Everyone has seen this popular post floating around Educational Reform circles. I see it every week or two on Twitter. This literal picture (there is some slight irony in this)
Nearest I can tell this is attributable to the early female computer scientist Grace Hopper (Here is a link Grace Hopper Bio from Vassar). She sounds like an amazing woman. A naval officer reaching the rank of Commodore (now known as Rear Admiral), posthumous winner of the Medal of Freedom, and an instrumental Computer Coder. It is unfortunate that I am just now learning more about this influential person.
This post is not meant to disparage Rear Admiral Hopper but I do think it is time to retire this as the go to phrase for “We need more Educational Reform”. One reason is that the Historian in me bristles that, while everyone agrees that Hopper said this, there is no sourcing. It is one of those quotes that are too good to be true and I cannot find the original source. That, however, is not the major reason the quote gives me pause.
Whenever I see this phrase it feels like a trump card played as the ultimate reason to change.
Read that quote again but this time from the point of view of someone that thinks they are doing a good job. The quote succinctly says that “you are dangerously wrong and I am clearly correct – simply because my idea is newer.” Again, I support educational innovation but the process should involve communication and coalition building. This quote in effect shuts down any effective discussion. Advocates of the existing policy are told that their successes are to be ignored simply because it is the status quo. A more conservative educator might suggest that the innovator is simply in a rush to “change something simply for the sake of change” which is just as dangerous.
For this reason, let me humbly suggest a new pro-educational reform meme. One that also comes from a woman, though fictitious, and, I feel appropriately in this moment, a woman of color. I give you:
This is Shuri from Black Panther. She is King T’Challa’s (the Black Panther) genius little sister who is in charge of all of the Wakandian Tech development (ask your students they will tell you but for you older teachers if T’Challa is James Bond, Shuri is a much cooler Q). Anyways, in the first big battle T’Challa uses some tech to disable the bad guys’ cars. When he gives the device back to Shuri she tells him that she will see what she can do to improve the tech. His response is that the tech worked perfectly; the Meme is her answer – “Just because something works doesn’t mean it can’t be improved”.
THIS IS WHAT THE EDUCATION REFORM MOVEMENT SHOULD BE ARGUING!
Of course what we are doing is good but it can be better!
Shuri is telling T’Challa that you have gone into battle and have done action research. We can use and analyze that data collected in order to make improvements. Thank you for being part of this ONGOING and FORMATIVE assessment! Every battle is an opportunity to grow! Please help as we continue to improve the technology (or in our case lessons, schools, systems).
Admiral Hopper’s quote makes sense for her era and the fact that it comes from a such an amazing source is important. It is the end of a conversation though. What Shuri’s quote gives us is an opportunity to start a conversation while building an ally in the innovation.
What do you think? Are you on board? Will you help me spread this message?