Review of Dumbing us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling

I’ve been wanting to read Dumbing us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling by John Taylor Gatto for several years. I’d come across it when I first started teaching and had looked into a number of critical pedagogy books to inform my teaching practice. I picked it up now that I’m returning to teaching a public high school as a refresher to all those books by Paulo Freire and Ivan Illich. I’d not paid close enough attention and what I’d expected to be a more empirical approach to looking at different manners in which there is consciousness raising manners in which to teach in the class room instead got a collection of speeches lengthened into articles. After having read the author’s I’d previously mentioned, I wasn’t that impressed. Rather than what I didn’t like, however, I’ll start with what I did like.

As a criticism of mass schooling on the industrial model, Gatto’s is pretty typical. Students become alienated through the school institution. They don’t learn things that will often help them in real life, they aren’t able to follow paths that interest them, the bell schedule is structured so that they feel that little is worth devoting a significant amount of time to, the learn to value themselves based upon an external authority, they learn intellectual dependency, they learn no real personal or spiritual values other than submission to the state, the learn disconnection from the community.

While a lot of these criticisms are true, the age of the books printing doesn’t address the fact that many new Federal government initiatives have addressed some of these by encouraging project, problem and inquiry based learning methods related to Common Core. In this, the book is dated. The teaching of mindfulness practices and emotional intelligence methods for dealing with problems is another area the book is silent upon. Overlooking this, however, I think the book is on point. There is a great need for student’s learning to be connected to their immediate needs and community. Gatto’s focus on the all-positive family, however, rings hollow from my own experience. When previously teaching in public schools the level of involvement was low and the anecdotes that I heard between kids in the hallways was not all that encouraging as to the types of acculturation that they were receiving at home. And this is in large part the turn towards the thrust of my criticism.

What I didn’t like was Gatto’s right-libertarian, anti-school union bent of the author’s suggestions. In this regard the success of the book and the paid public speaking gigs he refers to gets cast in a different light. It’s because his critique is aligned with the assault against public school unions and the pro-charter/homeschool movement. Thus while I think that his congregational approach to teaching, wherein students act as the market demanders for the subjects that they want to learn, I also feels that it does a disservice to “professional” educators. I agree that a certain degree of professional experience or personal devotion to a subject qualifies someone with the content knowledge to teach is does not always grant them the methods for successfully conveying this information to students. This stems from the fact that typically after people have mastered a number of elementary skills they have difficulty conveying the steps that they took to learn them. Gatto’s libertarian perspective thus, also, isolates and dehistoricizes the students/parents he speak of. He claims that a number of American economic illnesses stem from industrial American education rather than the specific dictates of capitalism. This is something that is addresses in limited detail, but it underlies all of his opinions. All in all I enjoyed reading it, but if someone was interested in the same content dealt with in greater depth Illich and Freire are who to look to.

Wisdom of the Day

While attending a meeting wherein three presenters pitched two different journalistic projects that were seeking new submissions, a young man asked the following question: “If we don’t have an writing in that style, what should we submit?”

This is the mentality of the uncommitted and undeserving. Write a piece aligned with the theme of the journal and worthy of being published by the outlet and submit that! The time spent on it at worst an exercise and at best the start of a new game!

The Secret of Embodiment’s Role in Achieving Your Goals

Since the publication of The Secret in 2006, the Laws of Attraction have gained currency amongst many that have sought to bring increased intentionality and positivity to their lives. In helping people to realize that they are not trapped by habit and history in whatever situation they are in it has been phenomenal. However what is missing from such admonitions to change your life is that thinking is merely a first step. It is not enough to merely THINK about what you want to get, you must wholly EMBODY that desire if you want to achieve it. Your body is your unconscious mind and if it is not fully committed to your intention in its core you will have inner conflict that causes attention to be disrupted by the doubtful or opposing intention or thought. The unconscious mind/body is like an iceberg: most of it is beneath the surface. As every thought creates a biological reaction when the body and emotions are not fully aligned then the bodies three brains sends out mixed messages and creates confusion. Neuroscience has clearly demonstrated the importance of the body/mind/emotion alignment for generating strength and focus. This is why it is important to remove and release any opposing thoughts and feelings as they biologically and mentally sabotage success.

