It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness,
it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair,
we had everything before us, we had nothing before us,
we were all going direct to heaven,
we were all going direct the other way
How often have these lines from the Dickens classic “A Tale of Two Cities” been referenced in various posts? Too often they have been presented as a dichotomy that leaves the reader to believe the world can always be easily divided into the either/or, black/white, yes/no choices. As we head into 2013, I’m committed to expanding my options. I want to leave behind what Collins referred to as the “Tyranny of the OR” which he defined as “The rational view that cannot easily accept paradox, that cannot live with two seemingly contradictory forces or ideas at the same time. This pushes people to believe that things must be either A or B, but not both. It focuses on the Dickens allusions above leaving folks to craft resolutions, reflect on the bad year they just experienced, and hope for better days in the upcoming year.
There is more to the Dickens lines that don’t get the same reference level. The rest of the passage reads:
in short, the period was so far like the present period,
that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received,
for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
This speaks to the notion that many of our actions are driven by the choices we make in response to our view of the situation. We don’t see the world the way it is we see the world the way we are. Collins alternative option is to embrace what he called the “Genius of the AND” which he defined as “the ability to embrace both extremes of a number of dimensions at the same time.” Instead of choosing between A or B, individuals figure out a way to have both A and B.
Educators work in a world where it seems that dichotomous choices must be made - change or stability, extrinsic or intrinsic, academics or behavior, high standards or success for all. As the New Year unfolds, let’s challenge each other in our schools, in our PLNs, in our communities to stretch beyond the OR and embrace the AND. Let’s be conscious of the choices we make and keep in mind this John Wooden quote:
There is a choice you have to make,
In everything you do.
So keep in mind that in the end,
The choice you make, makes you.
In this time of reflection AND anticipation let’s also remember that reflection turns experience into insight.