Girl culture among teachers is top
down, with most teachers wanting to
take orders, to follow leaders.
In most offices, there is more self
interest involved in politics, and
probably more likelihood that the
managers will insist on change.
We need a geometric progression
of change; arithmetic increases
can't keep up with the vast numbers
of failing children who add to the
ranks of school problems as
teachers, administrators, parents,
voters and board members.
All I ask is that people act in their
own best interest. They need not be
kind or caring or even fair--except
as this is required to benefit
"Teamwork" in schools seems to
involve, more often than not, the
union of small minds gathered for
the purpose of marginalizing
anyone who does any real
thinking. The goal is stability,
sameness, security for teachers.
Conformity can actually improve
the performance of the least
capable teachers, but the system
requires compliant, weak,
mediocre teachers, prefers them,
in fact, in order to keep the "team"
I have noticed in the schools I've
worked at that it was often the
people with the gravest
psychological problems, including
addiction, that were the most
insistent that everyone conform to
a narrow range of thinking and
action. My theory is that these
people don't trust themselves to be
themselves because they behave
badly when not strictly
self-controlled. Those of us who
have learned to trust ourselves
(and our students) are apt to feel
comfortable with fewer rules and
Need for cohesive teams is used
as an excuse for a group of
teachers getting together and
forming a “girl culture” group. The
groups’ goals are sometimes
unprofessional and their decisions
arbitrary. “Teams” are not
creative, but rather mediocre, top-
down, forcing others to move in
lock-step for social, not
Framework for failure
We don't want everyone to fail.
We need a certain number who
can process information to a
certain degree to make our
economic system flourish. But
we can't have anyone thinking so
much that they notice that there
are problems with the system.
We need most people to fail
Teacher culture fosters
immaturity among teachers, and
encourages them to punish any
thinking that could threaten the
framework for failure.
See Five Dysfunctions of a
Maintaining control essential for
both children and adults.
Explanations not required.
Secrecy important. Appearance
of stability and
smooth-functioning must be
maintained, or the board
members may be voted out.
Control thinking as well as
behavior of adults. Orthodoxy of
attitude required. Controllers
don't trust those who are not
convinced of their correctness.
“Boy, Was I Wrong About Him”: Why It’s So Hard to Size
by Jeff Wise
April 23, 2010
"Some of us are better than others. My wife, for example, is a particularly bad liar, which is one of the
reasons I married her. (At least, this is what I believe about her; ask me again in 30 years.) Others are
exceptionally good. I've learned not to trust my gut when it comes to such matters. Time and again, it's the
person who I really, really like on first meeting who turns out to be an incorrigible rogue."
...Evolutionary psychologist Robin Dunbar suggests that it's because, in a sense, deception
is what we evolved to do. His "social brain hypothesis" posits that the reason we evolved
such large brains is that, as social animals, our ancestors were constantly jockeying for
position within the social group. As I write in Extreme Fear, for mammals like us, heirarchical
rank can be a matter of life or death; that's why we seem to have a separate fear system
devoted to social threat. In order to survive, we have to be able to figure out what's going
on in our friends' and relatives' minds. And at times, to prevent them from accurately
understanding what's going on in our minds. So deception is part of our evolutionary
inheritance. We lie for the same reason a bird flies and a whale spouts: it helps us survive.
Why do we always pick on the New Guy?
by Bakari Akil II, Ph.D.
May 6, 2010
...As an adult being the new guy (or gal) takes on a different meaning. The craziness of school yard
childhood bullying goes away and is often replaced by passive aggressive workplace behavior from
workmates/colleagues and the occasional office tyrant.
Many of you may already know what I'm talking about, but there are a few who may have been lucky enough
to have no or very pleasant 'new guy' experiences. Yet, regardless of the severity or pleasantness of the
‘new guy' experience the back and forth dance must take place.
Robert Sommers in his book Personal Space: The Basis of Behavioral Design (2008), talks about two
things that affect people's behavior when first meeting each other. Those things are "territoriality" and
"dominance." Sommers asserts that most people avoid trouble because they are fully aware of areas that
are ‘safe' territories (usually their own) and avoid those that aren't. Further, because they are intimately
familiar with the power hierarchies that exist between them and other people within their own environment
there is usually no need for conflict (dominance) because arrangements, whether conscious or not, have
already been determined.
Now imagine the ‘new guy' entering the new work environment. The people within the organization already
have their arrangements in place. They know their roles, who is in charge, their general standing in the
scheme of things and written and unwritten protocols of the organization. The new person upsets this
balance and the balance has to be restored, albeit in a different way than before.
The established members of the group only have to deal with the new person once in establishing a
relationship, regardless if the outcome is positive or negative. The new person has to negotiate terms with
everyone in the organization.
As Sommers expressed in his research, established members use territorial claims in negotiating with
newcomers and let them know immediately where they stand. These types of claims are often verbal and
serve as gentle warnings. For instance, an established member may say, "Don't worry about these
invoices, I always handle these." Usually, the new person (without rank) would respond to such
statements with deference until they learn where their own boundaries begin and end.
However, if that fails then 'dominance' techniques will be used, depending of course, on the level of
aggressiveness the established members are willing to display. But, since the workplace is not designed
or tolerates such behavior, newcomers are usually at the receiving end of passive aggressive activity.
Examples of the treatment handed out to ‘new guys' in the workplace include being called a "newbie" or
"rookie;" being told an inappropriate joke to see how they will respond; being ignored by someone in the
hallway even after being properly introduced; having to listen to rants such as "you young people are all
over the place;" and being subjected to the "stick with me and I'll show you the ropes" conversations. In
severe cases, established members try to assert themselves by yelling or using threats...
JK Rowling of Harry Potter fame. In a recent interview with the Guardian, she said:
"We all know that pleasurable rush that comes from condemning, and in the
short term it's quite a satisfying thing to do, isn't it?"
May 27th 2010
By Emerald Catron
Why Women Lie (to Each Other)
Women milead their friends to make themselves look betterIf you secretly suspect those
denim sailor pants make you look like a wide load truck, but your BFF insists they're
killer, you should go with your gut.
According to a new survey, 38 percent of women admit to lying to friends about their
appearances to make themselves look (and feel) better by comparison. Not only will
women tell their pals they look good when they don't, they'll also tell them they should
change when, in fact, they look great.
Additional petty crimes women admitted to ranged from pouring a drink onto a
girlfriend's clothing item which they envy (while their friend is wearing it), to neglecting to
tell a friend that what they're wearing is making them a walking fashion faux pas.
A whopping 66 percent had told a friend she looked fabulous when the opposite was
true. The reason we do it, scientific experts say, is maybe even more depressing: "It is
about survival and attracting the best possible mate for yourself," Phillip Hodson, fellow
of the British Association for Counseling and Psychotherapy, told the Daily Mail. "We
don't want to ruin our chances."
The goal of the predominant
teacher culture in schools--not just
in the US, but in the world--seems to
be to reduce all teachers to the least
Teachers need training in
logical consistency, and
they need to teach it to kids.
