I’m a child of the Sixties, so I grew up with the idea that each of us should speak truth to power. And ask anyone: I’m that person. In fact, I have some trouble keeping my mouth shut. But what I’ve learned in my 24 years in higher education is that speaking truth to power isn’t nearly good enough.
We must speak truth to everyone.
The business of education relies on truth. Students must believe what they get in class is truthful. Facts must be delivered honestly and interpreted ethically. Educators are obligated to speak truth to the weak as well as the powerful.
But there are a lot of lies in academia. And I’m not just talking about leaving Thomas Jefferson out of textbooks in Texas. We live with mundane, everyday sorts of lies too like this one: Outcomes/objectives are the key to crafting a successful learning experience.
Oh really? Well then what did we do before outcomes? Was the whole history of education in the Western world just a shell of what it could have been before assessment?
Of course not. Truth is, good teachers knew what they were doing long before outcomes and alignment and assessment committees came along. Good teachers have always started with an idea of where they wanted to go, and they asked the questions and set the homework and made the comments necessary to get as many of their students there as they could.
Outcomes are not the key to good courses. Outcomes are only a tool we use to communicate our commitment to the truth of what we are doing. Outcomes are the educational promise given voice.
Imagine sitting down to dinner, and before you is a beautiful table set “just so” with someone’s best dishes. Everything is in its place, and you know just by looking that the meal to come will be the best your host has to offer. The meal isn’t in the plates themselves or the silverware or the lovely centerpiece. The meal is yet to come, but the promise that effort makes is plain: you are an honored guest.
That’s what outcomes do for your students. They aren’t there for assessment committees or even your accreditation body. Outcomes are a promise you make to those people you have promised to tell the truth to.
In this blog I want to tell a whole bunch of truths. And to do that, we are going to have to shed some light on the lies we tell ourselves. Telling the truth all the time is more than a goal here; it’s our ethos. Going along living with half-truths and comfortable lies hasn’t made things better in education. So it’s time to speak truth to everyone and let truth itself be the power.
Photo: Bernie Boston