The Brown Decision

The Brown Decision

Date: Friday January 16, 2009

To: The Redmond Spokesman

Subject: Guest Opinion – The Brown Decision

I read the Spokesman’s January 14, 2009 Editorial and Richard Lance’s attack with dismay and a deep sense of sadness. These two printed outbursts might be characterized as the most blistering barrage aimed at public education here in Redmond in several years.

If there is one segment within the Redmond community where we seem to have collectively come together with a consensus approach to the necessity for improvement, it is the area of the improving the results produced by our local system — The Redmond School District.

However, one cannot assume that this mandate is limited solely and superficially to simply improvements in current facilities addressed by the voters May 2008 approval of the school bond. Although the environments within which the education of our children and young adults occurs is paramount, we, as a community have recognized that the results produced within those environments is truly the tale of the tape (Please refer to the components and benchmarks of the Redmond Education Vision).

Should the evaluation of present approaches, environments, systems, and methods presently relied upon to garner improvements in student academic achievement, in each and every sector of the Redmond School District dictate that immediate and wholesale changes must be made, so be it. This is exactly what the DNA of the community discussion during 2007 and 2008 injected into the marching orders and agenda of the School Board, staff and Superintendent.

The Brown decision is a superb example that our School Board and Superintendent have heard the community’s voice loud and clear. Furthermore, they aren’t just listening; they are acting on this agenda, armed with the essential measurements revealing that the ongoing, sub-standard/mediocre academic preparedness performance results at Brown are unacceptable.

To effectively improve a system, with all the component parts that a large organization like the Redmond School District possesses, requires one to take a very hard look at the outcomes presently produced by each and every operating unit. Brown is no exception. Armed with this data, one is confronted with making some very difficult decisions. When these decisions are made, some people are likely to be unhappy; accountability, innovation and implementing essential improvement tend to have that effect on human beings.

As a taxpayer, Redmond resident, and a parent with a student at Redmond High School, I applaud the actions of the School Board, staff and the Superintendent to continue to confront these difficult challenges head on, wherever they may be identified within the current system. That’s exactly what this community charged them to do in the referendum the voters passed in May 2008. That’s integrity.

There’s no integrity gap that need be spanned here. This Board and this Superintendent have restored that essential structure.

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Faith To Confront Unprecedented Economic Times

Reflect on This

In these unprecedented economic times , what might faith mean?  Theologian Brian McLaren suggests:

“Faith involves admitting with humility and boldness that we need to change, to go against the flow, to be different, to face and shine the light on our cherished illusions and prejudices, and to discover new truths that can be liberating even though they may be difficult for the ego, painful to the pride.” (1)

From the above, we can see that the faith required to reimagine creating tomorrow today involves a multi-dimensional approach. Let me explain:

(1) It requires admission – a confession, if you will.

(2) The nature of this admission is twofold: it must be humble and bold.

In terms of the humility dimension of this matter, the following from Rabbi Harold Kushner speaks to the heart of the matter:

“being human is such a complicated challenge that all of us will make mistakes in the process of learning how to do it right, then we can come to see our mistakes not as emblems of our unworthiness but as experiences we can learn from. We will be brave enough to try something new without being afraid of getting it wrong. Our sense of shame will be the result of our humility, our learning our limits, rather than our wanting to hide from scrutiny because we have done badly.” (2)

The boldness dimension of the admission is characterized concisely by Senator John McCain. He refers to it as courage:

Courage (emphasis is mine) is that rare moment of unity between conscience, fear, and action, when something deep within us strikes the flint of love, of honor, of duty, to make the spark that fires our resolve.” (3)

3) In terms of speaking about illuminating our  illusions, most folks can get pretty riled up. Why? Because it causes us to truly examine and evaluate the truthfulness  and practical application of what we have been assuming, thinking and doing. Consider the following from Daniel Levinson:

“As he attempts to reappraise his life, a man discovers how much it has been based on illusions, and he is faced with the task of de-illusionment. By this expression I mean a reduction of illusions, a recognition that long held assumptions and beliefs about self and world are not true. This process merits special attention because illusions play so vital a role in our lives throughout the life cycle.”(4)

(4) Residing comfortably within many of our illusions rest our prejudices. As Dr. King once said:

“There is little hope for us until we become tough-minded enough to break loose from the shackles of prejudice, half-truths and downright ignorance.” (5)