I think it's ridiculous to try to stop kids from having best friends. Best friends
are the antithesis of girl culture, which tends to foster manipulative
A Best Friend? You Must Be Kidding
New York Times
By HILARY STOUT
June 16, 2010
Bullies are popular
Kids who are bullies are
popular among kids, and
teachers who are bullies are
popular among teachers.
Towards Teaching in Partnership: lessons still to be
ERICA McWILLIAM & PETER O'BRIEN, Queensland University of
This resistance to change continues to be noted as prevailing despite a plethora
of literature calling for reform and despite. mounting public criticism of a
perceived lack of teacher 'quality' (Keith, 1987;...
The result has been an ongoing scenario in which teacher culture and. academic culture
are increasingly bifurcated and, indeed, oppositional in the teacher preparation process.
Tripp (1990) cogently makes the point that far from being. assisted by the academic culture
in education—especially through its practice of educational research—teachers as a
group, in the main ...
"In the Middle Ages, the
sin of sloth had
two forms," he said.
"One was paralysis, the
inability to do anything --
what we would see as
lazy. But the other side
was running about
frantically. The sense
that, 'There's no real
place to go where I'm
going, but, by God, I'm
making great time.' "
...Back in the
time-starved real world,
maybe I needed help. I
called a life coach who
told me to breathe.
Another talked about
paradigm shifts. I made
an appointment with one
coach and promptly
showed up 13 minutes
late. "For someone on
the other end of the time
crunch," she said,
"someone waiting for
you, do you realize that
that can come across as
This wasn't helping...
--The Test of Time: A
busy working mother
tries to figure out where
all her time is going
Teaching Students Responsibility
What do you do when you know a student did something and didn't own up
to it? How do you handle a flat out denial? It's not like the good 'ol days
where students confessed, apologized and usually wouldn't act up in the
first place. Maybe there is less discipline at home today, maybe it's just a
generational thing? But whatever the reasons are, many students need to
be taught responsibility.
Education author Dr. Allen Mendler shares strategies to teach kids to own
their actions. His methods encourage students to take the right action not
because they think it's the right thing to do, but because they know it's the
right thing to do. In his upcoming online seminar Teaching Students
Responsibility Mendler will review how to respond to misbehavior, how to
handle yourself with difficult students and how to make rules and
* Apply a three-step process to teach students responsibility [Maura
Larkins comment: We also need a class to teach teachers to accept
* Use rules and consequences effectively
* Respond to covert student misbehavior
* Respond effectively to students who blame others...[Maura Larkins
comment: Would we also be able to respond more effectively to
teachers and parents who blame others?]
Allen MendlerAllen Mendler, Ph.D. is an educator and school psychologist
who resides in Rochester, New York. He has worked extensively with
children of all ages in regular education and special education settings. Dr.
Mendler has consulted to many schools, day and residential centers,
including extensive work with youth in juvenile detention. Dr. Mendler's
emphasis is on developing effective frameworks and strategies for
educators, youth professionals and parents to help difficult youth succeed.
As one of the internationally acclaimed authors of Discipline with Dignity
book, Dr. Mendler has given many workshops and seminars to
professionals and parents, and is highly acclaimed as a motivational
speaker and trainer for numerous educational organizations.
He is the author or co-author of 13 books including Power Struggles:
Successful Techniques for Educators, What Do I Do When...?, Motivating
Students Who Don't Care, Connecting with Students, Discipline with Dignity
for Challenging Youth and More What do I do When. His most recent
publication, Handling Difficult Parents is a practical handbook that offers
proven strategies that all educators can use to set the right tone with
difficult parents. His articles have appeared in many journals including
Educational Leadership, Kappan, Learning, Reclaiming Children and Youth,
and Reaching Today's Youth. Dr. Mendler has been recognized for his
distinguished teaching by the Bureau of Education and Research, and was
a recipient of the coveted Crazy Horse Award for having made outstanding
contributions to discouraged youth.
Ways to Improve Staff Culture to Benefit Teaching and Learning
Teaching can be challenging and, unfortunately, those challenges can get
the best of educators sometimes. Perhaps the best way to avoid burnout
and emotional exhaustion is to create a positive teaching environment where
teachers and administrators can help each other stay upbeat and improve
the school's emotional climate.
Inside the School's upcoming online seminar Ways to Improve Staff Culture
to Benefit Teaching and Learning puts the focus on educators and
administrators. You'll learn and discuss strategies to increase teacher
satisfaction, which will improve student performance.
Author, motivational speaker and former coach and teacher Nathan Eklund,
M.Ed., discusses strategies to help educators approach the second half of
the school year recharged and focused. The seminar will be available for
two weeks on demand so educators can watch it at their convenience - even
* Recognize opportunities within the school structures and schedule to
increase staff support and satisfaction
* Recognize personal steps necessary to ground the act of teaching in the
reasons individuals chose teaching to begin with
* Capitalize on intersections and opportunities among staff to build collegiality
* Reframe how you perceive school not only as a place where students go to
learn but also as a place where adults go to work
About the Presenter:
Nathan EklundNathan Eklund, M.Ed. is Search Institute's Senior Education
Consultant. Eklund works with schools nationwide in implementing
strength-based strategies and in professional development efforts to
improve school and staff climates. Prior to his present role, Eklund taught
high school English for twelve years and was head coach of the boys' soccer
Eklund holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from St. Olaf College and a
Masters of Education from the College of St. Scholastica. Eklund's book How
Was Your Day at School? Improving Dialogue about Teacher Job
Satisfaction was published in the fall of 2008. Through this book, he now
consults with schools about organization development toward improvements
of the workplace climate for educators.
Resistance to change continues despite calls for reform and mounting public criticism of a
lack of teacher quality.
Gains Found Comparable
to Those of Strictly
By Sarah D. Sparks
From role-playing games
for students to parent
seminars, teaching social
and emotional learning
requires a lot of moving
parts, but when all the
pieces come together
such instruction can rival
the effectiveness of purely
academic interventions to
achievement, according to
the largest analysis of
such programs to date.
In the report , published
Feb. 4 in the peer-
reviewed journal Child
led by Joseph A. Durlak, a
professor emeritus of
psychology at the
University of Chicago,
found that students who
took part in social and
emotional learning, or
SEL, programs improved
in grades and
by 11 percentile points
That difference, the
authors say, was
moving a student in the
middle of the class
academically to the top 40
percent of students during
the course of the
improvement fell within the
range of effectiveness for
recent analyses of
interventions focused on
Compared with their
students also significantly
improved on five key
greater social skills, less
emotional distress and
better attitudes, fewer
conduct problems such as
bullying and suspensions,
positive behaviors, such
as cooperation and help
for other students. Also,
the effects continued at
least six months...
By SUSAN CAIN
June 25, 2011
A BEAUTIFUL woman
lowers her eyes demurely
beneath a hat. In an
earlier era, her gaze
might have signaled a
mysterious allure. But this
is a 2003 advertisement
for Zoloft, a selective
approved by the F.D.A.
to treat social anxiety
disorder. “Is she just
shy? Or is it Social
reads the caption,
suggesting that the
young woman is not
alluring at all. She is
But is she?
