Wednesday, 3 January 2007

1 January 2007

One of my new year resolutions was that I would try to blog every day. I hope that the blog will give me a way to connect with colleagues in Education Leeds and schools and others. I need you to help me understand the issues you are facing, the pressures and the problems and your achievements and successes. We need to establish greater ownership of our vision and values and how we can continue to make a real difference for children and young people, their families and communities. We need to learn from the best of our practice here in Leeds… we need to learn what works and what doesn’t… we need to explore the research and dispel the myths that say our young people can’t be successful.

If we are serious about dispelling the myths we must acknowledge the incredible power first impressions play in our lives and take active steps to manage and control these impressions. I recently read a great book called ‘Blink’ by Malcolm Gladwell who also wrote another wonderful book called ‘The Tipping Point’. Gladwell argues that we can know something without knowing why. He explores the idea that a snap judgement can be far more effective than a cautious decision. However, he argues that as our first impressions are determined by our experiences and our environment we must train ourselves to change our first impressions by changing the experiences that shape these impressions…. we must dispel the myths!

It’s wonderful to know that talented, brilliant, gorgeous and wonderful colleagues are making a real difference across the city. However it has always been hard to connect with such a pool of talent and I hope that the blog will provide us with some of the answers. Critically, we need to be totally honest about what works and what doesn’t work, about what we are doing and what we are not doing. What stops us from getting almost every child in a primary school to level 4 at the end of Year 6? Does anyone out there actually believe it is possible given the resources and the support? What are the things we would need to do to guarantee success? What stops us getting almost every young person in a secondary school level 2 qualifications at the end of year 11? Does anyone out there actually believe it is possible given the resources and the support? What are the things we would need to do to guarantee success?

Only by really understanding, what the limiting factors are, can we target resources and use everything we have available to us to really make a difference.



Shelton said...


I grow snap peas in the corn fields of Iowa, and I'm particularly interested in this notion of snap judgments being better than considered decisions.

I wonder if you could enlighten me on what exactly they are better relative to. Is it results? And are results all that matters, or should we also be concerned with processes and motivations. For instance, the result of a snap decision to lie and get myself out of a tight corner could, in a foreseeable case, produce good results, but the means (here the lie) might not be something we consider acceptable. Or to move away from snap judgments and focus in the general point that results aren't all that matters, we might get very rich by stealing, but the people we steal from might be too rich to care so the results are good, but isn't the method wrong?

My point is that if snap judgments are 'better' we have to wonder on what basis? We feel intuitively that reasoning and motivation are important. The problem then is that these seem absent from our snap judgments. I'm sure I don't need to remind you of the triumph of reason which lit the world during the enlightenment, and still informs the fabric of our societies today. Are we to minimise the influence of this progression? Are we to cast aside that which lead us to declare the value dignity, whoever the person? The wrong of a lie? The need to care for others? If not, how is this to be reconciled with snap judgments?

On a different note, I'm not sure how you expect anyone to get rid of the 'myths' that apparently infect the pure judgments that would produce these better decisions? Isn't this a pious aspiration in that it presupposes a non-social self, uninfected by the mores of the community and thus able to make judgments free from influence? Surely such a self is a myth? In fact our character is always manipulated by the social world, and perhaps there is no such pure snap judgment to be found...

I'd love to know your thoughts,


Chris'Blog said...

Thanks for the you really grow snap peas in the corn fields of Iowa? Have you read Blink, Malcolm Gladwell's book?
Galdwell gives you some examples where snap judgements were sometimes better than considered and researched analysis. Don't you believe in gut feelings? He also takes on your point about the social context and argues that we have to train ourselves to handle and manage the assumptions we all make about people and situations. He argues that you have to train yourself to Blink!
Why don't you read it and get back to me.