Finally, there’s that issue about what to do with faith. As McLaren defines it, faith is certainly not something the human species is imbued with whose sole purpose is some form of peace of mind, resting comfortably on a couch. No, faith is designed to move us from spectating to participation. The following sums it up quite nicely:

“Whatever our passions and commitments may be, we all face similar questions about how to cross the threshold from passivity to participation, to make our voices heard and make our actions count, and reawaken and sustain our faith in the future.” (6)

So, what’s your response? Once again, the words of Dr. King echo a truth with a poignant, present day application:

“To be honest is to confront the truth. However unpleasant and inconvenient the truth may be, I believe we must expose and face it if we are to achieve a better quality of American life.” (7)

May this writing be one element of inspiration that provides you with the courage to act on your faith to improve the community you reside in.

Reflect on this.

NOTES:

(1) McLaren, Brian Finding Faith, Copyright © 1999 by Brian McLaren, Zondervan Grand Rapids, MI pp.13-14.

(2) Kushner, Harold S. How Good Do We Have To Be – A New Understanding of Guilt and Forgiveness, Little, Brown and Company Boston, MA Copyright © 1996 by Harold S. Kushner, p. 39.

(3) McCain, John In Search of Courage, Fast Company Magazine, Issue Number 86, September 2004, Copyright © 2004 by Gruner + Jahr USA Publishing p.54-56.

(4) Levinson, Daniel J., The Seasons Of A Man’s Life, New York: Ballantine Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Copyright © 1978, p.192

(5) Scott King, Coretta The Words of Martin Luther King Jr., Newmarket Press, NY, NY Copyright © 1983 by Coretta Scott King and Newmarket Press, p. 30.

(6) Rogat Loeb, Paul. Soul of a Citizen-Living with Conviction in a Cynical Time, St. Martin’s Griffin, NY  Copyright © 1999 by Paul Rogat Loeb, p.11.

(7) Scott King, Coretta The Words of Martin Luther King Jr., Newmarket Press, NY, NY Copyright © 1983 by Coretta Scott King and Newmarket Press, p. 89.

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Pray For America!

group-prayer

Just a month away
The grand gala in D.C.
Ushering in a new era
To become what we must be.

As I ponder this moment,
I have more questions than answers.
I’m tired of the spin:
Twirling semantics dancers.

My country is troubled,
Like no period in our past.
Citizens yearn for solutions:
The kind made to last.

Where do you start?
When faced with such a mess.
Tumultuous times.
Tremendous stress.

The skies clouded above us,
Threatening ominous weather.
Perhaps we might consider,
Truly coming together.

One would be naïve to think,
“To have what we had would be nice.”
To reclaim our futures footing,
Will require change and sacrifice.

Improvements in healthcare
Jobs, energy and education.
The challenge is formidable,
For any administration.

I’ve learned that our leaders
A heavy burden they must bear.
May our nation come together,
Covering all with prayer.

Imagine the possibilities,
Citizens down on their knees,
Praising the Almighty –
One beseeching breeze.

It’s absurd to assume,
The challenges can be met by one man.
Yet, with America in prayer.
“Oh yes We can!”

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Econverision – Thinking About Community Economic Development

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During the past several months or so, I’ve been considering the process of developing a new vision for community economic development. A process where people converge to converse about the development of a vision. I call this process Econverision.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky once said,  “a new step; uttering a new word is what people fear most.” Don’t get uptight. There’s nothing to be afraid of. According to London Business School Professor Charles Handy Words are the bugles of social change.” (2) Let me explain.


In his most recent book, Hot, Flat and Crowded, three time Pulitzer prize winning author Thomas L. Friedman wrote that we must think strategically to:

“innovate our ways to new possibilities that right now seem unimaginable. The longer we wait to set out on such a strategic path though, the deeper the pail out of which we will have to climb.” (1)

This got me thinking. What does it mean to think strategically in 2009? Here are a couple of thoughts:

1. We have to think – deliberately, intentionally, differently. During economic downturns, many people assume the posture of what I refer to as the foxhole mentality – They hunker down and cover their heads, enduring the threat of their surroundings, repeating the mantra, this too shall pass. In other words, they maintain the position they occupied before their external circumstances changed. They assume that when the current shelling stops, the rules of engagement and the battle will remain the same. Furthermore, holding your ground, intending to repeat what you’ve been doing may not be a plausible battle plan as things improve.

2. How do you think deliberately/intentionally? – If the momentum in your life is anything like mine, you must make time, rather than attempt to find time to think. Yes, I’ve found that deliberate thinking about a particular subject can and must be intentionally scheduled – well, if its really worth serious consideration anyway.