To make an analogy, if like-attracts-like is the Law as it is written, than your body’s embodiment of those desires are the enforcers of those desires. Your body can either express a strong, muscular desire or a weak, flabby one. The law can either be followed so that order is maintained or an arbitrary and unjust rule will reign over your actions. As it relates to developing attentiveness, you are likely now wondering which embodiment is most effective for your obtaining your goals. The answer is multi-faceted and depends on what your intention is.

First, you need to have a clear vision of what you really want in a situation. Determine what it is you desire and then write down what steps you need to take in order to obtain it. This reminds you of what needs to be done and allows you to cross them off the paper when you’ve completed a step so you can see that you are progressing towards your goal.

Second, you need to determine the intensity level of your intentions through self-calibration to evaluate which embodiment will be most effective to fulfill each task. Let me give two examples of what I mean. If your intention is to relax at the beach on your vacation, you don’t want to be standing in a rigid position. If you have encountered an immanent threat, you don’t want to lay down. Self-calibration isn’t limited to just yourself, also consider your social and professional network to help you determine what barriers you might encounter. If you don’t have support you can count on, think about how you might be able to get some.

You also want to learn to be able to rapidly adjust to any situation, as they may change during your quest to obtain your goal. Embody a position of strength, but also flexibility. Regardless of external conditions, the collapsed embodiment of an apathetic person destroys attentiveness just as the puffed up embodiment of an enraged individual or the rigid embodiment of a frightened individual causes imbalance and weakens the ability to focus. An attentive embodiment is a strong physical and emotional structure abiding in peace, presence and is congruent to the existent conditions.

Third you want to bring into your awareness any negative inner dialogues you have concerning your desire. A fear of failure because of earlier failed attempts, a feeling you are inadequate and unworthy to reach your goal or a sense of guilt you still carry from hurting others to get what you wanted, all must be acknowledged and forgiven before your core power is totally focused.

Lastly you need to continually self-calibrate. How you feel in each moment allows you to make small adjustments to keep yourself centered. Just like a car, you need to be aware of your fuel and water level, your temperature and speed as otherwise friction and heat can lead to malfunction. To do this you need to have excellent self-communication skills. These helps you manage your internal impulses while maintaining the ability to interact with others in a peaceful connecting way. Inner awareness also helps you establish mutual interests. Self-sensing of your body, emotions, attitude and spatial feelings provide a present time feedback mechanism to direct and guide your thinking, decisions and actions. When not calibrated to your body you live in the virtual world of your mind. You become caught in idolized pictures of perfection, unfulfilled desires and fears. Your goal is to live life with confidence and focus and not to get caught living a virtual existence solely in thoughts. Thinking and imagining certainly have their place, but being present to experience the magnificent diversity of life is far more enjoyable and satisfying.

On Communication and Intention

Intention is embodied in the unconscious mind/body and through the tone used during a communication. When speaking from the ego we often concentrate on the words used as being most significant aspect of a communication. However it is the body’s position and gesticulations, the facial movements and the tone of voice that represent eighty five percent of the message. Most speakers don’t haven’t a clue of the significance of these other aspects and ignore their importance at their peril. This is because confusion can be created when body language says one thing, tone something different and the words another story all together.

Such inconsistency is at the root of many difficulties in relationships. When there are unrecognized conflicts between these essential elements it becomes difficult to determine which message is the one that is actually intended to be conveyed. Effective communication, however, is consistent in each aspect of what is expressed. You may find it very instructive to have someone video some of your interactions when you aren’t aware you are being taped, so you can see first hand the mixed messages you may be sending. This, however, isn’t practical so instead a simple formula to ensure good communication is as follows: it is the responsibility of the originator to ensure their intention is fully comprehended.

That the meaning of a communication is the response the originator receives is not a truth with a wide currency, but it is one that once adopted will drastically improve your communication abilities. If, for instance, after expressing yourself the recipient reacts in a way contrary to the intention of the communicationyou can pause, apologize and acknowledge that a miscommunication transpired so as to restart the cycle of exchange.

