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Sep 7, 2023

Doing it well does not make it good

The allure of pride in one's work is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it serves as the fuel for professional growth, pushing individuals to refine their skills, innovate, and build expertise. On the other hand, this very pride can become a veil, obscuring the larger, often flawed, institutional frameworks within which we operate. The paradox here is that the better we become at our jobs, the more likely we are to overlook the systemic errors that may underlie our tasks. 

First, let's consider the positive aspects of taking pride in one's work. When faced with institutional inefficiencies or poorly conceived programs, a dedicated worker often rises to the occasion. They learn the ropes, find shortcuts, and even develop a certain finesse for navigating the labyrinthine bureaucracy. Over time, this expertise becomes a source of professional pride. The worker has managed to turn lemons into lemonade, so to speak, and there's a certain satisfaction in that. 

However, herein lies the dilemma. This pride can act as a smokescreen, preventing us from questioning the very foundations of the work we are engaged in. Take, for example, the state accreditation of teacher preparation programs. While educators and administrators may become adept at navigating the complexities of this process, their expertise can blind them to the fact that the entire endeavor may be flawed or unnecessary. The focus shifts from "Is this the right thing to do?" to "How well can I do this?"

Next, let's delve into the psychology of this phenomenon. When we invest time and effort into mastering a particular task or process, we experience what psychologists call "sunk cost fallacy." We become emotionally invested in our work, making it increasingly difficult to entertain the idea that the whole endeavor might be misguided. The better we get at something, the less likely we are to question its value. Our pride in our work becomes a cognitive blind spot, making us unwitting accomplices in perpetuating systemic inefficiencies or errors.

Moreover, institutions themselves are often resistant to change. Once a program or strategy is in place, it gains a momentum of its own. People who excel within these frameworks are lauded, further entrenching the status quo. In such an environment, questioning the system can be seen as a form of heresy, a threat to collective pride and shared accomplishments.

So, what's the way out of this conundrum? The key lies in maintaining a critical perspective, even as we strive for excellence in our work. We must learn to separate our professional pride from the tasks we are assigned. Being good at something doesn't necessarily make it good. We should cultivate the habit of stepping back and examining the larger context of our work, asking ourselves whether the programs or strategies we are so adept at implementing are serving their intended purpose or if they need to be reevaluated.

In conclusion, while pride in one's work is an admirable quality that can drive personal and professional growth, it can also serve as a barrier to critical thinking and systemic change. The challenge, then, is to balance our pursuit of excellence with a healthy dose of skepticism, to ensure that our hard work is not just perpetuating mistakes but is directed toward meaningful, constructive ends.

1 comment:

  1. Andrew Taylor11:25 AM

    Music Education was blighted by this effect by 1997 to the point where Hargreaves’ study found that absolutely no graduates of music-in-school ever became professional performers, only replacement music-in-school-teachers, best able to prepare their replacements and teach no other music. Allsup and Westerlund call this effect “Methodolatry”. The metaphor they use is - it’s as if the school insisted that students wear the school uniform for the rest of their lives, because it has been woven and sewn from the best materials!

    Thanks for writing about the problems of Fundamental Attribution Error, in Education