Friday, February 21, 2014

Have we created a system that encourages us to be liars?

In an interesting reflection in the New York Times Dr. Sandeep Jauhar says:

The doctor-patient relationship is ideally an intimate partnership 
where information is exchanged openly and honestly. 
That is seldom the reality, however.  

He identifies the variety of lies and deceptions that are either accepted or tolerated:

  1. Lies that patients tell doctor
  2. Lies doctors tell patients
  3. Lies doctors tell themselves
As I read this article I thought about schools. 

Have we created a system that encourages lying?

We have a variety of relationships in education. Student and teacher - clearly the most important relationship. But we also have the parent and teacher, teacher and teacher, teacher and administrator, administrator and Superintendent, Superintendent and the Board of Education, and the district and the community.

For these relationships to flourish, there must be, as Dr. Jauhar suggests, a "partnership where information is exchanged openly and honestly." 

I have been in every one of these relationships. Creating an honest relationship is difficult. In each relationship there comes a point and a time where deception, while not warranted, is considered and often becomes a tool that is used.

Harsh? Too pointed?


A Superintendent is evaluated by the Board of Education. How honest should the Superintendent be? If student achievement is trending down, does the Superintendent identify it clearly or does the Superintendent paint a picture that deflects and shifts responsibility to others - staff, parents, lack of community support?

A parent asks about her child's performance. How honest should the teacher be? The data suggests that the student needs additional focused assistance. Does the teacher make the case or soft-pedal it?

A principal evaluates a teacher. The teacher needs improvement. How honest should the principal be? The principal knows the teacher has had a difficult year. Is the context important?

A teacher grades a test. The student fails. Does the teacher have a conversation with the student? Does the teacher clearly identify her concern? How honest should the teacher be? Does the teacher begin to consider what the parent will say? Does the teacher begin to consider what the principal will say?

Dr. Jauhar concludes his article with these words:

In the end, we all practice a certain amount of self-deception. 

But when it originates in the doctor-patient dyad, 
patients are usually the worst victims.

The same words could be used for the relationships in education. Self-deception hurts us all. but it hurts the students most. 

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