The DeHavilland Blog

Monday, May 01, 2006

Quitting smoking, changing schools

I started smoking in 1986, towards the end of my freshman year in college. Everyone was doing it, so I did it too. And I did it well: I was hooked, and kept at it for more than 12 years.

I knew it was a stupid habit: it’s expensive, has terrible health effects, and makes you and everything you own smell horrible. And yet, I couldn’t stop. I tried over and over – but I couldn’t do it.

And then I met Mary Brubaker. Beautiful, smart, funny – and a nonsmoker who, despite all odds, was willing to date a smoker like me. But she also made it clear that, while she enjoyed spending time together, she couldn’t see a future with someone who smoked.

I quit on Thanksgiving Day, 1998, and haven’t touched a cigarette since. As for Mary, we were married the following year and now have two little ones under our roof - quite something for a couple that didn’t have a future together :-)

The moral is that it’s incredibly hard to change by moving away from something without having something to move towards. If you want to change in any material way, you need to have something to move towards that’s so compelling it allows you to summon the strength to overcome habit and inertia and undergo a real transformation.

There’s a parallel here to education reform. We have a laundry list of what we don’t like about our current education system, and it’s a long list indeed. So why haven’t we been able to reform education? Why have we been unable to create any real change?

I submit that it’s because we’re trying to move away from something without having any idea of what we’re moving towards. We don’t have a vision of what we want education to look like: a clear, concrete vision that excites us, rallies us, and gives us a ruler against which to measure our common progress.

Create the vision of Education 2.0 – then we’ll be able to create positive change.

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