Everyone needs make decisions all their life, so we think we know how. We do it daily: what to wear to school/work/social events; what to do in our spare or free time; when to spend or save money; which purchases are necessary or frivolous. We make decision about objects (cars, clothes, books, internets sites, etc.), situations (how to behave in various social settings) and abstractions or untouchables (care, love or concern about others and their perceptions or feelings about us).
The problem with decision making is that no one expressly teaches us how to make “good” or appropriate decisions. That is because decisions usually involve recognizing options or choices of a series of actions leading to a specific goal. Most decisions are routine: when, where and how to buy food, car repairs, clothing care, etc. We become lulled into security in our decision making process.
We become challenged with decision making when stress builds. Researchers found people perceive fewer choices or options available and that we tend to use traditional or habitual choices to make our decisions. Unfortunately, this means that novel solutions to problems will not be perceived, acknowledged or understood when the decision maker(s) is/are in crisis or under stress.
Education reform approaches are perfect examples of perceiving limited options for making decisions. No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and its replacement directives have an extremely narrow focus: all children must learn the same content at the same rate by using “scientifically researched” materials. Gone are the discretionary powers of observations that teacher have. Gone are experimental approaches or innovative materials or methods. Gone is information related to centuries of knowledge about child development and readiness skills. Gone is what has worked in the past. Now teachers must use what some university (or publisher’s underwritten) study has proved to be effective.
Educators must go through teacher preparation programs. Including an undergraduate degree and the professional training, that amounts to at least 4-5 years of college. Additionally, most states require that teachers earn a masters’ degree (1-2 years to complete) within a certain length of time. This means that educators know a lot, but they aren’t allowed to use what they’ve learned in their classrooms unless it comes packaged in “scientifically researched” materials.
The bottom line is that the knowledge and wisdom of teachers is ignored; yet they are responsible and accountable for decisions that others, usually non-educators, have made. The decision makers are relying on the traditional approaches, not innovation or creative options. By narrowing their views of the problems, they are excluding options that could work far better, more easily, and for far less money than they currently mandate.