3. Thinking strategically necessarily involves others – Yes, I continue to be amazed what occurs when you converge with others as a group with a common topic on the table. Particularly if the people gathered have a desire to explore creating something better than what presently is. Today, it’s probably more important that ever to consider a few new principles as it relates to involving others:

Invite the uninvited – Make a deliberate attempt to have those who have not traditionally participated in community economic development discussions to become a part of these forums. As Kenneth Cloke and Joan Goldsmith point out: “Revolutionary thinking often originates in young people, newcomers, outsiders and those at the bottom with little to lose, who bring a celebration of dissent and a wellspring of new ideas.”(3)

Expect the Unexpected – Leave titles, agenda, ego, position, authority and expertise at the door when you enter these forums. Come expectantly, desiring to hear and be inspired by an idea that comes from someone else. It means “creating a space that is free and inviolable, in which dissent and difference are encouraged and celebrated.”(4)

Shepherd the Sharing – The environment of these forums cannot be led by “captains of industry or power brokers, but by  leaders acting as coordinators, connectors, facilitators, mentors, coaches, and mediators who bridge, network and link people, and activate group energies to generate new configurations and possibilities.” (5)

According to an article entitled The Fiscal Roadmap – Why These Are Not Ordinary Times – We Need A Fiscal Roadmap To Show The Way – authored by Anne Vorce and Maya MacGuineas in December 2008 – they state:

Meeting our current and future economic and fiscal challenges will require the continued development of new ideas, the facilitation of a public conversation, (emphasis is mine) and the political will to make hard choices. We will need a fiscal roadmap to show us the way.

Yes, it appears that, once again, we are going to have to learn to change. What might this mean. Peter F. Drucker has suggested: “To be a change leader requires the willingness and ability to change what is already being done just as much as it is to do new and different things. It requires policies to make the present create the future. (emphasis is mine) (6)

There are three essential elements to Drucker’s thesis to evaluate, define,  and implement policies to make the present create the future. These include:

1. Abandon Yesterday – “to free resources from being committed to maintaining what no longer contributes to performance.” ( I would add that performance is henceforth re-defined by the new economic development vision).

2. Organized Improvement – “whatever an enterprise does internally and externally needs to be improved systematically and continuously.” (p.80).

3. Exploit Success – “Starve problems and feed opportunities.” (p.82). What this does not mean is to resist change and remain comfortable with going through the same old motions.

4. Systematic Innovation – Relying on the integration and implementation of the three principles identified above, change leaders must  “build into the enterprise a systematic policy of innovation – a policy to create change. “(p. 84).

Why do I advocate for the the development a “new vision” for community economic development through the process of econverision? For one, patriotism. I am not comfortable sitting around complacently “thinking about what the world will look like as the rest rise and the West wanes.”  (7) For me, it’s a personal responsibility as a privileged citizen of the community and nation within which I reside. It has been said that “what distinguishes economies today are ideas and energy.” (8) I can get really energized thinking about the economic development possibilities for the future in my community and my country. I bet you can too.

I also think it’s time to understand that we have entered a new period in our history that will require wholesale adjustments in the former ways we have approached economic development. Listen to the following:

The last few decades have belonged to a certain kind of person with a certain kind of mind — computer programmers who could crank code, lawyers who could craft contracts, MBA’s who could crunch numbers. But the keys to the kingdom are changing hands. The future belongs to a very different kind of person with a very different kind of mind — creators and empathizers, pattern recognizers and meaning makers. These people — artists, inventors, designers, storytellers, caregivers, consolers, big picture thinkers — will now reap society’s richest rewards and share it’s greatest joys.” (9)

Why a vision? Think about it like this for a moment:

Visions cause people to grow, learn and expand their abilities in order to achieve what they desire…Many changes start as a vision of what might be. …Every revolution starts with a personal transformation in which courageous leaders see that something is not working  and develop the determination to change it…They find it necessary to create confidence in others and convince them that the change is going to mean something, that the process will be open and hospitable, that the environment within which the change takes place will also be transformed.” (10)

The quote above (9) from Daniel H. Pink suggests we are moving from the Information Age to what he refers to as The Conceptual Age. I believe Cloke and Goldsmith would concur with Pink as they state:

“Every social, political and organizational revolution traces it’s origins to a conceptual revolution (emphasis is mine) in which someone had a new idea. Revolutionary thinking begins in the mind, then seeks ways of translating this vision into reality. It means being open to ideas that fundamentally critique the existing paradigm. and seek to trransform it. It means questioning stock answers and being committed to altering fundamentals. Because fresh ideas always come from outside the existing paradigm, imagination is the most important resource for leaders.” (11)

I am a tax paying, red-blooded American. I have children and grand-children. I’m competitive. I think it time to embrace the process of econverision in my community.

