We Project Our Work Worldviews Onto Others Without Realizing It

A good friend of mine spent decades as a sales manager. Now he manages managers. His compensation has always been based in part on commissions; as a result, he thinks employees are almost entirely motivated by money. Not just his employees, all employees. He’s grown so accustomed to the cutthroat competition of his workplace, he thinks free-market capitalism is the answer to whatever the question is. There’s no public sector, tenure, or labor unions in his work world, so they are economic problems, not solutions.

He’s a conservative. Another good friend, a liberal, is a transportation engineer for the Feds. Since he’s in charge of Washington State’s highways, I like love to complain to him about my daily commute. As an engineer, he believes any problem can be solved if we’re just rational enough. One form that rationality takes is letter writing. He thinks everyone should write letters, like he does, to people in leadership positions because they still influence policy even in this information saturated, digital world in which we live. And he’s absolutely right, the world would be a better place if everyone followed his lead.

But his engineer friends and him don’t seem to appreciate how differently other people think. People like me. I confess that I don’t feel much sense of efficacy at all. If I’m honest, I feel like my worsening commute is done to me, I feel totally defenseless. As evidence of that, I don’t even vote in a lot of local elections. I’m an educated writer, so if I feel that way, how many others are likely to pick up paper, pencil, envelope, and stamp despite our engineer friends’ very well intended rationality.

That sorry state of affairs didn’t stop my friend from sending me an email yesterday titled “Public comments wanted on the draft Washington Transportation Plan”. With this little addendum, “No comments made then no whining allowed.” The bold is him raising his voice which he only does when a local high school football ref makes an iffy call. One more detail to note in the email. “Washington State Department of Transportation seeking input on 20-year plan by Nov. 6.” 20-YEAR PLAN. That’s hilarious.

I’m glad our state’s traffic engineers are thinking in 20 year terms, however, it’s cray cray for them to think non-engineers like yours truly think similarly. In twenty years I want to be napping in my back seat as my car drives me to the Home Course for a quick 18. When I think of transportation infrastructure, hell, when I think of life, the short-term is 1-2 years, the medium-term is 5 years, and the longest term is 10 years.

Note to engineers. Non-engineers think differently. If you want to enlist their help in data gathering and problem-solving, you have to be a lot more savvy in reaching out to them. You’re probably better off delegating it to people rooted in the social sciences and humanities.

This subconscious tendency to generalize from one’s work and then to project one’s work worldview onto others is probably inevitable. As are the associated conflicts and frustrations when others don’t conform to expectations.

I’m sure I generalize from my work and project my work worldview onto others too, I just need to think more about the ways I do that. I will report back in 20 years.

I Have a Dream

Dreams by Langston Hughes

Hold fast to dreams                                                                                                                          For if dreams die                                                                                                                                Life is a broken-winged bird                                                                                                        That cannot fly.

Hold fast to dreams                                                                                                                          For when dreams go                                                                                                                        Life is a barren field                                                                                                                      Frozen with snow.

My dream is that in my lifetime, the right to keep and bear Arms will be limited to “a well regulated Militia”. But maybe my future just holds broken-winged birds and barren fields frozen with snow.

Friday Assorted Links

1. Can Prep Schools Fight the Class War?

“We’ve been talking about this for a long time, about infusing our program with a greater sense of redeeming purpose. . . and approaching it from a perspective of student well-being with a better sense of why students are going about this work.’’

2. Hands on Children’s Museum Awarded Grant for Early Stem Learning Program.

Looks excellent, but it does beg a question. When (and how) will we start introducing science, tech, engineering, and math into the womb? Seems like a missed opportunity.

3. The 7 most inflammatory things Roy Moore has said.

Alabama’s finest. Roy Moore loves God and Donald Trump. I do not understand what those two have to do with each other.

