"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Monday, May 02, 2011

Education and the Abilene Paradox: Why speaking out is important

Education may be more impacted than any other field by the "Abilene Paradox," the problem that arises when all or most members of a group disagree with a policy but go along with it because they think everybody else does.

'"Abilene' is the Texas city in the Abilene paradox. It refers to the retelling by (Jerry) Harvey of a lousy decision by his family. On a hot summer day, the family piled into a car without air conditioning and drove to Abilene to try a new diner. The heat was oppressive; the food was lousy. But no one dared to speak in those terms until later that night back home. Finally, the matriarch of the family broke the silence by complaining about the food. Then everyone chimed in with their complaint–the car was hot, it was stupid to try an unknown restaurant. It turns out that no one wanted to go in the first place, but no one said so when it mattered. Eventually, they all blamed the father for suggesting the drive."

From: http://www.workplacebullying.org/2009/04/17/abilene/

It may be the case that most or maybe even all of the staff at a school disagrees with the educational policy, but when nobody speaks out, people think they are the only ones who disagree.

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