For as long as I have been alive (or so it seems), I have never quite fit in - to people's expectations or, to be honest, the cultural norms of our society. Whenever there is a form or questionnaire to fill out, most of my responses are either the "other" box or "N/A." This issue has continued by natural extension to Deep Root Center, the organization I founded and lead, as the Executive Director. And is the main reason I despise "officialdom."
Besides, "Not-for-Profit," DRC doesn't often fit neatly into any of the categories provided. And these forms issued by .gov organizations or financial institutions don't usually have "other" or "N/A" as options. Which means, by design, they don't offer a space where I can explain what, why, & how. And within that, the person on the other side processing the form has no latitude to make decisions on their own - based on what I would consider being common sense.
This rigidity frequently means we (DRC) miss out on opportunities that other businesses have automatic inclusion simply because they can check off all the boxes.
However, I believe that ultimately all the "officialdoms" and society, in general, will lose out because of their inherent inability to be flexible.
Diversity is the key to survival - diversity in not only appearance but thought, as well. Anyone with a basic understanding of biology recognizes this truth. If everyone fits effortlessly into the boxes provided and no one challenges the norms - our culture is doomed.
Cultivating an appreciation for scientific methodology, including an open mind and willingness to experiment, make mistakes, get messy, be wrong, and ultimately prove a replicable hypothesis, is essential to our ultimate endurance on this planet. Flexibility and the ability to "think outside the box," for the good of all, are undervalued and crucial talents.
At this point in my life, I am proud to say, "I refuse to fit inside your box." "I will be flexible, I will be creative, I will seek out new ideas, and I will lead by example." My default mode will always be - "how can I help you and, by extension, our community?"
*Note from Maria - a clarification from last week's Blog -
Last week, I was trying to make a point about our collective inability to seek out help - because, as a society, we judge it as a weakness and we see people as "abled" and disabled instead of viewing all of us as "differently-abled." I used the word "cheat" as the title to mean a "hack" or a way to think about or do something that works for us that may be different from the majority. Thank you to E., a frequent reader, for taking the time to point out that it also means being dishonest.
I want to be very clear that deceit and fraudulence are never OK. I apologize for any confusion and promise to work harder to avoid that type of unintentional error in the future.
Deep Root Center's Exploration Station is open for three weeks of summer programming this August - beginning 8/16 - 9/03. These services extend DRC's unique brand to children in the community who attend public or private schools. We have designed our Exploration Station Programs to offer opportunities for hands-on exploration, creativity, and fun that children crave. Information and registration are available through the Exploration Station button on the website. Register early - space is limited due to COVID safety precautions.
DRC is also once again offering Afternoon Programming at the beginning of the academic year. You can visit the website to learn more or contact us here. Please share this opportunity within your network.
DRC has various programs and services for families who are struggling within the public school system. Bottom line: we are here to help in any way that works for your family. Get in touch today to tell us your story and let us know how we can help.
This past week, a colleague (close friend) and I were having a conversation, in person, something we had not done since Mid-November. She told me about a program that she had discovered, through a friend, that would have been perfect for her. However, she did not pursue it because the application process was all digitized. For many of us, that would not be the deciding factor to apply or not, but for her, it was. She is completely overwhelmed by any form of technology.
I encounter this type of story more than you can imagine. Avoidance of the things we find hard comes into play for everyone. As a society, we tend to separate into two categories: "abled" and disabled. I believe that, even if we are considered "normal," we all have some form of "disability" simply because each of our brains works in unique ways. This means we are all avoiding and missing out on opportunities that would otherwise be perfectly suited to us.
When my friend told me this story, I immediately said, "dang, if you had told me, I would have helped you fill out the application." It breaks my heart that in so many cases, instead of seeking assistance, because we feel stupid or don't want to appear "helpless," "lazy," or like a "cheater," we give up on our dreams.
I blame our reluctance to ask for help on our culture. 1) The very foundation of our educational system rests upon coercion and control, not trust. 2) We are a nation that touts independence, competitiveness, resilience, grit, and determination as positive character traits, despite the first point (more than a bit hypocritical in my thinking). 3) We view disability as something to "reform" to fit into the "normal" world. 4) When people use "hacks" or accomplish something in a way that is different from the "norm," we accuse them of cheating and laziness - which are bad(!) and to be avoided at all costs!
What if, instead, we: 1) trust that everyone will accomplish what they need to do 2) expected people to ask for help when they require it 3) saw all humanity as simply differently-abled and adjusted our reality to accommodate everyone 4) normalized "hacks" and abolished the concept of cheating from our cultural understanding?
I believe our world would be a different place, one filled with engaged, community-minded folks happily discovering and following their purpose. Some would accuse me of aiding and abetting lazy, no-good cheaters or maybe even seeking utopia. I still say, "So what, wouldn't it be worth it to try?"
This past week, it was amazing to see everyone in person for the first time in 5 months! We are grateful for the technology that allowed us to meet virtually - however, nothing beats talking to your friends, goofing around, and generally sharing our lives while we are all in the same physical space.
DRC is accepting members for the 21/22 academic year. We look forward to hearing from you. You can visit the DRC website to learn more about all of our programs.