4. Is there a doctor in my pocket?

“The drive to create an AI (artificial intelligence) doctor is simple. It would allow patients around the world much greater access to medical assistance. There is a global shortage of 7.2m health-care workers, a figure that will almost double by 2035. It takes only one AI doctor capable of diagnosing even a handful of common conditions to make this shortage less of a problem. Digital diagnosis can be scaled far more rapidly than doctors can be trained. The world’s first AI doctor will be asking you to say “aaah” sooner than you think.”

5. The Other Arnold: Palmer’s daughter reflects on the chasm between the brand and the man.

“. . . over time his work became being whoever other people needed him to be. He didn’t have an ideology.”

The Key to Teaching Middle School

In 1999, I traveled in Japan for two weeks with twenty plus other social studies educators, including Ken V, a crazy funny middle school teacher from Winnipeg, Canada. Before departing for Tokyo, we met in a San Fransisco airport hotel conference room to share our respective curriculum research projects. Afterwards, I went straight up to V and said something to the effect of, “That was excellent, super clear and succinct. Thank you.” From that moment on, we were boyz.

Fast forward a week. On a bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto, V fell asleep with his suit coat thrown over an adjacent seat. I pounced, stuffing a hundred cheap, thin, plastic umbrella rain bags inside all of his jacket pockets. Then I instructed everyone to sporadically ask him for one at our afternoon meeting with the mayor of Hiroshima.

We’ve stayed in touch ever since, even reuniting in Victoria about five years ago. Staying in touch means he sends me sports updates—baseball, football, curling, Nascar primarily, on almost a weekly basis. Canadians are funnier than everyone else, so no surprise his missives are basically one long strand of wickedly funny puns.

A year or two ago, he revealed he had been diagnosed with cancer. His positive attitude was incredibly inspiring and proved integral in his recovery. He’s retired from the classroom, but not the Prairie baseball fields where he doubles up as player and umpire extraordinaire.

Recently, he wrote:

“Filipino Fastball…………….. Sept. 10, I did the Dish for both Medal Games. The Bronze game featured 2 nice teams, who hadn’t played nor practised since mid Aug. At the end of the 4th, the score was 15-6. At the end of the 5th, it was 15-13. It ended after 7, but took way too long. No issues, however it was a hot day, and the Fun was yet to come……..The Gold game featured 2 good teams, who don’t like each other. The eventual winning team began to whine immediately about EVERY call. I finally had a talk with the catcher, and told him to inform his teammates there would be dire consequences if it continued.”

I love the image of V laying down the law. It prompted me to ask “What’s harder to manage a Filipino fast pitch game or a middle school classroom?” He turned on that question and went deep:

“I would rather face a Filipino uprising led by North Korea, catered by ISIS, during a Mexican Earthquake, than manage a Middle Years classroom.”

The first rule of middle school teaching. Always be a little more crazy and funny than them.

 

Friday Assorted Links

1. A Teacher’s Struggle With Student Anxiety.

“Anxiety has become the most significant obstacle to learning among my adolescent students. In a teaching career spanning more than 30 years, I have watched as it has usurped attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, which itself displaced “dyslexia,” as the diagnosis I encounter most often among struggling students. In contrast to dyslexia or ADHD, for which I have developed effective teaching strategies, anxiety in students leaves me feeling powerless. As a new school year kicks off, I am left wondering how anxiety has become so prevalent so quickly. What can I do about it? Might my teaching actually contribute to it?”

It doesn’t appear as if Doyle is familiar with Twenge’s recent work on how smart phones contribute to adolescents’ anxiety.

2. There’s nothing more addictively soothing than watching someone flipping homes on HGTV.

“HGTV was the third-most-popular network on cable television in 2016, a 24/7 testament to the powers of Target chic, the open-plan kitchen, and social conservatism. It unspools with the same bland cheerfulness as Leave It to Beaver, and its heart is in the same place. Many viewers — in red states and blue cities, in rent-controlled studio apartments and 6,000-square-foot McMansions — confess it’s a bedtime ritual, prelude to a night spent dreaming of ceramic-tile backsplashes and double-sink vanities. Over the past two years, it has become such a ratings and advertising sensation that it is largely responsible for the recent sale, this summer, of its parent company, Scripps Networks Interactive, to Discovery Communications for $11.9 billion.”