It is possible that the
lovely young woman has
a life-wrecking form of
social anxiety. There are
people too afraid of
disapproval to venture
out for a job interview, a
date or even a meal in
public. Despite the risk of
serious side effects —
nausea, loss of sex drive,
seizures — drugs like
Zoloft can be a godsend
for this group.
But the ad’s insinuation
aside, it’s also possible
the young woman is “just
shy,” or introverted —
traits our society
disfavors. One way we
manifest this bias is by
healthy shy people to
see themselves as ill.
This does us all a
because shyness and
introversion — or
more precisely, the
which both often
spring — are not just
normal. They are
valuable. And they may
be essential to the
survival of our species.
and social anxiety
disorder are easily
distinguishable. But a
blurry line divides the
two. Imagine that the
woman in the ad enjoys a
steady paycheck, a
strong marriage and a
small circle of close
friends — a good life by
most measures — except
that she avoids a needed
promotion because she’s
nervous about leading
meetings. She often
criticizes herself for
feeling too shy to speak
What do you think now?
Is she ill, or does she
simply need public-
Before 1980, this would
have seemed a strange
question. Social anxiety
disorder did not officially
exist until it appeared in
that year’s Diagnostic
and Statistical Manual,
the DSM-III, the
psychiatrist’s bible of
mental disorders, under
the name “social phobia.”
When Roommates Were Random
By DALTON CONLEY
August 28, 2011
EAGER to throw off my nerdy past and reinvent myself at college, I wrote
“party animal” on my roommate application form where it asked incoming
freshmen whether they wanted to bunk with a smoker or a non-smoker.
When I told my mother about this later, she laughed and bought me a T-
shirt that sported the image of Spuds MacKenzie, the 1980s Budweiser
beer mascot, under the words “the original party animal.”
I ended up with Tony from Sacramento, a very quiet, Republican son of a
judge. (I suppose it’s good policy to separate the party animals from those
who request them.) I learned to appreciate his taste in music (U2 and The
Smiths, as opposed to my predilection for reggae and jazz), and we agreed
to disagree about politics during the reelection campaign of Alan Cranston,
then one of the most liberal members of the United States Senate. I had
never met anyone like Tony. And I’m pretty sure he hadn’t come across
many half-Jewish, Democratic children of New York artists. We learned to
get along that first year at Berkeley, and every now and then even tried on
each other’s values and beliefs, just to see how they fit.
Today I am a college professor, and I am sad that most of my students will
not experience what I did back when Mark Zuckerberg was in diapers. While
the Internet has made it easy to reconnect with the lost Tonys of our lives, it
has made it a lot more difficult to meet them in the first place, by taking a lot
of randomness out of life. We tend to value order and control over
randomness, but when we lose randomness, we also lose serendipity.
As soon as today’s students receive their proverbial fat envelope from their
top choice college, they are on Facebook meeting other potential
freshmen. They are on sites like roomsurf.com and roomsync.com, scoping
out prospective friends. By the time the roommate application forms arrive,
many like-minded students with similar backgrounds have already
connected and agreed to request one another.
It’s just one of many ways in which digital technologies now spill over into
non-screen-based aspects of social experience. I know certain people who
can’t bear to eat in a restaurant they haven’t researched on Yelp. And
Google now tailors searches to exactly what it thinks you want to find.
But this loss of randomness is particularly unfortunate for college-age
students, who should be trying on new hats and getting exposed to new
and different ideas. Which students end up bunking with whom may seem
trivial at first glance. But research on the phenomenon of peer influence —
and the influences of roommates in particular — has found that there are,
in fact, long-lasting effects of whom you end up living with your first year.
David R. Harris, a sociologist at Cornell, studied roommates and found, in
2002, that white students who were assigned a roommate of a different
race ended up more open-minded about race. In a 2000 study, the
economist Bruce Sacerdote found that randomly assigned roommates at
Dartmouth affected each other’s G.P.A.’s.
(Of course, influences can sometimes be negative. Roommates can drive
each other’s grades up or down. In 2003, researchers at four colleges
discovered that male students who reported binge drinking in high school
drank much more throughout college if their first-year roommate also
reported binge drinking in high school.)
These studies are important because we know that much education takes
place not through the formal classroom curriculum but in the peer-to-peer
learning that occurs in places like dorm rooms.
Other than prison and the military, there are not many other institutions
outside the college dorm that shove two people into a 10-foot-by-10-foot
space and expect them to get along for nine months. Can you think of any
better training for marriage? In fact, in my research with Jennifer A.
Heerwig, we have found that Vietnam-era military service actually lowers the
risk of subsequent divorce. It’s possible that the military teaches you how
to subsume your individual desires for the good of the collective — in other
words, how to get along well with others.
The drive to tame randomness into controllable order is a noble impulse,
but letting a little serendipity flourish isn’t such a bad thing. Nor is getting to
know someone different from yourself. All colleges should follow the lead of
Hamilton, where roommate choice is not allowed. And if you end up with the
roommate from hell? You’ll survive, and someday have great stories to tell
your future spouse, with whom you’ll probably get along better.
Dalton Conley, a sociologist, is the dean of social sciences at New York
University and the author, most recently, of “Elsewhere, U.S.A.”
Too often being a team
player means abandoning
one's principles, like Colin
Powell obediently reading to
the UN Assembly a false
statement about weapons of
mass destruction in Iraq.
Sore winners are
more common than
The Atlantic Wire.com
March 1, 2012
The glory of winning isn't
enough. "It seems that
people have a tendency to
stomp down on those they
have defeated, to really rub it
in," said researchers Brad
Bushman. Losers, on the
other hand, don't change
their behavior, found new
research from Ohio State
University. In three separate
studies winners got
aggressive with their
opponents. "Losers need to
watch out," he continued.
A scientific reason
The Atlantic Wire.com
DEC 21, 2011
If we said Rembrandt painted
both of these paintings below,
an observer's brain would not
be able to tell the difference
between the two images,
found research out of the
University of Oxford. But, as
soon as we outed one of
these as a Rembrandt
impostor -- we'll let you figure
that one out -- the brain
triggers responses to make
us prefer the real one over
the phony image, discovered
those same researchers.
"When a participant was told
that a work was genuine, it
raised activity in the part of
the brain that deals with
rewarding events, such as
tasting pleasant food or
winning a gamble," writes the
Oxford press release. "Being
told a work is not by the
master triggered a complex
set of responses in areas of
the brain involved in planning
new strategies." We assume
this extends beyond
paintings, to all things
aesthetic, like, clothing
brands. Thus there's no
shame in a little label
snobbery -- science has
proven we are hardwired for
|San Diego Education Report
|San Diego Education Report
Many teachers and administrators I've known act just like hermit crabs
Hermit crabs socialize to evict their neighbors
By Robert Sanders
UC Berkeley News Center
October 26, 2012
Social animals usually congregate for protection or mating or to capture bigger prey,
but a University of California, Berkeley, biologist has found that the terrestrial hermit
crab has a more self-serving social agenda: to kick another crab out of its shell and
move into a larger home.
