Words are rumors, Watch their feet

“Life is change, growth is optional, choose wisely.” Karen Kaiser Clark.

In the 90s, in a workshop, Angeles Arrien said, “Words are rumors, Watch their feet.” Not only have I not forgotten this, it has kept me out of trouble.  Yes, people have told me they will change, turn over a new leaf, and make a commitment to do better.  Nice to hear and maybe the first step.  However, without actions that align with a new commitment, nothing changes.

Actually, there is a change. A person’s credibility continues to decrease when others know what the person says is not believable or true.  The more the actions do not support the words, the less people will take words seriously.  Generally, people will just ignore that person and/or stay away from the person making commitments without follow-through.

I wrote a rule earlier, Build Trust or Become Toast which you might find pertinent.

https://learningomnivores.com/rules/build-trust-or-become-toast/    Some questions to think about:

  • How many lies or broken promises do you experience before you lose trust in someone?
  • Do you want to work for a leader who tells you it is raining, while they are pouring water on and in your shoes? (I cleaned up this metaphor)
  • Who do you trust to act in concert with their words? How are they trustworthy?

My next point is what I have heard for over forty years.  Education is our priority.  Bullfeathers!  Let me take you down memory lane.  In the 70s, education was going to be the number one priority because other countries were catching up with us and we were getting nervous.  I was young and teaching physics in 1970.  Then, the savings and loan crisis.  As I remember it was about a $70 billion dollar bail out.  So much for education.

Ah, the 80s, Nation at Risk, OMG we have to do something.  Then, the oil crisis emerged.  Billions went to increasing our acquisition of oil.  (Never mind that intellectual horsepower for solar, wind, etc. that could have helped). Al Shanker had a vision of creating charter schools within the public school system.  Schools didn’t respond but privatization exploded.  BTW do I have this correct, it is ok to privatize education and publicly finance pro sports? Just wondering.

OK, for sure the 90s will finally show education is a primary concern.  Then, testing, testing, testing.  Billions of dollars for the testing industry diverting funds to creating better schools and teachers with better skills.  I might add other countries had already figured this out and none, I repeat none, test every student every year.  Those countries have higher standards for those entering education and a longer mentoring process for teachers.  See Surpassing Shanghai, Clever Lands, and The Smartest Kids in the World for more detailed information.  Being originally from Iowa, we had a saying, “the cow doesn’t get fatter by weighing it all the time.”  Duh.

Along comes the 2000s.  Surely we have learned our lesson as we test more and continue to lag behind. Then, the banking crisis.  Bail out the financial organizations.  How can we spend money on education when we have to bail out those who caused the crisis?  What continues to be so sad is, it is not only about money.  It is also about the cultures we have created I schools and the support educators receive.  Now the churn. Teachers and administrators are leaving the profession. Talent, experience, and commitment are going to other organizations.

A side note.  Canada has more diversity than the United States and their gap is not as large America’s gap.  (I personally think the gap is the wrong improvement metaphor – it is more about the culture for learning in classrooms and the school, the relationships between students, teachers, support staff, and community as well as the relevance of content to the students’ life).

So, here we are again. Tom Friedman saw this coming years ago.  Tony Wagner at Harvard, Andy Hargreaves at Boston College, Yong Zhao at Kansas, David Berliner and Gene Glass at Arizona State, and others have been trying to tell us we must change learning for the better for a number of years.  Business leaders like Peter Block, Stan Slap, Ray Dalio, Richard Sheridan, and Edgar Schein have written extensively about creating strong values and cultures for learning.

Juan Enriquez at Harvard, (2005) wrote the Untied States of America.  This is not a misprint.  UNTIED not United.  He posited that every country chooses what they want to be number one in.  Korea chose math and science.  Brazil chose soccer.  They both got what they wanted.  I suggest to you that the United States has chosen entertainment.  We are getting what we want.  The question becomes what are the long-term consequences.

So, here we are, 2020.  I can hear the whining now.  We have to get serious about learning and educating ourselves and our kids for a future that is uncertain. Then, the COVID pandemic.  There is no amount of money the legislature is not willing to throw at business, etc.  I am for helping our citizens out.  I am also advocating we get serious about how we educate our kids.  I don’t think our country will ever be the same if we can’t get serious about how learning affects the future, We had better take action SOON.

Yes, actions speak louder than words.  I offer a story below to support my point.  What legacy are we modeling for our kids?

The Story: The Wooden Bowl  

A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law, and four-year old grandson. The old man’s hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred, and his step faltered. The family ate together at the table. But the elderly grandfather’s shaky hands and failing sight made eating difficult. Peas rolled off his spoon onto the floor. When he grasped the glass, milk spilled on the tablecloth. The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess.   “We must do something about Grandfather,” said the son. “I’ve had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor.” So the husband and wife set a small table in the corner. There, grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner.   Since Grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was served in a wooden bowl. When the family glanced in Grandfather’s direction, sometimes he had a tear in his eye as he sat alone. Still, the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food.   The four-year-old watched it all in silence.   One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor. He asked the child sweetly, “What are you making?” Just as sweetly, the boy responded, “Oh, I am making a little bowl for you and Mama to eat your food when I grow up.”



Crehan, Lucy. (2016). Clever Lands.  London: Unbound

Enriquez, J. (2005). The Untied States of America.  New York: Crown Publishers.

Hargreaves, Andy & O’Connor, Michael. (2018). Collaborative Professionalism.

Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press

Ripley, Amanda. (2013). The Smartest Kids in the World.  New York: Simon & Schuster.

Tucker, M. (ed). (2012). Surpassing Shanghai. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.

Wagner, T. (2008). The Global achievement gap.  New York: Basic Books

Wagner, Tony & Dintersmith, Ted. (2015). Most Likely to Succeed.


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