I confess, I’m an HGTV-er.

3. A university president held a dinner for black students—and set the table with cotton stalks and collard greens. I propose a term for this. . . macro aggression.

4. Even jellyfish sleep.

5. Evan Osnos’s take-aways from a trip to North Korea. Long time Pressing Pausers will know I’ve been a long time observer of North Korea. Osnos’s report is interesting throughout. He reports that if Kim Jong Un’s picture appears in a newspaper, North Koreans must avoid creasing his face. And being in a wheelchair disqualifies you from living in Pyonyang, the capital. Monitors on the city’s perimeter limit movement in and out of the capital. Most importantly, Osnos’s reporting strongly suggests North Korea wants better relations with the U.S. Which makes Trump’s approach—increasingly provocative threats—the exact wrong one at the wrong time. Heaven help us, and especially, the South Koreans.

 

 

Columbus and Graduation

You dig independent and foreign films, you don’t even mind subtitles, and you have four hours to kill. Here’s your 2017 double feature extraordinaire.

Columbus is a beautiful, slow paced film that explores how to balance personal ambition and family commitment. Columbus, Indiana, not Ohio. Showing now in independent theaters. Two thumbs up from Alison Byrnes who was the only Millennial at her screening.

From the NYT review:

“Jin (John Cho), an English-to-Korean book translator in Seoul, travels to Columbus after his father, an architecture historian, collapses while in town for a talk. As Jin waits to find out whether his semi-estranged father will ever regain consciousness, he strikes up a friendship with Casey (Haley Lu Richardson), a tour guide and lifelong Columbus resident. A year out of high school, she is tempted to leave to study architecture, but she fears for the well-being of her unpredictable blue-collar mother (Michelle Forbes), for whom she cooks and essentially looks after.”

Graduation provides a lasting feel for life in Romania, and by extension, many other countries where people’s daily lives are shaped by connections and corruption. It also explores how to balance personal ambition and family commitment.

From the NYT review:

“You might think of Romeo Aldea (Adrian Titieni) as a helicopter parent, a father whose heavy investment in his daughter’s success seems both laudable and a little frightening. For Romeo, a doctor in a provincial Romanian city, Eliza (Maria Dragus) — his only child, in her last year of high school — represents his only basket and all the eggs inside. He clings to the faith that his thwarted ambition, his battered idealism and his dented self-esteem will all be vindicated if Eliza wins a competitive scholarship to study in England. He and his depressive wife, Magda (Lia Bugnar), who lived in exile before their return to Romania after the end of Communism, are not up to leaving again. Eliza’s escape would be an antidote to her father’s disappointment with the spiritually and morally desolate place his country has become.”

Available on Netflix.

The Right Way To Have Difficult Conversations

The first step, according to Celeste Headlee:

“. . . be curious and have a genuine willingness to learn something from someone else—even someone with whom you vehemently disagree. I’m a mixed-race woman, just a few generations removed from slavery, but I’ve had valuable conversations with segregationists and members of the Sons of the Confederate Veterans.”

Headlee adds:

“Another crucial skill in difficult conversations is to resist the impulse to constantly decide whether you agree with what someone else is saying. The purpose of listening is to understand, not to determine whether someone else is right or wrong, an ally or an opponent.

Often, we decide very quickly whether we will agree with someone. We listen for certain words that might be clues to their politics or faith and use them to categorize people, trying to figure out who thinks like we do and who thinks differently. But these snap judgments usually aren’t very accurate, and they close us off from getting a more complete picture.

Psychologists call this tendency to lump people into groups the ‘halo and horns effect.’ When we approve of some salient quality of another person, we are more likely to judge them positively in other respects. The opposite is true as well.”

Headlee’s book, “We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations that Matter” is out today.