All hermit crabs appropriate abandoned snail shells for their homes, but the dozen
or so species of land-based hermit crabs – popular terrarium pets – are the only
ones that hollow out and remodel their shells, sometimes doubling the internal
volume. This provides more room to grow, more room for eggs – sometimes a
thousand more eggs – and a lighter home to lug around as they forage.
But empty snail shells are rare on land, so the best hope of moving to a new home is
to kick others out of their remodeled shells, said Mark Laidre, a UC Berkeley Miller
Post-Doctoral Fellow who reported this unusual behavior in this month’s issue of the
journal Current Biology.
When three or more terrestrial hermit crabs congregate, they quickly attract dozens
of others eager to trade up. They typically form a conga line, smallest to largest,
each holding onto the crab in front of it, and, once a hapless crab is wrenched from
its shell, simultaneously move into larger shells.
“The one that gets yanked out of its shell is often left with the smallest shell, which it
can’t really protect itself with,” said Laidre, who is in the Department of Integrative
Biology. “Then it’s liable to be eaten by anything. For hermit crabs, it’s really their
sociality that drives predation.”
A free-for-all takes place whenever three or more hermit crabs congregate, with all
crabs intent on displacing someone else to get a larger shell.
Laidre says the crabs’ unusual behavior is a rare example of how evolving to take
advantage of a specialized niche – in this case, land versus ocean – led to an
unexpected byproduct: socialization in a typically solitary animal.
“No matter how exactly the hermit tenants modify their shellters, they exemplify an
important, if obvious, evolutionary truth: living things have been altering and
remodeling their surroundings throughout the history of life,” wrote UC Davis
evolutionary biologist Geerat J. Vermeij in a commentary in the same journal. For
decades, Vermeij has studied how animals’ behavior affects their own evolution –
what biologists term “niche construction” – as opposed to the well-known Darwinian
idea that the environment affects evolution through natural selection.
“Organisms are not just passive pawns subjected to the selective whims of enemies
and allies, but active participants in creating and modifying their internal as well as
their external conditions of life,” Vermeij concluded.
Laidre conducted his studies on the Pacific shore of Costa Rica, where the hermit
crab Coenobita compressus can be found by the millions along tropical beaches. He
tethered individual crabs, the largest about three inches long, to a post and
monitored the free-for-all that typically appeared within 10-15 minutes.
Most of the 800 or so species of hermit crab live in the ocean, where empty snail
shells are common because of the prevalence of predators like shell-crushing crabs
with wrench-like pincers, snail-eating puffer fish and stomatopods, which have the
fastest and most destructive punch of any predator.
A marine snail shell newly vacated by its gastropod owner (left) and a shell that has
been remodeled by a hermit crab.
On land, however, the only shells available come from marine snails tossed ashore
by waves. Their rarity and the fact that few land predators can break open these
shells to get at the hermit crab may have led the crabs to remodel the shells to make
them lighter and more spacious, Laidre said.
The importance of remodeled shells became evident after an experiment in which he
pulled crabs from their homes and instead offered them newly vacated snail shells.
None survived. Apparently, he said, only the smallest hermit crabs take advantage
of new shells, since only the small hermit crabs can fit inside the unremodeled
shells. Even if a crab can fit inside the shell, it still must expend time and energy to
hollow it out, and this is something hermit crabs of all sizes would prefer to avoid if
The work was funded by UC Berkeley’s Miller Institute.
Does teacher culture
encourage a "brain
Does "teamwork" in
schools mean a group of
teachers working closely
together to sabotage
teachers outside their
Teacher culture doesn't
reward intelligence. It
pressures smart people to
act stupid to succeed in
The myth that we need groups of
teachers who are willing to work
with each other is a barrier to
reform. First of all, these teams
are usually not working together
because it's the professional
thing to do, but because they are
members of a clique. The idea of
not hiring or getting rid of
someone because the
established "team" doesn't like
them is unprofessional. Why not
simply demand that all teacher
act like professionals, and work
together in the interest of
students? The goal of
conformity directly opposes
reform. In order to be better, by
definition one has to be different.
This is an important cause of the
teacher brain drain.And "fitting in"
immediately rules out teachers
who are interested in changing
things for the better. In my
experience, "reform" has always
been recycled ideas that are
A team of teachers shouldn't
be selected like sorority
pledges, as they are now.
They should be chosen like
Billy Beane chooses
baseball players. "...Beane
has applied statistical
analysis to players, known
as sabermetrics, which has
led all teams to reconsider
how they evaluate players.
He is the subject of Michael
Lewis' 2003 book on
Moneyball, which was made
into a 2011 film starring Brad
Pitt as Beane." Of course,
this would require data
about teachers that would
come from observations by
unbiased parties, interviews,
student test scores and
teacher test scores.
The Urge to Punish
One person’s tweets leads to disastrous results
Mar 23rd 2013
One tweet can lead to a disastrous onslaught of consequences, as Adria Richards
has recently found out. While attending the PyCon Technology Conference last
week, she overheard two male developers behind her talking about “big dongles”
and “forking someone’s repo”. She was offended by the jokes and she stated, “I
was telling myself if they made one more sexual joke, I’d say something.”
Adria Richards tweets incite firings and controversy
However, Richards didn’t say “something” to the developers, but instead stated her
opinions in the public land of Twitter. She decided that public shame would be the
best route for the two developers behind her, so she snapped their pictures and
tweeted, “Not cool. Jokes about forking repo’s in a sexual way and “big” dongles.
Right behind me #pycon”. The two developers were escorted out of the
conference, and one of the developers (the one on the left side of the picture) was
fired from his position at PlayHaven.
Adria Richards tweets incite firings and controversy 1
While the two men may have been acting immaturely, Richards did no better by
publicly shaming them. She should have confronted these men directly in order to
achieve a more peaceful resolution, or she should have reported the incident
directly to the staff (whom she said she was contacting through text messages). As
many people and sites have said, public shaming should always be a last resort.
Richard’s tweets led to an online debate over sexism as well as privacy concerns.
Many people have condemned her actions, while others stated that she did the
right thing. The developer, who was fired, apologized for his comments, but also
stated that a person like Richards, and her social following, should have been more
responsible. He said, “As a result of the picture she took I was let go from my job
today. Which sucks because I have 3 kids and I really liked that job.”
A group on Reddit has started a fund called the “Feminist Victims Fund” to help
raise money for the fired developer. Anonymous threatened SendGrid and asked
the startup to fire Richards for engaging in “malicious conduct to destroy another
individual’s professional career”. To ensure the validity of the message,
Anonymous launched a DDOS attack against SendGrid.
Shortly following the attack, SendGrid terminated Richard’s position, stating that
her actions and the consequences that ensued caused her to “no longer be
effective in her role at SendGrid”. This whole situation could have been handled
more efficiently and peacefully, but instead it spiraled out of control and ended up
backfiring for Richards.