More about that in my next post on this topic next week. Until then, why don’t you share this post with folks in your community. I’d like to hear your thoughts. Post a response.


NOTES

(1) Handy, Charles The Age of UNREASON Harvard Business School Press © 1994 p. 17.

(2) Friedman, Thomas A. Hot, Flat & Crowded- Why We Need a Green Revolution and How It Can Renew America, Copyright © 2008 Farrar, Straus & Giroux New York, NY p. 49.

(3) Cloke, Kenneth and Goldsmith, Joan The End of Management And The Rise of Organizational Democracy, Copyright © 2002 by John Wiley & Sons, Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Company San Francisco, CA, p. 174.

(4) Ibid p. 102.

(5) Ibid p. 103

(6) Drucker, Peter F. Management Challenges For The 21st Century, Copyright © 1999 by Peter F. Drucker, Harper Collins Publishers NY, NY, p. 74.

(7) Zakaria, Fareed The Post-American World, Copyright 2008 by Fareed Zakaria, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. NY, NY.  p. 81.

(8) Ibid p. 210

(9) Pink, Daniel H. A Whole New Mind – Moving From The Information Age to the Conceptual Age, Copyright © 2005 by Daniel H. Pink, Penguin Group (USA) NY, NY. p. 1.

(10) Cloke, Kenneth and Goldsmith, Joan The End of Management And The Rise of Organizational Democracy, Copyright © 2002 by John Wiley & Sons, Jossey-Bass, A Wiley Company San Francisco, CA, excerpts from  pp. 172-174

(11) Ibid p. 174

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Counting the Cost – Econversation

You’ve heard the phrase to many times: Everything’s changed since 9/11. Well, there seems to be a more pertinent phrase that has somehow overshadowed the former one. It is, “Everything’s changed since the fall of Lehman Brothers.” This was the first economic domino to fall that began the one-after-another collapse and bailout conundrum that America (and the world) continues to struggle with.

During my lifetime, I have never seen so many HUGE numbers being bantered about to stabilize the U.S. and global economy (and a few domestic industries to boot — well, I take that back – the State of California bailout is peering over the horizon). Perhaps we are being instructed in a new way of counting. Consider the following from Professor Charles Handy of Harvard University:

“The first step is to measure whatever can be easily counted. This is OK as far as it goes. The second step is to disregard that which can’t be easily measured or to give it an arbitrary quantitative value. This is artificial and misleading. The third step is to presume that which can’t be measured easily really isn’t important. This is blindness. The fourth step is to say that which can’t be easily measured really doesn’t exist. This is suicide.”

The $700 Billion TARP program (somebody please tell me how they came up with that figure) seems to be the initial component of Professor Handy’s definition in terms of what can be easily counted (or so say Bernanke and Paulson). The auto industry bailout (or lack thereof) appears to be an example of the second dimension of Handy’s characterization: disregard that which can’t be easily measured or to give it an arbitrary quantitative value.

The third step is where it becomes terribly difficult: to presume that which can’t be measured easily really isn’t important.

Spurred on by the present state of triage required to address  the next form of economic contagion to reveal itself in the economic trauma center, we continue to crisis manage the next critical case that comes through the door on a gurney (sometimes delivered to the ER entrance in Congress via private corporate jet — although they drive hybrid vehicles to the post-op follow-up appointments).

Unfortunately, the TARP funds have yet to flow to main street central Oregon. The needs  of our region continue to be overlooked in state and congressional policy deliberations, by those duly empowered as part of the economic development policy apparatus. We remain suffering from the form of blindness that Professor Handy refers to. A vision for the future of economic development in our region is presently difficult to verbalize and/or tangibly quantify. That sure doesn’t mean it’s not important.

The final step, according to Handy is to assume the posture whereby ‘that which can’t be easily measured really doesn’t exist. This is suicide.” This is the nucleus of the matter, in my opinion. A quote from Machiavelli’s The Prince is pertinent here:

It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in introducing a new order of things, because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents — who have the laws on their side — and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them.