One of the reasons why this rule for communication is so effective is that it recognizes that all people’s understanding of language, verbal or corporeal, is inflected by their perceptions, beliefs, wishes, judgments and experience. You might not like their response – as you want it to be in accord with your beliefs, wishes, judgments and experience, but this is a condition that is destined to fail as people are always right from their own perspective! As such it is important to abide by a principle for communication that is less concerned about asserting one’s correctness with it’s cost of disconnection, but one that engenders connection and mutual comprehension.

Another effective communication principle is to take nothing personally. When you honor their perception and respect it, connection is maintained. Change your posture, tone and volume was that lead to the miscommunication and try again in a different manner. Whisper, smile, be gentle as if you were holding a newborn baby in your hands! If your recipient perceives your body language as threatening, your tone as condescending or your volume as angry, they might not really be “there”. These types of transmissions send people into a defensive mode to take personally everything you said. Remember, most people have experienced being yelled at, scolded, or berated at least once in their lives. Until healed, these emotionally charged memories can get triggered by any emotional experience that has any type of similar qualities in it. When a speaker raises their voice or gives a nasty look, many unconsciously regress to a time in their childhood when they were punished or felt threatened. This withdraws attention from the here and now and has them act from there and then! Once you improve your ability to get across what you really intend you develop a better rapport with people. Whatever the specific conditions causing the miscommunication, patience and mindfulness of these principles will help you undo them.

Notes from the Global Leadership Summit

So this weekend I attended the Global Leadership Summit at Palm Beach Community Church. This event brings together a wide range of noted business, church, government and social leaders at the Willow Creek theatre and is then broadcast simultaneously throughout the globe to different viewing locations.

On Friday Susan Cain and Patrick Lencioni spoke and both of them presented what I would consider to be variations of the speeches that gave at the World Leadership Conference. Bryan Loritts, however, was new to me and I found his speech on instigating change through personal sacrifice to be a highly thoughtful meditation on the manner in which the minor alteration of certain habits and beliefs can bring about large changes in our lives. He gave examples of how it is that our being accustomed to be in a decision making position can sometimes lead us to overestimate our perspective at the expense of others. Loritts framed this within an explicitly Christian context. He said that our attachments to aspects of our perspective must be abandoned to better exemplify our beliefs in the eternal oneness of humanity. A series of general prohibitions, which reminded me of the better aspects of Catholicism, followed with illustrations how such attachments can bring about poor dynamics in an organization. The examples that he gave were all related to the modern workplace and made me think about a conversation I recently had with Steve DeMoss, founder of Word in Deed ministries.

Over dinner he’d described the need for the values educations found in missionary work as often times in the places of dire poverty that he did mission work in Africa the moral reasoning which was prevalent was so short-term that workers would, for example, sooner steal goods to pawn for an equivalent of a months pay made in a day rather than work daily for weekly wages. Getting back on track, this long time, eternal orientation was one not devoid of attachments but aware of their operation on the spirit – a compelling imperative for the self to live by indeed! Carly Fiorina’s perspective on the manner in which it is important to use multiple markers for assessing performance and its relationship to continuous, successful innovation were some of the primary characteristics of a successful leader. Her role as the president of HP certainly gives her message an import based not solely on research but also on practical application.

On Saturday I especially liked the first featured presenter, Joseph Grenney, author of the book Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes are High. Crucial conversations are those defined by their having high stakes, opposing opinions and strong emotions. Indeed the health of an organization is the degree to which certain subjects are wholly taboo or limited in such a scope that it prevents real positive adaptation. Grenney pointed out how often when people are forced to engage in such crucial conversations they often fare poorly. This type of aversion should be avoided, however, as people that are unable to talk it out will often act it out and because it can generally negatively affect the behavior at the workplace. Crucial conversation need not to be see too much as a contest amongst conflicting positions, but a trust-building accelerant to intimacy and better organizational efficiency. To make sure that the conversations are candid, organizations need to make sure that people are safe. The ingredients of safety are the recognition of mutual purpose, mutual respect and mutual movement forward. By recalling this alignment of current intentions, value for each other and agreement on how things will go into the future organizations are able to set up a smooth pattern for how interactions will be in the future.