Men also practice
something very similar
to Girl/Teacher Culture
Pictures of people who
For years, strangers have made fun
of me for being fat. But I got my
power back -- by turning the camera
By Haley Morris-Cafiero
Apr 23, 2013
...There are so many people in the
world who feel they have the
right – no, the obligation — to
criticize someone for the way
they look, and to be that recipient of
those insults can feel so lonely...
Most teachers want their
structure to remain intact.
Ruling teacher cliques don't like it
when a solo teacher gets better
results than they do. They don't like
change, unless it's on their terms.
They don't want new ideas coming
from outside their group. They want
safety and conformity.
Political teachers will find all
sorts of reasons to attack
students and other
teachers, putting their own
quests for power ahead of
the education of students.
The types of accusation
they will pursue range from
totally irrational to carelessly
untrue. They believe that
their right to enforce their
own agenda takes
precedence over the well
being of children, or they
simply ignore the harm they
do to students.
Many teachers have a lot of
anger at kids and adults, and
feel that they are obtaining
justice when they do harm.
Instead of giving teachers
help for excessive negative
emotions, both unions and
frustrations to obtain or
See: the death of a teacher
Teachers are a lot like flight attendants
Booted Off the Plane: How Normal Is That?
By STEPHANIE ROSENBLOOM
Published: July 24, 2013
...Yet consumer advocates and passengers who have been ordered off planes for
seemingly petty infractions think some flight attendants abuse their power
and that the broad language airlines use to define unruly behavior makes it
difficult for passengers to know how to behave and, if necessary, defend
Ms. Shook said removing passengers from planes is a last recourse. However,
there are consequences for those who do not follow a rule like turning off portable
“For us that’s the biggest challenge,” Ms. Shook said. “That is where we’re seeing
some unruly behavior.” Some passengers have the attitude that “those rules might
be for everybody but me.”
A passenger might not think refusing to shut off a phone is a big deal, but not
adhering to a simple request on the ground suggests that you might not be
cooperative in a more serious situation.
“If they refuse to turn off their phone,” Ms. Shook said, “we don’t want to predict
what would happen in flight. It could be far worse if you’re up in the air.”
On the ground, passengers can be turned over to airport authorities. In the air,
the plane might have to be diverted or the passenger restrained.
“We’re there to protect the safety of passengers,” she said.
When deciding whether a passenger should be removed from a plane, cabin
crews are encouraged to trust their judgment. That leaves them with the job of
trying to parse impolite behavior or traits (like talking loudly) from potentially
No one wants surly passengers on a flight. And there is no telling how many
terrible situations have been avoided because perceptive flight attendants have
had passengers removed from planes. But consumer advocates say that the
broad and vague language that airlines use to define unruly behavior (found in
their Contract of Carriage) is unfair to passengers because it is unclear what can
get them tossed off a plane and renders them unable to defend themselves.
“We have heard of passengers being told to get off a plane because of a ‘look’ or
being too ‘anxious’ or having too ‘tense a tone’ when they answer a flight
attendant,” said Kate Hanni, the founder of FlyersRights.org, the largest nonprofit
airline consumer group in the country. Ms. Hanni said it has tried unsuccessfully to
persuade the F.A.A. to create a set of rules or legal standards so that passengers
know precisely which behaviors to avoid. Currently, a flight attendant can remove
a passenger for not obeying instructions or if a passenger presents a risk.
“But ‘risk’ is completely subjective,” she said, “and when you have flight attendants
and crews from different backgrounds and cultures you get a different set of rules
that no one knows on every flight.”
A guide to preventing and managing unruly passengers by the International Air
Transport Association says that “incidents are occurring regularly, on all airlines
and in every cabin class.” Published late last year, it is the group’s first effort to
bring together information in various documents and manuals. It defines unruly
passengers as those who fail to follow crew instructions and onboard rules of
Examples of disruptive behavior listed in the manual go beyond not complying with
safety procedures like fastening your seat belt. Such behavior is also described
as appearing agitated or numb or using profane language. It can be
“communicating displeasure through voice tone or rude gesture, provoking an
argument or making unreasonable demands,” like refusing to “give up on a denied
(Also unruly: belting out the Dolly Parton song “I Will Always Love You,” which a
woman did in May during an American Airlines flight to New York until it was
diverted to Kansas City, Mo., where she was escorted off the plane.)
Teacher Culture versus Education Reform
It turns out "girl culture" is everywhere--and men practice it
When is it wrong to be loyal to your social group?
The hidden clues to “Breaking Bad’s” meaning
The show's many visual "Easter eggs" reveal
its deeper message
By Michael Darnell
Sep 27, 2013
...These visual motifs reveal to us the
fickleness of our ethics.
When questionable acts are performed by sympathetic people, they too seem
sympathetic when it really should be the other way around — the act should
make us question the person’s character.
That’s a lesson worth remembering in our daily lives. We need but to go back and
reconsider things in context...
Science Roundup: Swarm Intelligence...
Jane J. Lee National Geographic October 4, 2013
...As long as the overarching goal of the group remains the same—such as the ultimate
destination for migrators or where to forage for food—a diversity of opinion on how to
reach those goals results in smarter decisions.
Published in the November issue of the journal American Naturalist, the study looked at
how group members in a computer simulation fared under different conditions. Groups
with limited information in uncertain environments made much better decisions about
what to do when they included a diversity of opinion than if they all wanted to reach their
goal in the same way.
"These results provide a strong argument in the interest of all stakeholders for not
excluding other (e.g., minority) factions from collective decisions," wrote the study
Girl culture means always being nice--when someone is
Grandmother charged in murder-for-hire plot
October 12, 2013
by Jennifer Duckworth, WTLV/WJXX
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- A woman has been arrested for allegedly attempting to have
her daughter-in-law killed, according to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office. Diana Reaves
Costarakis, 70, allegedly solicited an undercover detective to murder her
daughter-in-law for $5,000.
Angela Costarakis who says she was the intended target could hardly believe what
"She told me three weeks ago, gave me a big old hug and
said I am so glad we are great friends. I guess if I was out of the way she
could have her son and her granddaughter," said Costarakis.
Costarakis, the grandmother, met with an undercover detective on Oct. 9 at a Home
Depot and gave the detective $500 for the first payment as well as a picture of her
daughter-in-law, vehicle description and her address. The undercover detective met
with Costarakis again on Oct. 10 and received another payment of $1,000. She also
informed the detective that her daughter-in-law wore expensive jewelry and when the
job was done, he could sell the jewelry.
Costarakis said that the diamonds could be removed from her daughter-in-law's body,
sold without a trace and to use the money towards the final payment. When the
undercover detective asked if Costarakis wanted her daughter-in-law dead, she
replied, "If you don't, I will."
Hank Reaves says this is so out of character for his sister...[Or
perhaps he never really knew her character?]
Costarakis was arrested and charged with criminal solicitation, and criminal
conspiracy. Both of those charges are capital felony crimes (felony first-degree).
