Thursday, June 27, 2013

Google and the NWP - Two Approaches to Risk

Yesterday, with DOMA struck down I found a lot of celebration online. I was taken by a celebration page by Google. Type "gay marriage" into a Google search and the search box turns rainbow colors. I posted about it and a guy responded that he couldn't understand why a business would get involved in controversy. Businesses, he implied, are about making money so they don't offend anyone who is or might be a customer. Google doesn't follow that model. They go beyond the traditional model of trying not to bother anyone and instead work to make things as good as they can for the people who use their services. They're more concerned with what is right than what is safe. I belong to two organizations, my school and the National Writing Project that ought to follow Google's lead.

DOMA was bad news and had to go. Google's mantra is "don't be evil." Turning a blind eye to discrimination is evil. Companies had to be forced to realize this in South Africa, the Food Network realized this with Paula Deen, and Google realized this early with gay discrimination.

I like the idea of an organization that isn't looking over its shoulder. Some say that Google has the luxury of being a behemoth, but there are plenty of behemoth companies that don't stand up for what's right. Any organization can choose to take a stand.

I'm a member of the National Writing Project (NWP), a network of teacher leaders across the country. The project was federally funded until the Obama Administration and exists on grants now. At the time we were being defunded, the Common Core and its standardized testing were being pushed at schools. The NWP should have been at the forefront of opposition, but tried to follow the money connected with this tripe. It didn't work out.

I'm also a public school teacher and hear each day from administrators that although the new plans are killing teaching and learning, we can't fight them because our funding is tied to going along. That's not working out either.

Going against your values to make a few bucks or feel safe is a road to disaster. Going out on a limb to do the right thing may also turn to disaster, but it's a better disaster and can also turn into a big win. Organizations decide which risks to take. It's more interesting, fulfilling, and soul-satisfying to take good-cause risks. Soul-satisfaction might sound like bad fiscal policy, but courage is the best way forward.

The National Writing Project could come back from the dead. I hope it will. But it has to stand for something other than saving its funding. Its leaders should do a Google search for "gay marriage" and see how leadership is done.

Maybe NWP leaders really believe in the Common Core and the testing (can't have one without the other). If so, we can graciously part ways. That kind of organization doesn't need me as a member. I won't even hold a grudge since my school is never going to have the courage to do the right thing and I'm still there, for the time being, collecting a paycheck.

If, however, the National Writing Project wants to lead in the Google way rather than simply following the money, then then I'm ready to write on.