Guardians of Tradition Shun Inventiveness

Politic skirmishes are the visible signs but there is cultural value system at work in education best described as the Guardian Syndrome by Jane Jacobs in Systems of Survival. Now common in public delivery systems, the Machiavellian Guardian Syndrome is based on loyalty and hierarchy, it “shuns trading” and adheres to tradition. The alternative commercial system values competition, initiative and inventiveness.
Efforts to inject values of commerce are attacked as privatization. They occasionally include private management of schools, but in most cases they are nonprofit organizations–TFA, New Schools, KIPP–operating with values foreign and threatening to Guardians.
The Internet doesn’t conform well to Guardian protocols; it is by nature open to “inventiveness and novelty.” This explains some of the resistance to online learning; it just doesn’t fit the boundaries of tradition and the practices of the past.

Guardian Syndrome Commerce Syndrome
Shun trading Shun force
Expert prowess Be efficient
Adhere to tradition Be open to inventiveness & novelty
Respect hierarchy Use initiative & enterprise
Be loyal Come to voluntary agreements
Dispense largesse Invest for productive purposes
Be exclusive Collaborative easily with strangers & aliens
Be fatalistic Be optimistic
Treasure honor Be honest

An effective 21st century public delivery system needs the values on the right side of the list; that doesn’t imply private but it does demand responsive.
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Tom Vander Ark

Tom Vander Ark is the CEO of Getting Smart. He has written or co-authored more than 50 books and papers including Getting Smart, Smart Cities, Smart Parents, Better Together, The Power of Place and Difference Making. He served as a public school superintendent and the first Executive Director of Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

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