Evolution Is Steered by Competing Females
Nov 12, 2013 12:30 PM ET // by Annalee Newitz, iO9
View Related Gallery »
View Caption +#1: Back in the Beginning
View Caption +#2: Australopithecus afarensis
View Caption +#3: Australopithecus africanus
View Caption +#4: Paranthropus aethiopicus
View Caption +#5: Paranthropus boisei
View Caption +#6: Homo rudolfensis
View Caption +#7: Homo ergaster
View Caption +#8: Homo heidelbergensis
View Caption +#9: Homo neanderthalensis
View Caption +#10: Homo floresiensis
View Caption +#11: Homo sapiens
Optical Illusions: Your Brain Is Way Ahead of You
Genetic 'Adam' and 'Eve' Uncovered
Are We Hard-Wired to Enjoy Cheating?
One of the classic images from evolutionary theory is of two males smashing
each other up to compete for the chance to fertilize a female. Scientists have
spent over a century studying this kind of male competition, but new discoveries
reveal that competition between females is just as important.
The problem is that female competition and aggression don't always look like
the male versions. As Paula Stockley and Anne Campbell argue in a special
issue of The Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, male
competition is showy -- we can see fantastically armored beetles, the colorful
tail of the peacock, and the often deadly fights between many male mammals.
Evolution Punishes the Selfish
You'd think being selfish would help a species survive, but you'd be wrong!
But what we can't see are the ways that female mouse hormones spike at
certain times of the year, causing them to become intensely aggressive toward
other females. And until a great deal of observation had been done, scientists
also hadn't seen the way female apes murder each other's babies.
PHOTOS: Faces of Our Ancestors
Today, we have decades of data showing how competition between females,
including human women, affects sexual selection and the evolution of a species.
Stockley and Campbell introduce the new science of female competition with a
selection of essays in the Royal Society B that pull back the curtain on the often
hidden drama of female aggression.
One of the big themes in these studies is the fact that females invest so much
energy in reproduction and child-rearing that they are unlikely to expend
enormous amounts of energy on competition. Instead of smashing each other,
they engage in low-cost forms of competition, often resolving the question of
who gets to breed and who doesn't without ever fighting.
This isn't to say that there aren't many species where females do fight -- the
spotted hyena is a good example. But on the whole, females tend to preserve
their energy for reproduction. And there are a couple of interesting ways they
First of all, keep in mind that these conflicts are motivated by the same things
that motivate male conflicts in sexual selection. Females want access to mating
partners, and to resources for their offspring. But how can one female prevent
other females from mating without killing them? In many cases, they do it by
Animals from insects to mammals cooperatively raise their young. High-status
females have more children than low-status females, who are often their sisters.
It is simply a better use of energy for the low-status females to accept their
positions within the group and have fewer children.
You can even see this pattern among some groups of humans, such as the
Mosou of southwestern China, where many generations of sisters live together
and their husbands live elsewhere -- only visiting their wives at night. The older
sisters tend to have more children, and do more farm work, then the younger
ones. As Stockley and Campbell put it, "reproductive conflict among females
more readily resolved to restraint among subordinates rather than escalated
physical contests with their dominant."
Aggression Without Violence
Females tend to threaten each other with social isolation rather than violence.
Among social animals, being cast out of the group can mean death, or very few
chances to mate. Among humans, perhaps the most social animals we know,
the "mean girls" phenomenon is a perfect example of low-energy competition.
Nobody is beaten, but we know for sure who has lost the battle.
Girl Culture in Hollywood:
Scarlett Johansson condemns Dylan Farrow--and Oxfam!--for
talking about what they know
Nice girls don't bring up difficult subjects; and they don't like people who do
Scarlett Johansson’s awful defense of Woody Allen and SodaStream
The "Captain America" star opens her mouth and inserts foot as she calls Dylan
Mar 17, 2014
Scarlett Johansson's awful defense of Woody Allen and SodaStreamScarlett
Johansson. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino, File) (Credit: AP)
Scarlett Johansson seems to be rebranding herself — but given her unconvincing
defense of herself and criticism of the haters, her fans might prefer it if she kept silent
on some issues.
The pneumatic actress, a mainstay of fashion magazine covers, has recently given
interviews to The New Yorker and The Guardian in which she reflects upon her career.
It’s precisely the right moment for her to take stock, coming off of a great critical
success (“Her”) and anticipating the April releases of both a surefire hit (“Captain
America: The Winter Soldier”) and an edgy indie (“Under the Skin”). No one can blame
Johansson, who’s commonly asked about her personal life or fashion, for wanting to
delve a little deeper.
But talking about the work is one thing. Johansson seems ill-equipped to defend her
involvement in recent controversies, and tends to criticize her critics. For instance, in
both interviews, Johansson defends her engagement with the brand SodaStream. The
home seltzer maker is produced in a factory in the occupied West Bank; in order to
endorse the project with a Super Bowl ad, Johansson had to resign as global
ambassador for the humanitarian aid group Oxfam. Johansson told The New Yorker’s
“I think I was put into a position that was way larger than anything I
could possibly — I mean, this is an issue that is much bigger than
something I could just be dropped into the middle of.”
That’s true. But Johansson wasn’t dropped into a global controversy against her will;
she chose to accept a check from SodaStream and, subsequently, to quit her
advocacy work in order to keep the lucrative opportunity. And, far from keeping up the
defense that Middle East politics are beyond her ken, Johansson makes bizarre
allegations about the SodaStream factory in The Guardian, telling journalist Carole
“I stand behind that decision. I was aware of that particular factory before I signed it
[...] it still doesn’t seem like a problem. Until someone has a solution to the closing of
that factory to leaving all those people destitute, that doesn’t seem like the solution to
the problem. [...] I’m coming into this as someone who sees that factory as a model for
some sort of movement forward in a seemingly impossible situation.”
The West Bank is indeed a difficult situation, but Johansson’s representation of
herself as someone with a level of perception greater than that of the human
rights groups that have condemned profiting from occupied territories is the
sort of thing people talk about when they wish actresses wouldn’t talk politics.
Johansson has broken her silence in the past, but it’s been about amiable things —
endorsing her friend Scott Stringer for municipal office in New York, for instance. She’s
entitled to her opinion, but this feels excessive, a defense of her taking SodaStream
money that’s worse than the initial offense.
Worse still is her condemnation of Dylan Farrow, whose op-ed making
allegations of abuse against Woody Allen in the New York Times asked
Johansson, among other stars, how she would feel if Allen had abused her.
(Johansson and Allen have worked together on three films, and she was widely
perceived as his “muse” in the mid-to-late 2000s.) Johansson told The Guardian:
“I think it’s irresponsible to take a bunch of actors that will have a Google alert on and
to suddenly throw their name into a situation that none of us could possibly knowingly
comment on. That just feels irresponsible to me.”
Johansson goes on at some length about how she has no opinion about the
allegations against Allen and that those who expect her to are barking up the wrong
tree. But she doesn’t have no opinion, for all that she portrays leaving Allen alone as
the only fair response. Having no opinion is tantamount to having an opinion of Allen’s
lack of guilt and the degree to which he ought to continue making films. It’s an opinion
others share (clearly, or else Allen’s career would be over), but not something that can
be framed as utter equanimity. It’s defensive — to an ugly degree that Johansson’s
claim she’s been receiving mean Google Alerts doesn’t mitigate.
