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Cause Education [May. 14th, 2009|05:18 pm]
dalekboy
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[mood |quixoticquixotic]

This post has been brewing for a couple of years. It's not about any one of the many causes worth fighting for, it's not about or aimed at any one person, it hasn't been spurred on by any one event.

Abuse and accusations are not how you win people over to your way of thinking. Keeping your allies on the back-foot because you think they should know better does not help teach them how to better understand or present your side of an argument.

It's with good reason that there's only a handful of people I listen to when they talk about issues. They have earned my respect on the subjects, not just because of their knowledge, but the way they deal with the people they interact with.

Time and again I have heard some folks say that a person shouldn't be rewarded just for doing the right thing. It shouldn't be praiseworthy that you're doing what everyone should already be doing anyway.

I would agree with this, except for one major problem - that same person will often be actively punished the moment they take a wrong step. And if they make a point of saying, "But how about all these occasions where I've done it correctly?" they get abused for expecting praise for doing the right thing.

If someone offers you a drink because you're thirsty, do you not thank them? If someone offers you food, shelter, a hand carrying something heavy, just because it's the right thing to do, should they not be thanked? How is acknowledging someone who does the right thing a negative act?

"Well, when I do this stuff, no-one ever acknowledges it," isn't a reason, it's an excuse to indulge in equally poor behaviour. "Well when I do these things, I don't expect to get thanked." Well that's great, but chances are you're not being taught these things, either. You don't necessarily need the encouragement or support, don't need the affirmation that on this delicate issue, you're doing the right thing.

Acknowledging the ones who do it right helps to show them they're on the right track, and for those who don't understand the issues it's a pointer in the right direction. And that is a vital first step to changing minds - letting people see the behaviour that is valued and considered desirable.

If you saw someone teaching children, and they abused all those who didn't understand the subject, ignored the ones who did it right, and then attacked and belittled the good ones every time they made a mistake, would you think that person was doing a good job of teaching? At an almost instinctive level you would know that this is the wrong way to teach, that for every child successfully taught this way, there would be numerous ones where it was an abject failure.

Most people would rather avoid being taught the subject altogether, than cop the abuse.

Any cause you champion, puts you in the role of teacher. You're tying to undo social conditioning and thought processes that have probably been ingrained since childhood. You're trying to teach a point of view that is often alien to the student. Even if they think they understand the problem, they probably don't get most of the nuances and subtleties no matter how much they try, and many will be painfully aware of this.

You're not going to achieve your goals through impatience.

I'm not saying you can't be frustrated. I'm not saying you can't question what they meant in order to ascertain whether they were doing the wrong thing, or misspoke, or are merely confused and need a gentle nudge in the right direction. I'm not saying you can't get stuck into someone who is an arrogant bastard. But pick your battles, pick who deserves to be yelled at and who deserves a quiet, "Um, I think you might be mistaken..."

Never assume deliberate belligerence where a lack of knowledge, an honest mistake, a poor turn of phrase, or good old fashioned thoughtlessness could be the real cause of the error.

If you think you're going to fix people's thinking by abusing those who know no better, withholding acknowledgment from the people who do it right, and by aiming cheap shots at the promising students when they make a mistake, then you know as little about humanity as those you wish to educate.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: kateorman
2009-05-14 11:09 am (UTC)
Coincidentally, this morning I read this:

http://www.sunpig.com/abi/archives/2009/04/12/how_to_sour_a_community_in_one_easy_lesson/

Obviously it alludes to some off-stage conflict. Veeerrry possibly the same one you're alluding to. Personally, I don't want cookies and pats on the head, but I can do without being punched in the tits.
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[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2009-05-14 01:47 pm (UTC)
Didn't know about this, and there's no real off-stage thingy that has spurred it, beyond my grumpiness level having reached the point where I could write about this. This has been simmering away for years.

Of course the grumpiness and headache makes it very hard to write those thoughts coherently :)

I'm pretty much right with you RE: cookies and tit punching.
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[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2009-05-14 01:52 pm (UTC)
The main thing that spurred it was just idly thinking about positive reinforcement, and how incredibly effective it is at training. It's been noted as being equally effective at training animals and humans.

From there I thought about the people I've seen get totally reamed over something small, and how I've watched them turn nasty about that subject, where previously they were simply apathetic.

