But such actions do not comport with the underlying tenets of counterinsurgency doctrine.
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For example, engaging children is contrary to the advice given by David Kilcullen in "Twenty-eight Articles," the influential essay that established many of the fundamental principles of counterinsurgency. Kilcullen writes that to win over local families, foreign military forces should "engage the women, beware the children," because "children are sharp-eyed, lacking in empathy, and willing to commit atrocities their elders would shrink from.
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Polarities at their essence are unavoidable, unsolvable, unstoppable, and indestructible. Any time you treat a polarity as if it were a problem to solve, you get the downside of each pole — exactly as is happening right now in many places with the new teacher evaluation models. A few years ago, one could have said we were in a vicious cycle because of the overfocus on supporting teachers. Leveraging the wisdom of each pole could move toward the goal that the sides have in common: effective teachers in every classroom.
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Stakeholders need to recognize the valuable contributions of the other position. In such a meeting, we would first demonstrate that teacher evaluation involves a polarity.
A simple analogy — inhaling and exhaling — illustrates key points. Try it. Take a deep breath, hold it for as long as you can, and then breathe out.
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Then ask yourself: Which is better, inhaling or exhaling? Just as when you hold your breath, exhaling is seen as a solution, so years of an overfocus by the teaching profession on supporting teachers resulted in measuring teacher effectiveness being seen as a solution to problems within our education system. Seeing a polarity involves considering a few key questions:. The five steps are outlined in the table on p.
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Picture dividing the room into four quadrants, with each section representing the upside or downside of a pole, and a flip chart easel in each quadrant. Individuals walk to each quadrant, reading and adding items to each of the charts. Ideally, each stakeholder spends time articulating the values held by each pole the upside as well as the fears. The table on p.
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Can you see how the negative effects of overfocus on the left pole lower left quadrant in the table led to the upper right quadrant being seen as a solution? The pendulum swings will continue without honest conversations about values and fears. In fact, research into how we form our positions and opinions reveals the impact of confirmation bias — the tendency to only pay attention to information that reinforces the position we already hold.
The only truly effective method for overcoming these biases is to enter into deep dialogue with those who believe differently Haidt, This mapping process provides such an opportunity. However, the real power of polarity thinking comes from careful consideration of where the system is right now, how it got there, and what actions can help us get the upside rather than the downside of each pole.
Within each school, district, or state, difficulties and solutions will be slightly different. We can informally assess where we are by considering which quadrant best describes the current energy flow in the system. Or we can use a formal assessment, using results to form the right action steps and put energy into the right practices to leverage the polarity. A large school district, well into its first year of using its new teacher evaluation system, agreed to administer such a survey to instructional coaches, teacher evaluators, and curriculum coordinators.
The survey process developed by Polarity Partnerships gives an overall rating, a rating for how well the values and fears of each pole are being addressed, and ratings on individual questions. One can also compare different demographic groups. The survey included 12 questions, evenly divided to gather information on how well the values and fears of each pole were being addressed.
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Given the newness of the evaluation system, it was no surprise to see an overall score indicating that work is needed to leverage the evaluation and support sides of this polarity. Analyzing how different stakeholder groups answered questions pointed to specific difficulties. The assessing step provides clear information about whether the wisdom of both poles is being leveraged.
All the energy being invested in resisting or fighting can instead be directed toward finding action steps that promise to gain the upside of both poles. Some teacher evaluation models around the country already include positive ways to leverage the needs of both poles, including:.
There are many similar polarities in education, where overfocus on one side eventually brings on a policy swing: Think of the cycles of methods for reading instruction, emphasizing key knowledge or key practices within disciplines, or even how leadership is distributed. While the process takes time, the results can bring agreement where polarization existed, pinpoint the best allocation of resources, re-energize collaboration around mutual goals, and stop the policy swings that are inevitable when polarities are misdiagnosed as solvable problems.