She went yet further in a brief aside to The New Yorker: “I don’t see why anyone
wouldn’t” work with Allen, she remarked, as though to differ from Johansson’s defense
of Allen is to be not just irresponsible but wrongheaded. Not merely should the public
refrain from commenting on Allen, but no one ought to turn down the opportunity to
work with him.
It’s an open secret, or just common knowledge, that stars almost never have
to comment on things that they don’t want to. Access to celebrities has never
been more brokered — indeed, Lane notes that a condition of his meeting
Johansson was accepting that he was not allowed to ask about her reported
pregnancy. So Johansson wanted to address the SodaStream and Allen
controversies, and wanted to do so in a manner devoid of humility or open-
mindedness. In responding to both issues over the course of two interviews,
Johansson refused to accept that she might be criticized for any reason other than her
critics’ inanity and cluelessness. Maybe it’s time to go back to the substance-free puff
pieces that come with lavish photo spreads in Vogue or Elle — because, for
Johansson, this is a bad look.
Mean girls are usually not this physically aggressive.
I'm guessing that this was about more than who was
going to drive. But still, Christina George is a very
Bride accused of killing niece after
wedding celebration in New Brighton
Police say Katelyn Francis was shot during
argument with Christina George-Harvan
and new husband
By Amber Nicotra
Apr 25, 2014
NEW BRIGHTON, Pa. —A Beaver County woman
spent her wedding night in handcuffs after she was
arrested in connection with a fatal shooting Thursday.
Christina George-Harvan, 30, was arrested and charged with criminal homicide,
recklessly endangering another person and two counts of aggravated assault.
"It's a shame it happened, but I believe alcohol was a major factor in this," New
Brighton Police Chief Charles Vanfossan said.
Police said they were called to Jimmy K's Bar & Grille on 11th Avenue for reports of a
gunshot in the parking lot around 10 p.m., and they found Katelyn Francis on the
ground with a gunshot wound to her stomach. The 21-year-old West Virginia woman
was flown to UPMC Presbyterian, where she later died.
Police arrested George-Harvan and her new husband, Jeremy Harvan. The two were
married earlier that day and were out celebrating with friends and family. Francis was
a niece of the bride.
"Evidently, the two had just married. They were celebrating their marriage with
several friends and relatives," Vanfossan said.
Police said an argument started between the newlyweds and the victim over who was
going to drive, due to the groom's intoxicated state.
"We believe all three were arguing over who was going to be the designated driver,"
George-Harvan is being held in the county jail without bail. She's scheduled for a
preliminary hearing next week.
Lena Dunham and Feminism: Beware the Vitriol
of the Sisterhood
Nov. 4, 2014
The debate over revelations in Dunham's memoir is not just about the propriety of a
child's sexual curiosity. It’s about women who make us uncomfortable.
“Sisterhood is powerful. It kills. Mostly sisters.”
Those were the words of Ti-Grace Atkinson, an author and philosopher, when she
resigned from the Feminists, a radical group she had founded in the late 1960s. They
were repeated, forty years later, in the New Yorker by Susan Faludi, who described them
as “one of the lines most frequently quoted by feminists.”
If Lena Dunham’s latest lambasting is any indication, the words are still applicable today.
The vitriol of the sisterhood is alive and well.
The latest controversy over Dunham goes like this: Last month, the 28-year-old creator
of Girls published a memoir, Not That Kind of Girl. In the book, much in the same way her
HBO series does, Dunham takes on all sorts of taboos, in revealing, unfiltered, at times
uncomfortable sections on virginity, sisterly intimacy and platonic bed sharing, date rape,
and more. She is graphic in her sexual descriptions, including a passage where she
describes, as a 7-year-old, looking inside her younger sister’s vagina (to discover that
her sister had placed pebbles in it, presumably as a prank).
The scene is cringe-inducing. It’s uncomfortable, no doubt. It’s also funny. I laughed,
turned the page and kept reading. Little kids do bizarre things.
It appeared that so did everybody else — until last week. That’s when an article in the
National Review – written by Kevin Williamson, a man notable for an article on how
“Laverne Cox Is Not a Woman” and seeming to suggest that women who get abortions
should be hanged-- eviscerated Dunham for the chapter in her book about rape (he
questioned why, if the story of an assault she suffered in college were truthful, she never
“felt the need to press charges, file a complaint, or otherwise document the encounter.”)
The right-wing website TruthRevolt then picked up the thread, homed in on the sisterly
vagina scene (along with a typo stating that Dunham was
seventeen not 7) and declared in a headline (over which Dunham is now
allegedly suing): “Lena Dunham describes sexually molesting her sister.”
In the version of things in my head, here’s how I would have expected this scenario to
A few right wing publications and gossip blogs would pick up the story. The New York
Post would write a snarky headline. Dunham would respond on Twitter (which she did).
Her sister, who is her best friend and tour manager, would chime in (which she did).
Feminists would jump to her defense. What she did as a seven-year-old may bother
people, but that’s precisely Dunham’s form of art. That doesn’t make it abuse.
And yet… here is how it did play out. Dunham was swiftly called a “predator without
remorse” — mostly by other feminists on Twitter. She was compared to R. Kelly, Bill
Cosby, and Jian Ghomeshi. She became the subject of a hashtag, #DropDunham, which
called on Planned Parenthood – which has joined Dunham on a number of stops on her
book tour – to disassociate from her immediately.
And on feminist listservs, Tumblr blogs and elsewhere, the pile-on began. She was
“creepy.” “Not normal.” A “self-promoter.” “Full of herself.” A woman who needs to “sit the
f–k down and learn something.” She was told to “get some boundaries.” To “stop being
weird.” Her story was, as one blogger put it, “best kept in the confines of your family
kitchen over Thanksgiving.”
This was not the National Review talking. These were fellow feminists.
Yes, she had defenders: Jimmy Kimmel tweeted that suggesting “a 7 yr-old girl is even
capable of ‘molestation’ is vile”; a sex researcher at the Kinsey Institute wrote that “it’s
normal for kids to explore with each other;” prominent feminist voices like Roxane Gay
(who called Dunham “gutsy” and “audacious” in a review of her book), Katha Pollitt (who
donated to Planned Parenthood in Dunham’s honor); and a group of women who
launched a Tumblr to curate all sorts of youthful (and at times unsettling) stories of
sexual exploration. (Dunham responded again, too, writing in TIME that she takes abuse
seriously and noting that her sister had given permission for her to publish the story.)
And yet the vitriol from her critics was so intense, so personal, so almost gleeful, that it
was hard not to wonder if this was really about Lena Dunham at all.
“Honestly, I don’t think I’ve even seen this level of outrage over Bill Cosby,” one friend
commented, referring to the allegations of sexual abuse against Cosby.
Why, whenever there is a powerful woman speaking about feminism publicly (including,
ahem: Sheryl Sandberg, and please see the disclosure in my bio) must they become so
polarizing as to make feminism, as one journalist put it, “a bipartisan issue“? (It’s worth
noting that among my cohort, anyway, there has been far more discussion about
Dunham than about the elections).