Those of you who know me reasonably well are likely confused that I would consider writing a piece about statistics and standard deviation. Let me put your mind at ease; I won't try to explain the math. I am, however, going to use the concept to demonstrate a social phenomenon, a task that is much better suited for this self-described anthropology geek.
Below is an image of a Normal Distribution Bell Curve - also used to show Innovation Adoption within a population. A concept that I find utterly fascinating, despite being steeped in abstract thinking - not my strong suit.
I first learned about this theory in the spring of 2013 at a self-directed education (SDE) conference on Long Island (not coincidentally where I also met Ken Danford, co-founder of North Star) when I attended a workshop led by developmental psychologist Dr. Peter Gray, who wrote Free to Learn, my personal bible for SDE. (I have a signed copy!) He and a few colleagues spoke about the process of starting a 501(c)3 organization that would be a combination "think tank," advocacy group, and a depository for all things SDE. That organization exists today as the Alliance for Self-Directed Education (ASDE).
During this workshop, Dr. Gray and his collaborators used this curve to explain something called the tipping point. They used the example of gay culture to explain the phenomenon. In the '60s and '70s, when I was growing up, it was not safe to "come out." Therefore, few of us knew anyone who was out as gay, while we were in school, and the word was used as a slur. Now, and within the past twenty years, LBGTQ+ culture is part of our everyday lives.
In any given population, there will always be about 2.5 percent who are the innovators - the creators, the designers, the revolutionaries, the movers, and shakers; the next, 13.5 percent will enthusiastically adopt those ideas as soon as they hear about them. Once it feels pretty safe, the first 34 percent of peeps in the center will come aboard, and when it is a sure thing, the folks in the other half of the bell will hop on. And, then, when there is no other choice, the last 16 percent will reluctantly join the party.
As per a 2011 study at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the tipping point on this curve is only 10 percent of the population - a number that seems infinitesimal. Most researchers, however, place the tipping point between 10-25 percent depending upon the innovation. This means, on the Curve of Innovation Adoption, that you need between 7 percent of the early adopters and 9 percent of the early majority to accept an idea before it spreads to the entire population. The chasm between the early adopters and the early majority is so critical to the success of any innovation or movement that a whole industry of motivational speakers dedicated to teaching influencers how to bridge that gap has cropped up.
Now you are probably wondering why I find this all so compelling. Beyond the anthropological research indications, the very essence of this speaks to me on an intriguingly human and personal level. If you had known me back in the day (surprisingly not that long ago), you would categorize me as one of the last of the laggards on this curve. The only way I would consider a new idea was if someone pulled me kicking and screaming to it. I was closed, defensive, and shut down.
I now place myself firmly on the cusp of innovator and early adopter (except for super scary shit, like sky diving, bungee jumping, or other things that, because of my klutziness, have the likely potential of killing me - for those, I am most definitely still a lagger).
I understand the concept of Innovation Adoption - in a clinically academic sense. However, as a relatively new innovator/early adopter, I am easily frustrated by hesitation and refusal of any progressive idea - from the proven advantages of SDE, empathetic responses to societal problems, to life-changing scientific developments, when, in my mind (and experience), the benefits are clearly visible.
As with most things, I can not pinpoint when, exactly, the transformation from laggard to creator/influencer/revolutionary occurred. I do know that for anyone watching with a vested interest, it was a discouragingly slow process in the beginning and then mind-blowing - lightning speed.
The point being, it is possible to change - if you allow your mind to open just a bit. Once there is the slightest crack, the light will infiltrate to illuminate those things that felt scary, unsafe, and impossible in the darkness. I am living proof.
I am so excited to see all of my Peeps this coming week. DRC - Canton will be in person every M & F, and DRC - East every W & Th.
Membership is always open at DRC. Check us out.
This video by Liam Crossem Films explains the DRC culture.
Community is one of those words we often use without considering its true meaning. At its most fundamental level, it is a group of people who support each other to be healthy and happy. And to allow each individual within the collective to be their best, authentic selves. Some may misinterpret this definition to represent socialistic ideology. However, I would argue that it reflects the basic human moral code of compassion, empathy, and kindness - our very humanity.
Paleo-archaeologists are learning that our hominid ancestors understood this concept. They discovered evidence that groups took care of at-risk individuals who had mended broken bones, had no teeth, were "elders," etc.
I firmly believe that the notion of community is written deeply into our DNA. However, "modern" societal values of cut-throat competition and rugged individualism are trying their damnedest to erase it from our ancestral memory.
Clearly, none of us would survive this world without support from others. And sometimes, we make adjustments or compromises to ensure that everyone can be safe and at peace.
Currently, many folks, both on a local and broader level, recognize the truth of that statement. People are adapting their viewpoints, taking responsibility, trusting science, and getting vaccinated. In doing so, they are working together to curb a disease that has run rampant and altered our world. Their personal decision allows us all to move forward safely as a "whole" towards positive growth and transformation.
DRC Peeps are on a well-deserved Spring Break this coming week. Then the week of April 12th, we are so excited to resume in-person at both Centers two days a week. Our virtual schedule will continue for the "off" days and our Distance Learners.
Belated Happy Passover and Happy Easter to all who celebrate!
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