I was less impressed with Erica Ariel Fox, author of Winning from Within: A Breakthrough Method for Leading, Living, and Lasting Change. The speech seemed to drag with unfunny jokes and anecdotes that were too long for the point that they were trying to convey. She did, however, speak of two things that I found rewarding. The first of these are performance gaps, or the space between people’s potential and their actual behavior and how it was the quality of a great leader to be able to identify them and work with people to close them. What precisely this form of measurement is she didn’t go into great detail about, but as someone that’s been lately learning about life coaching and psychoanalysis for personal and professional growth and development it didn’t bother me that much. The second point that she made is how biochemically our brains are more like an orchestra than a soloist. According to her we have four major internal forces/spirits; The Dreamer, The Thinker, The Lover and The Warrior. We also have a number of minor roles, but she didn’t delve into this instead talking about the four major roles. The Dreamer is the creator of possibilities that sets strategic vision, the Thinker analyses data and clarifies perspective, the Lover manages relationships and feels emotions while the Warrior catalyzes performance, takes action, speaks truth and helps reach goals. Worth noting is how I see a certain similarity to the work of Carolynn Myss, and other Eastern inspired psychologists such as C. G. Jung, that also sees a benefit in fixation upon certain recurrent characters found in an archetypal form. This is worth talking about more, but not here and now.

Later came Don Flow, who also kind of ambled his way through his speech. He seemed to me to be exhibiting a loving swagger that was perhaps fitting for those that knew him but didn’t particularly translate well for me. That said, I did really like his thoughts on love and serving. Living love means that we are called to be with people while to serve mean to display Self-Respect, Earn Trust, Reach for Perfection, Value input and Energize others. To me this is a great little acronym and mnemonic device in order to recall those components. All in all I had a great time there, am grateful that I was able to attend and look forward to being in situations where I can put this knowledge to practice.

Notes on Motivational Interviewing CEU

On the invitation of the owner of Peace of Mind Counseling, a fellow student at FICAM, I went to the impeccably planned, informative, well attended and deliciously catered CEU session held at Casa Tequila Mexican Cuisine on June 20th. While there I networked with other mental health professionals and listened to Mary T. Curtis speak about Motivational Interviewing. While the communication principles found in her presentation was primarily for those in the field of mental health counselors, they are also applicable to a number of other formalized relationships. Translated to the discourse of effective management, for instance, it’s a form of interaction and communication effective in instilling a convivial relationship that encourages long-term partnership.
Mary first had us explore some of the intrinsic and extrinsic motivations for personal changes that we’d made in the past. By exploring the risks we perceived we were making by committing to change, examining the struggles that we had with it, and identifying the various resource used in order to get there she pointed out how it was the job of counselors to be know these tracks and patterns as they relate to change and be able to assist clients. Mary then outlined out the cycle of self-transformative change. The cycle – precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action and maintenance – was not made from air but emerged from the research of Dr.’s Prochaska and DiClemente.
Based upon the research contained therein, Curtis presented five distinct communication principles to follow in order to master the art of motivational interviewing.

1. Express sympathy.
2. Support self-sufficiency.
3. Create discrepancy in expressed intentions and actions.
4. Avoid arguments.
5. Roll with resistance.

Each of the five principles could easily make up a long essay. Summarized into a few sentences, however, they could be expanded as follows. First, have all of your attention and capabilities be devoted to the person across from you in such a manner that it’s clear your intent to assist them. Relate to their struggle to get better, but do not feel bad for them over the poor decisions they’ve made. Create and maintain rapport or the rest isn’t possible. Secondly, encourage efforts through praise when appropriate and make sure to provide directions in the form of leading questions as much as possible. This oblique form of direction will assist the transformation of their thought processes. Thirdly, through the aforementioned questioning process, don’t just inquire on actions but underlying motivations. Doing so will lead to the most significant changes. Fourth, one of the reasons which arguments occur is from the breaking of affinity. If and when this occurs use linguistic Aikido so that their resistance transforms into transference. The fifth principle refers to the fact that until the new habits are incorporated into the daily life there will exist a split of sorts in the interviewee’s personality and the better angels of their nature should be appealed to. Using their own spoken phrases as much as possible to restate the goals they’ve already voiced and their own assessments is the optimal way to interview them.