Feminism is about giving women equal opportunity, equal voice, equal power. And yet,
over and over again, when female voices attain that power, we – other women – parse
and analyze their every move, public and personal, with an absurdly critical eye. We see
it in politics, in pop culture, in film. From Hillary Clinton to Sandberg to Anne Hathaway.
(As Roxane Gay put it in a piece for The Rumpus, “Young women in Hollywood cannot
win, no matter what they do.”)
To be clear: There are plenty of people who think Dunham’s behavior toward her sister
was questionable, and that’s a valid argument to have. (Though “inappropriate” is a
whole lot different from “molestation” so say the experts.) There are others who’ve
argued that acknowledging Dunham’s race, and privileged background, are crucial to
this conversation. (I happen to disagree – but that too, is a discussion worth having.)
But this has become a witch hunt – and it has everything to do
with how we view women like Dunham.
Feminism has a long history of what Ms. Magazine, in a 1976 piece by Jo Freeman,
called “trashing.” That is, taking jabs at women
who suddenly rise up, helping elevate them, but
then tearing them down when they become too
"Girl culture" isn't just
March 31, 2015
Peter W. Chin
How to Destroy
What threatens pastors
most is not the attack that
comes from outside the
church, but the criticisms of
cliques from within
Over the past 15 years of
pastoral ministry, I have
contemplated quitting at
least 3 times. The first time
was when I had to dedicate
a tiny baby who had passed
away after being born three
months premature. The
second was when my wife
was diagnosed with cancer,
which I describe in great
detail in my book. But the
time I most seriously
considered quitting took
place in the living room of a
He and I had been in almost
constant conflict over the
course of two years. I was
at his house to try to figure
out what the problem was,
and how we might fix it. With
my head in my hands, I
poured out my heart to this
man I considered my
brother in Christ, sharing all
the woes and fears that I
had faced that year: the
break-ins at my home, my
wife’s cancer diagnosis, our
meager attendance at
church. My voice choked
with emotion, I confessed to
him, “I really could use a
break, you know?”
He looked at me, and with a
flat voice dripping with
contempt, muttered, “You
are just so . . . emotional.”
Speechless, I stared at him.
I realized then that he didn’t
see me as I saw him, as a
brother in Christ. I was his
enemy, worthy only of his
derision, not his
compassion. As he met my
stare with a stony one of his
own, I pledged to myself,
“That’s it. I quit.” For
months and even years
after this experience, I
struggled to comprehend
why this man viewed me
with such disdain. The only
thing that I could discern
was that his entire small
group seemed to
collectively hold a pretty dim
view of me as their pastor.
For a long time afterwards, I
thought that my experience
was unique. But as I spoke
with other pastors, I realized
that this narrative was an
altogether common one. In
conversation, fellow pastors
told me their horror stories
of how they too had faced
from a single individual
or, more commonly, a
single faction of people.
And this criticism had
been so unrelenting that
many of these pastors
had left their
congregations or the
I never grasped how
phenomenon was until I
came upon this article. It
states that a full 28
percent of pastors have
been pushed out of their
churches by attacks that
originated from a
relatively small group of
people. This number does
not include those who
leaving but ultimately
decided to stay. Nearly half
of those pastors who had
left then seriously
ministry altogether. What is
even worse are the
lingering emotional and
spiritual scars that these
experiences leave on
pastors. This was definitely
the case for me. My
confidence, not just as a
pastor but as a person,
plummeted to new depths
after that encounter, and it
has yet to fully recover. I
have come to realize that
what is often most
dangerous to the welfare of
pastors is not the attack
from outside the church, but
the criticisms of cliques from
What is often most
dangerous to the welfare of
pastors is not the attack
from outside the church, but
the criticisms of cliques from
Now I want to make clear
that I'm not saying that
small groups, either the
formal or informal kind, are
evil. They provide a safe
and intimate place to foster
accountability, making them
invaluable. Neither am I
saying that people aren't
allowed to have their
opinions and share them
with one another, or that
pastors are somehow
infallible and should never
have to face loving
instruction, especially when
they commit a grave
But at the same time,
people often fail to
recognize that a tightly-
knit group of friends can
be the ideal petri dish
for a particularly
destructive brand of
criticism. In fact, it is the
very things that make small
groups so wonderful that
also make them so
dangerous. The power of
small groups is in social
cohesion, or when a group
takes on a shared sense of
corporate identity. As a
means to promote that
cohesion, members of a
group value and affirm
other members, as well as
their opinions and beliefs.
They also tend to be
wary of outsiders in
order to safeguard the
precious safe space that
they share. These are not
problems in themselves, but
actually serve to make a
But because the group is
naturally inclined towards
agreement, they can slip
into a tendency called
where the shared
opinion of the group is
stronger and more
extreme than the opinion
of any one individual of
that group. And since
these groups are prone
to being insulated from
outsiders, there is no
reference point from
which they can
recognize that their view
may not be shared by
others. Add to this the fact
that central figures (like
pastors and presidents)
tend to be the natural target
of frustration. And what you
discover is that the
impression of one individual
quickly becomes the sure
conviction of many, a
conviction that is only
intensified over multiple
regular conversations. I'm
certain that more than a few
of us have witnessed this
firsthand, where "Pastor
blew me off one
"Pastor is really aloof,"
and finally, "This pastor
is just not cutting it.
She's got to go."
Contrary to what we might
think, opinions that
are shared by more
than one person are
not necessarily a
sure signpost to the
truth because even
groups can fall prey
to harmful and
ungodly patterns of
speech. This is not at all
just the tendency of
individuals. What better
example is there than
Passion Week, when an
influential and disgruntled
few manage to coax a
massive crowd into crying
out for Jesus’ crucifixion,
the same crowd that five
days before had cried out
“Hosanna in the highest”?
There are ways that the
church as an organization
can regulate this:
encouraging each group to
welcome newcomers or
asking groups to multiply so
that connections and
relationships are more
broadly shared at the
church. But these are not
true solutions, only
organizational attempts at
managing the potentially
destructive dynamics of
No, I believe the answer lies
with mature believers who
recognize what is taking
place in their circles and
work to stop it. It takes
individuals who will stand up
and lovingly say, “You
know, I don’t think this
conversation is really
honoring God or that other
person. We should bring it
up with them directly.” Or “I
love our time together, but
want other people to enjoy
it too. What do you think
about creating another
group out of ours?” Or
instead of remaining silent
when an especially harsh
comment is bandied about,
speaking up to say, “I
appreciate your point of
view, but actually disagree. I
think she is doing a great
I know that this might sound
trivial, and little more than
helpful advice for church
leaders. But it goes far
beyond this. The truth is
that the lives and hearts
of so many pastors are
being wrecked by the
poisonous opinions that
are cultivated by cliques.
And that means that any
church that wants to love
and protect their pastor
must go beyond gift cards
and chocolate cake. The
church must address the
fact that often what is
destroying pastors are not
the arrows that come from
outside its walls, but those
which originate from within.
March 31, 2015