Monday, May 16, 2016

Superhero Debates: An Educational Civil War, Part I

As a recent convert to the grownup Marvel scene (I mean, as a kid, who didn't want to be a superhero? But wasn't I supposed to outgrow it?) I am a bit late to the party and have to play a drawn-out game of Catch-up-with-the-Hero.

To that end, I caught up with The Avengers' latest goings-on by watching Captain America: Civil War, and, with help from my fellow EdTechManiac, Blair Einfeldt, conjured up some connections between the movie's premise and some current waves of controversy in the field of education.

Without divulging any spoilers, Civil War centers around the idea of systematic regulation (monitoring and controlling behavior) of the Avengers versus allowing them continued unchecked freedom (trusting the heroes to do the right thing).

Blair, to whom I owe a debt of gratitude for hooking me up with an all-things-Marvel addiction, first introduced me to the idea of Policy (UN regulation and oversight, in this case) vs. Trust (freedom to maneuver and crime-fight as they wish) as it relates to this movie.

The same connections are made throughout the educational world in the form of federal and state governmental control (even down to building administration or team leaders, perhaps) versus the desire for more autonomy and trust of educators' professionalism. "We know what's best for our students," is a commonly uttered phrase.

When examined from an academic perspective, Captain America: Civil War (along with all of the Marvel franchise big screen offerings, actually) gives us some insight into both sides of the argument.

(Partially) Full Disclosure: While I honestly lean more towards #TeamCap, do not let this series of posts sway you one way or the other. Rather, let it be a window into the eyes of Marvel for educators. And let it be a source of discussion and dialogue that may help us improve our craft for betterment of our students and our profession.

Here, then, is the first installment of quotes (which will come in subsequent posts and in no particular order) from the movie with each their educational equivalency (translation) and corresponding application to the educational world.

Let the Educational Civil War begin!

Part I: Compromise vs. Standing Firm
Photo Courtesy of
"Compromise where you can. Where you can't, don't. Even if everyone is telling you that something wrong is something right. Even if the whole world is telling you to move, it is your duty to plant yourself like a tree, look them in the eye, and say, 'No, YOU move'." Sharon Carter
What she means to say is this: "Be a team player where you can. But if your <insert school leader here> wants to head in a different direction that in your heart you know is not right, take a stand. Back it up with research, whether it is qualitative or anecdotal. Even if the world tells you that PowerPoints and worksheets are the essence of quality instruction, you take a stand to support your constructivist views of learning. You tell them to make the MOVE to makerspaces...because it is what is best for kids."  
While teamwork and unity are important to success, so too are convictions and loyalty to self and your students. I do not advocate for constant off-the-rails thinking or blatant opposition. Rather, when you know you are right, diplomatically stand your ground. When lives are not at stake, it is okay to agree to disagree, even if feelings become bruised. If the final product is viable and shows growth, you will be affirmed.

Remember too that not every battle must be fought in open space...or at all. Also, if your firm ground turns to shifting sand, be prepared to admit defeat and move forward with new conviction. To be sure, not even Captain America is correct all the time.

Stay tuned for more Civil War - Policy vs. Trust quote analysis.