As is clear from the above, motivational interviewing is not merely an other-directed practice but one that requires a great deal of self-confidence to be able to accomplish the above practices without coming off as wooden or scripted. Embodying qualities of empathy, compassion, collaboration, commitment, willingness and acceptance are also key MI components. One must do this as expressing too much upset or disappointment over a violation of a stated goal breaks rapport. Instead help them self-search as to the causes to their failure and imagine how they could go act next time if placed in a similar situation. One’s role in the motivational interviewing process is supposed to engender feelings of Autonomy, Collaboration and Evocation. Encouraging ACE to develop in them means that they will learn to better self-discipline.

It is our ability to propel and direct ourselves into the future that determines where we go in life. Since counselors and managers are navigating the future together on a bark of sorts with their clients or employees, those leading must use OARS as one of their strategies for direction. OARS is an guiding strategy for meetings between clients or employees that encourages the growth of skills rather mere directive comments which engenders agency dependency. OARS consists of Open-ended Questions, Affirmations, Reflections and Summaries. These are the linguistic forms used to encourage ACE. Some examples of these are as follows:

Open Ended Questions

“What do you think are the main goals that we need to accomplish today?”
“What are your motivations for the cessation of your habit of __________?”
“What is preventing you for accomplishing your goals right now?”
“How would you rate your level of withitness today? Is there something that you can do to quickly raise your state of presence?”

Affirmations

“You should be proud of the fact that just last week it took you ___ amount of time and that now you can do it in less.”

“It looks to me by the way you are holding yourself in that you’re in a good mood. Did the _____ thing I suggested to do when face with _____ help?”

“Based upon the story you shared with me I can really see your commitment to _____.”

“You are doing excellent work.”

“You ability to take directions has markedly increased!”

Reflections

“Do you realize that your continuing to do _______ is in opposition to your statement that you want to stop?

“Do you realize that your continuing to do _______ is in opposition to the previous directions I gave you?

“Were you really doing your best on this project, or were you distracted by something?”

“When you saw that your abilities were not sufficient to complete the task, why didn’t you ask _______ or myself for assistance?”

Summaries

“It seems to me from what you’re saying is that the reason you began doing _________, which you no longer want to do, is because of __________. If you were to stick with instead of shirking the protocols that I gave you, your repetition compulsion would no longer be a problem. What needs to happen to get you to do such?”

“In what you shared with me you presented a very good manner for dealing with ________ that we’ve never discussed before. I think that you’re able to approach those triggers with novel solutions really indicates how committed you are to making that change.”

“Now everyone, before we close this gathering let’s just run down the tasks. A is doing this, B is doing this, C is doing this, and I am doing this. Any questions, you know where I’ll be!”

“Today we covered a lot of ground and I’m certain that once you leave our shared space you will maintain the strength you’ve shown here.”

 

These, which when combined can be said to be the concretization of Desire, Ability, Reason, and Need for change will lead to that change when a plan is set in place. To learn more, you can also download the accompanying Powerpoint here.

Notes from the World Leader Conference

So this past weekend I was lucky enough to be able to attend the World Leaders Conference as my mother was a volunteer. The speakers there included Martin Sheen, Ken Blanchard, Marcus Buckingham, Henry Cloud, Martin Luther King III, Susan Cain, Erwin McManus, Patrick Lencioni,Craig Groeschel, Katty Kay, H. Wayne Huizenga, Jr., Mark Floyd, Jon Gordon, Charles Duhigg, James Blanchard, Adam Grant and Ray Titus. Most of the speakers were excellent and demonstrated clear mastery of their specializations though some of them, such as Jim Blanchard and Henry Cloud lacked the personality, polish and poise one would expect to be on the lecture circuit. Though purchasing their books is likely the best way to obtain the wealth of information the presented on leadership, group dynamics, habits and culture, I wanted to catalog and share what I felt to be some of the best material.

