Wired‘s theme for April is all about radical transparency and how it plays out for business, but I couldn’t help reading it by what it might mean for education. I think one of the biggest pushes for schools with all of this is the whole idea that transparency can be a good thing. Yeah, it can be messy, and it’s going to make life more difficult from time to time. But the long term benefits are worth the short term problems.
Clive Thompson’s feature on “The See-Through CEO” challenges the traditional thinking about this in a number of ways. (Interestingly, he invited readers to help write the story by posting updates to his blog in the process.) And it’s a huge shift, this idea that “turning everyone into a partner in the process and inviting them” to poke around and complain in the open is a good idea. But as the article points out, many businesses, from Microsoft to Southwest Airlines to online shoe retailers I’ve never heard of are slowly (or in some cases quickly) pulling back the curtains and letting people inside with very positive results.
And so I’m wondering whether a “See-Through Superintendent” might play. I know some of the high-profile attempts at superintendent blogging have gone down in flames. But in schools, this would be more than just a blog. It would be a culture shift that would attempt to open both internal and external communications and build collaborative environments.
First, as the article implies, shouldn’t superintendents be working toward districts where “the more you know us the more you’ll like us” tenet applies? I mean, if we are being transparent in our work, in our decision making process, and we are sincere in our efforts to bring others into the conversation, our constituents will be more forgiving of those “everyday snafus.” And second, if we are communicating more and interacting more, we can actually gain leverage over those who may want to disrupt or disparage what we are trying to do, assuming, once again, that what we are trying to do is in the best interests of students.
Not to mention that at the heart of this is creating models for our students to look to and learn from.
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