other parts of Eastern North Carolina, but I remember the impending arrival of that storm well: schools had closed in anticipation of the storm, and with our small child safely strapped in the back seat of the car, we headed significantly inland “just in case,” much as Valerius and Caelia do in the story I shared in yesterday’s post. A few years earlier, before I had any children, we had a sleepless night (on the floor in the hallway!) as Hurricane Fran pounded over us with 100-mph winds, and we did not want to take any chances “the next time.”

Of course, it’s been over a decade since Floyd, and almost 15 years since Fran, and I’ve grown much more complacent about hrricanes than I was when the memories were fresh. I think that’s a fairly universal tendency, and it doesn’t just apply to natural disasters, either. How many times have we all looked at futurists’ predictions of vast, sweeping changes? And how many times have they actually come true? Especially in the world of schools, where Change comes slowly and the forces of tradition are strong, it’s hard not to be a bit skeptical of claims about sweeping, systemic Change.

And yet, when you take the perspective of decades or centuries rather than months or years, significant Changes have indeed swept through the world of schools. The building that houses my face-to-face classroom was built in the mid-1920’s as a neighborhood school for grades 1 through 11 (North Carolina did not add a twelfth grade until a decade or two later). It served the children of white mill workers who lived within walking distance, and whose parents worked within walking distance. No one would ever have imagined that, less than 80 years later, that building would house children of all races, learning together in general harmony! They certainly wouldn’t have imagined that it would serve children from all over the city … or that the contents of the world’s great libraries could appear projected on a screen … or that future inhabitants of their school building would be in touch with young people on the other side of the world instantaneously and electronically … or that their grandchildren and great-grandchildren would be able to carry thousands of hours of recorded music around in their pockets! And yet, all these changes and more have swept over that old brick building even as we (rightfully) complain about the slow pace of change in American education.

As I think about the Changes that are currently underway in my face-to-face world and in the broader landscape of American education, I wonder if they’re Vesuvius-like changes (or Hurricane Fran- or Floyd-like changes) … or if they’re more like the “threat” of Hurricane Earl in my face-to-face world a couple of weeks ago. Earl did bring a few raindrops our way, and it certainly brought some rain to the Northeastern U.S., but (like many storms) it hardly brought the damage … or Change … that some over-excited forecasters had predicted.

So what’s the best way to respond to unpredictable Changes? Or perhaps a better question is, what are some factors that one should consider when evaluating possible responses to unpredictable Change? I have some theories, but I’d love to hear from you lectōrēs fidēlissimī first.

quid respondētis, amīcī?

Tune in next time for your comments … and for my thoughts about responding to unpredictable Change. intereā, grātiās maximās omnibus iam legentibus et respondentibus.

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Published in: on September 14, 2010 at 9:36 am  Leave a Comment  
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