Marcus Buckingham, author of Now, Discover Your Strengths: How to Develop Your Talents and Those of the People You Manage and StandOut: The Groundbreaking New Strengths Assessment from the Leader of the Strengths Revolution, first pointed out the rather simple but oft forgotten fact that within a particular enterprise there is often no one corporate culture but many of them. To give an example of how they differed from place to place he pointed out the Starbucks example and how their approach has helped out many of their employees that typically lacked the educations and family support structure to gain the inter-personal skills that would best serve them for upward mobility. As a former partner myself I was able to relate to what he meant though I am somewhat cynical to his claim that this is strictly for altruistic purposes. He continued by exploring the results of his quantitative work in determining what the cause was for variations in performance and concluded that there were three basic issues that explain it. If someone does not have the chance to do what they do best everyday, if someone doesn’t know what’s expected of them and don’t feel that their colleagues are committed to quality work than their on the job performance will decline. Lacking this key factor removes the sense of serious purposefulness to best work.

After pointing out how the regional executives and managers need to be in contact with their individual branches, he then emphasized the importance of what was basically the Catholic doctrine of subsidiarity. Local managers should have a certain amount of freedom to adjust the general operating framework in a way that they see as best as it will allow them to adapt to the actually existing circumstances. He stated that the best team leaders were those that checked in once a week with their workers only two questions: “What are you doing?” and “How can I help?”. The purpose of such actions is to make sure that expectations are expressed in real time and are able to be adjusted to aforementioned conditions.After this he went into an extended discussion on what he calls his nine strength roles – advisor, Connector, Creator, Influencer, Pioneer, Provider, Stimulator and Teacher. He spoke extensively on the individual qualities of each and those interested in learning more about this material should check out his website to learn more and take one of the self-tests. Buckingham repeatedly emphasized through examples that there is no one perfect leadership profile, only one that is able to fit a person’s individual personality strengths. By taking what is unique, refining it and making it useful one becomes a great leader. Buckingham’s examples of such different approaches to embodied company values included the Apple’s “Quality is beauty” motto in comparison to Facebook’s “Done is better than perfect.”

Though not in direct conversation with Buckingham, Patrick Lencioni’s presentation similarly detailed the cultural aspects of businesses. He was more interested in and spoke on the complicated means by which the success of a group can turn into dysfunction. Seemingly a distillation of his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable, he illustrated the dysfunctions that can occur within a team: absence of trust, unproductive conflict, lack of full commitment, insecure accountability and actions that don’t produce results. While presenting his case analysis of SouthWest Airlines, he pointed out that this was a successful enterprise because they were able to focus on every small aspect of their customers experience as they didn’t think that any detail was beneath them. He connected success to how it is that people behave that claimed that being healthy in a group was usually preferable to being smart. This was because, according to him, when a leader humbles himself and is able to view the operations from a subsidiary level they will engage with employees that are more willing to follow advice and orders and better able to view the holistic operation of the company.

Lencioni emphasized how it is that employees are the most important asset of a company and that creating networks of behavioral accountability will precede positive results. He stated that while quantitative indication of whether or not a businesses’ purpose is successful is of course important, long term continuation will best be maintained by qualitative means. For Lencioni, the behavioral accountability must be unwavering and apply to all levels, even junior executives, and should enforcement be particularistic then it will deplete morale by demonstrating that leaders are exempt from the rules. If such people are perceived to be invulnerable in the organization, all sorts dysfunction begins to manifest. Leaders, as should be apparent by the term itself, are to set the example that others are to follow and must be open to productive conflict with those inferior in the command structure. Such openness to criticism, such humbleness, is what it is that defines the form of servant-leadership which he propounds as the best form of leadership.