Yes, it’s time for innovation. Yet, a form of innovation that is unfamiliar to most of us. A process of innovating that includes the heretofore excluded from participating in the development of a new economic future for our communities, our country and our globe. Perhaps, we might just start with our respective communities.

Last week the new elected City Councilors in the City of Bend sponsored a forum and invited the public to begin a conversation about the current state and future of economic development.  Perhaps it’s time that Redmond, Prineville, Sisters and Madras might consider the same in their respective communities. However, economic development innovation is not accomplished via one meeting. The opportunity to create an economic development vision within each of these respective communities, and this region, is a process.

Perhaps it’s time to begin to learn a new way of counting in regard to economic development in central Oregon. Inviting area residents into a public process to participate in forming an economic vision for their respective communities and this region may be a wonderful place to start. Imagine what the results of this equation might produce. Then again, what if we don’t innovate in our approach to developing an economic development vision, deliberately informed by input from area residents.? There’s an amazing result when public officials earnestly invite the public’s participation and imagination — treating people as if they truly count. The clock is ticking. Time has a way of reminding us to wake up and act. Perhaps it’s time to consider embarking on a deliberate process to innovate our way to new possibilities in the formation of an economic development strategy and vision that right now seems unimaginable — together. We’re responsible for creating what presently does not exist. You can count on that.

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Off-The-Map Board Meeting – Seattle, WA December 9th 2008

I had the privilege to be invited to join Jim Henderson, Todd Hunter, Tyler, Tim, Craig, Jeff and Bryan for the annual Off-The-Map board meeting this week (an 800+ mile round trip for me and my 15 month old black Lab Reggie — it was Reggie’s first board meeting and first road trip over three hours. He had a great time).

Jim and the Off-The-Map community have been a huge blessing to me and mine over the last several years. I am quite confident this will continue. OTM is in the process of developing a new leadership team.

It was such a breath of fresh air to be amongst such a bright, energetic, visionary group of people. The future is bright for OTM and ….it will be different.

The concept of “Nice” came up in conversation and I told Tim I would share a few of my my favorite quotes about the term:

Niceness – wholesome, integrated personality – is an excellent thing. We must try by every medical, educational, economic and political means in our power to produce a world where as many people as possible grow up ‘nice;’ just as we must try to produce a world where all have plenty to eat. But we must not suppose that even if we succeeded in making everyone nice we should have saved their souls. A world of nice people, content in their own niceness, looking no further, turned away from God, would be just as desperately in need of salvation as a miserable world – and might even be more difficult to save.“(1)

“Jesus offers no “cheap grace.”  He does not call you to be a nice believer.  He calls you to committed discipleship.” (2)

“The moment God is figured out with nice, neat lines and definitions, we are no longer dealing with God. We are dealing with somebody we made up. And if we made him up, then we are in control.” (3)

“We must therefore not be surprised if we find among Christians some people who are still nasty. There is even, when you come to think it over, a reason why nasty people might be expected to turn to Christ in greater numbers than nice ones. That was what people objected to about Christ during His life on earth: He seemed to attract ‘such awful people.’ That is what people still object to and always will.” (4)

The concept of counting came up as well. It reminded me of this quote from Charles Handy:

“The first step is to measure whatever can be easily counted. This is OK as far as it goes. The second step is to disregard that which can’t be easily measured or to give it an arbitrary quantitative value. This is artificial and misleading. The third step is to presume that which can’t be measured easily really isn’t important. This is blindness. The fourth step is to say that which can’t be easily measured really doesn’t exist. This is suicide.” (5)

I am looking forward to receiving Todd’s new book, Christianity Beyond Belief – Following Jesus For The Sake of Others.

I am going to continue to count on the nice, kind, smart folks in the Off-The-Map community to continue to count in my life. Perhaps, you’ll consider exploring the same.

Thanks for including me in this forum.

Bill

NOTES

(1) C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, HarperSanFrancisco – A Division of HarperCollinsPublishers, (c) 1952,

(2) Campolo, Tony.  You can make a Difference-High voltage Living in a Burned out world, W Publishing Group Nashville, TN Copyright © 1984 by Anthony Campolo, P.6

(3) Bell, Rob Velvet Elvis-Repainting The Christian Faith, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI Copyright © 2005 by Rob Bell, p.25

(4) C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, HarperSanFranciscoA Division of HarperCollinsPublishers, (c) 1942, p. 213

(5) Handy, Charles The Age of Paradox Harvard Business School Press © 1994 p. 221

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