That's not an effective result for anyone.
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From: jblum
2009-05-14 11:47 am (UTC)
*Damn* well said!
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[User Picture]From: strangedave
2009-05-14 11:56 am (UTC)
Amen.

Thought like this have been brewing when I've been thinking about the online racism debate.
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[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2009-05-14 02:21 pm (UTC)
This wasn't about the racism debate, though naturally that is one of the many issues it can cover. And I know you knew that :)

I'm basically sick of seeing relatively good people who, based on their previous actions and posts, obviously believe in and actively support some of these important causes, and yet they have their every comment picked apart by people looking to trip them up.

And this is usually done by people who know them!

I'm also sick of everyone who doesn't understand a complex social problem being accused of being against it, or told that they can't understand it because of who they are.

The thing about any issue is that people need to be educated, not abused, told they're dumb, or that their life experience precludes empathy for another. Those reactions just mean that people who'd be willing to help, that would be willing to listen and try to learn, end up putting it in the too hard basket.
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[User Picture]From: capnoblivious
2009-05-14 12:04 pm (UTC)
Thanks for this.
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[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2009-05-14 02:24 pm (UTC)
The short term thinking of world leaders shits me to tears. Do these people not care about what a world we're leaving for future generations?
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[User Picture]From: mireille21
2009-05-14 02:57 pm (UTC)
Good rant. And not too far from a little rant I was having with a friend the other day, about how workplaces now seem to be *so* much about focussing on what people did poorly when it comes to the end of year appraisals and not acknowledgeing all the other frickin' brilliant stuff they've done. The 99-1 ratio. Who wants to go to work to be berated for the 1 thing they did poorly? And not the 99 things they did brilliantly?
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[User Picture]From: dalekboy
2009-05-14 11:37 pm (UTC)
Some workplaces, like a certain comic shop I used to work for, were always like that. People getting the job done right, rarely having that acknowledged but being told, "Now do it quicker."

Or like trying to tell the bosses again and again, that saying thank you to your staff for doing a good job was important, and getting the reply, "They get thanked every pay-day with a pay packet."

No, the pay packet is a legal and contractual obligation. Saying please and thank you to your staff is a social one.

Actually, the whole general kerfuffle that I'm reacting to smacks of, "See how easy it is?" syndrome. Someone is capable either through natural ability or years of experience, to do something quickly and accurately. And every time they are dealing with someone relatively new, or who has a different skill set, they keep harping at them and making the point that the task is incredibly easy, inferring that the person is either stupid, untalented, lazy, or all three.
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[User Picture]From: arcadiagt5
2009-05-15 03:07 am (UTC)
Bravo!

Although, um, I think you might be mistaken by classifying this as a rant.

Far too much logic, content, and good examples for it to be a rant. :)
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[User Picture]From: e_dan
2009-05-15 05:52 am (UTC)
Good series of points, cheers - Dan
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[User Picture]From: fuschia17
2009-05-17 07:48 am (UTC)
I am sorry, but I don't know much about this technomological stuff - I've accidentally posted an answer to aria flame twice, and I really wanted to say something in response to the cookies and tits comments.

What I wanted to say was this: traveling on the pt in Melbourne gives you good experience and refines your people watching skills.

Most people don't want the "there's a good doggie" routine, but by golly if someone goes out of their way for you they do 'expect' acknowledgement of at least a thankyou. Case in point while pregnant I always always always thanked people for offering their seat. No, it's not a huge heroic act, but in the context of being exhausted at the end of a working day it meant a lot. It was an opportunity to say - it means a lot, and usually being me, it's an opportunity to underline to all the rude people who didn't offer their seat (cause of course they were guiltily watching) that yes, it was a nice thing to do. (Ok, so I was using courtesy as a means of sticking my finger up at them - I am coloured grey.)

No, it's not a huge deal to say thankyou and to teach other people in the wider community that their deeds are watched. Maybe someone will pass on the thanks that wouldn't normally?
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[User Picture]From: jocko55
2009-05-20 10:55 am (UTC)
I am always amazed people don't get the please and thank you thing. Sometimes I will go out of my to say good morning to people. I like it, perhaps i do it for me, as much as them.
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