One of the four presenters whose work I was familiar with prior to the conference was Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking and someone who’d become somewhat of a social media phenomenon following the wide circulation of this TED talk. She built up on the theme that there’s no such thing as an optimal one size fits all environment. Her focus, however, was in relation to introverts and extroverts. After pointing out that these two two types are evident throughout the animal kingdom, ie in fish who swi towards a disturbance and those that will avoid it, she says that accommodating introverts is the new most important diversity issue. She based this finding upon research which shows that individuals often do better when brainstorming than in groups. Pointing to the Asch Conformity Experiments as a leveler of creative thinking, she states that when people bring what they’ve produced to a meeting it will be better than a single, group brainstorming meeting. Part of the accommodating for those that are introverts include businesses allowing introvert employees to take breaks when they feel it’s necessary to go on solo walks, meditate or even nap. These types of behaviors are encouraged by multiple teach leaders and despite expectations otherwise this has the effect of increasing productivity. This is because those that are in a state of equilibrium will always be the most effective, productive and passionate about their work – and successful work is always related to an expression of passion.

Another wonderful speaker, one that I was fortunate enough tolunch with, was Charles Duhigg, author of The Power of Habit. He continued to speak on business culture issues, though focusing more on how habits are the true form of culture – a statement already familiar to Aristotelians and Hegelians. He gave multiple examples of how when people get into the grip of a habit the brain literally slows down. It stops functioning in as creative and innovative a manner and merely “get’s into the grooves”. The most important types of habits are what he called keystone habits, ie those habits which communicate a specific self-image until to do otherwise feels alien. Proclaiming that will-power is the single greatest correlate for future success, he said that it’s important to connect the successful completion of actions to a system of emotionally-significant rewards. These rewards are part of the habit loop of cue -> routine -> reward and that lacking them it is difficult for individual or social will to continue. As Dr. Martin Luther King III was there, he used the example of the daily meetings held in the churches of Montgomery during the boycott as an express of dedication to will and reward – social recognition for continued, collective determination.

One of the general themes that I found rewarding intellectually was the constant referent to servant leadership by the speakers. I first came across the notion in Bethany Moreton’s book To serve God and Wal-Mart: the Making of Christian Free Enterprise and have since read other academic articles on it. Most of the speakers referred to it directly or to certain aspects of it. Katty Kay, author of Womenomics, for instance encouraged women to push for workplace flexibility as a means of achieving personal fulfillment – albeit fulfillment strictly in relation to being a mother. She saw flexibility qua itself as something that’s good for business, an interesting claim considering the various attempts by trans-national European workers unions to fight against the imposed “flexicurity” programs. While I am able to see the benefits of such leadership as it incorporates multiple perspective and thus allows for better management of business enterprises I don’t believe it’s wholly beneficial for most people. Considering the eight-hundred ticket of cost to get into such a conference, however, this wasn’t meant for most people but the local West Palm Beach elite and those international oriented that were able to make it (For example, I met ands spoke with the man who represented the executive of ToTo’s American and Brazilian enterprise). Continuing with my example from Kay, for instance, most women do not have the bargaining position in the workplace to obtain favorable changes in scheduling to give you more “family time”. It’s fantasy, unless there is collective action across various work sectors, to presume that businesses will take these considerations seriously. The servant leader is still in the organizational structure of the enterprise, the boss just as the partner, the associate or any other name you want to give the person is the employee that must alienate his spirit to fitful the will of the boss. This, per se, isn’t something bad but I find it disingenuous when someone such as Ken Blanchard states that “Today’s leaders much be partners with their people…” during an epoch that has seen wealth increasingly divide. To qualify this line of criticism, this is not to say that the material presented is in any way bad, not effective, or anything but good leadership craft – merely to emphasize the flip side of such an ideology in a broader degree of abstraction such that is applies to more people. Put in more poetic terms, if the leadership is considered a servant in such an ideology, what then are the workers considered?

Without directly confronting this issues and to a limited extent I felt that Martin Sheen’s closing speech addressed what I saw was this gap in the discussions presented. His speech also alighted upon culture, but more so upon the role that people have in the continuation and maintenance of a culture that can be considered vibrant and virtuous rather than one that is degenerate, focused solely upon the sensual gratification and distraction from the realities of daily life. While staying aligned with his personal life narrative, he deftly transitioned from personal to social truths and while not quite as electrifying as <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BzgVdX7FtS8>this speech was still quite powerful in that while it was directed to this privileged crowd it was also applicable to all. The universality of the message was a great way to end the Leadership conference as it pointed out that they could not be so without those that are led.