All In: Combating the False Dilemma
There is an ever-growing tendency in our society to adopt either/or positions. This either/or scenario is often referred to as a false dilemma because it suggests only two options are available when, in fact, there is at least one additional possibility. People trapped in the false dilemma fog believe that if they are in favor of A, then they must be against B. If they don’t believe in X, then they must believe wholeheartedly in Y. Here are a few examples of this type of thinking.
This tendency worries me. I believe it is having a negative effect on an individual’s sense of balance, as well as that of the entire community, state and nation. While there are some issues that are limited to just two paths, the either/or model negates the reality that most issues are complicated; some solutions are imperfect; and some positions vary in shades of grey.
I am particularly concerned about the effects of the either/or false dilemma tendency on the social, psychological and cognitive development of children and adolescents. One educational issue I often hear debated is whether schools are primarily responsible for students’ mental health, or their academic progress. The answer is that we are responsible for both. There is no either/or. The real question is the degree of responsibility school has for each one. How do we successfully balance the two so students thrive?
Supporting the physical, social and psychological well-being of students is critical to learning. Simultaneously, equity in opportunity and access to rigorous programming with high levels of learning for all students is the essential purpose of our school system. This excerpt from a post by Dr. Lim Lai Cheng, an education blogger in Singapore, describes the necessary balance.
Enhancing positive experiences in schools is not a zero sum game. Schools or systems that promote well-being but undervalue excellence (academic or otherwise) will produce stagnation or students who underperform, while those that do little to promote well-being and instead overvalue the drive for success often end up with students and staff who are cynical or burnt-out. Schools that do neither produce languishing students who are neither happy nor performing.
Ultimately, when schools or systems focus on well-being and excellence, they will have thriving and flourishing individuals.
Across Montgomery County Public Schools, we are committed to the academic success and the physical, social and psychological well-being of our students. Each day, our educators are responsible for ensuring high-level rigor is present in every school and involves every student. These same educators are also responsible for student well-being—a necessary precursor for learning. An audit of our programs and events in these areas was done earlier this school year. The data from the audit indicate that while we are doing a great deal, there is inconsistency and unevenness across schools and school levels. Based on these findings, MCPS is creating a framework that will provide more consistency across schools, while allowing some autonomy to work within unique communities. The framework will also ensure that certain topics and needs, like suicide prevention programming, are addressed across all schools.
There is no false dilemma when it comes to learning and student well-being. We must ensure access, opportunity, engagement and excellence in learning are available for all students. And as always, all means all.
Good Read/Good Listen
As we all know, learning doesn’t stop when you become an adult. I am constantly learning about new ideas and exploring new perspectives. I do this through books, articles and podcasts. Each blog, I will share a few of the most interesting ones with you. Some have made me ask questions, some have irritated me; others have made me smile or frown. I hope they make you think critically and open doors to new information and ideas.