Knowledge Is Power, but Wisdom Is Transformative

Have you ever been in a room where someone asks a question and the presenter answers with vocabulary and information that seemed designed to make the questioner look stupid? I can. I have also witnessed a presenter being asked a question that was less a question and more a clear opportunity to demonstrate superior knowledge over the presenter. I can even remember doing something similar myself when I was feeling threatened.

Knowledge and intelligence (please note that I am certainly NOT talking about wisdom here) can be wielded to gain power. This can happen on so many levels. There are people who have inside information and release it in a way that gives them status or power. There are those who have expertise on a topic who can be tempted to use their knowledge to gain power and authority. And there are times when knowledge is used to intimidate others into letting one have one’s way.
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Push or Pull as a Leader? Part I

Back on the farm, I first heard it when a half-dozen neighbors were standing around waiting to begin a threshing bee, an annual rite in which famers moved from farm to farm to help each other harvest grain, sharing a communal threshing machine. In a joking tone, my dad said, “Alright, boys, it’s time to push, pull, or get out of the road.” Since then I’ve heard the phrase at the end of a tedious debate in a Christian school board room about starting a capital campaign, this time said in anger at the board’s indecisiveness. It had the tone of Nike’s “Just Do It.”

Whether to push or pull is a crucial part of leadership. Even the choice of “getting out of the road” is part of leadership. Pushing or pulling as a leader takes effort, is likely to get resistance from followers, and may lead to giving up. Just this month I heard a principal say, in the middle of criticism for pulling and pushing too much, “I think I’m going to just back off, to let things happen and save myself from the staff’s crabbing.” Teachers and parents all know the temptation of giving up disciplining their children to avoid their “I don’t like you, Mommy” or the teenager’s sassy mouth when we set limits.
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Summiting Mount Antero

I’m going to take a blog session off from my series on alignment to share some thoughts from my recent week of serving as a mentor for West Point cadets in the collegiate peaks of Colorado though an organization called Officers’ Christian Fellowship. The purpose of OCF and specifically the Rocky Mountain High Program in which I participated is to provide young cadets beginning their military careers with seasoned advice from an experienced (old) and retired (washed-up) senior officer (me) on how to operate and live as Christians in today’s military.

As I wracked my brain thinking and praying about the topics I’d wished I had known in my early military years, it came down to a couple key thoughts, around which I structured all of my lessons.
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Summer Check-Up: Human Vocation

In both Genesis and Galatians (and many others biblical texts), our calling as humans is emphasized as one of being a blessing to the nations: of reflecting back to creation the image of God and joining with him in redeeming this world to its original state of “very goodness.” This is the common vocational calling of all believers. Let me reiterate, there is no higher calling for the Christian school than to raise up students to be effective in our common vocational calling.

It’s summer. Last year’s books are put away and the halls are quiet. What better time to reflect on the past school year and contemplate the future by doing a quick check-up on our readiness to fulfill our calling?
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Leadership and Charisma

Over the course of this year we have been looking at the idea of power and leadership, and we’ve done so through the lens of critical theory. That means we have tried to expose behaviors, practices, and norms—be they implicit or explicit—that limit us from fully flourishing as followers of Jesus. We have addressed gender, theology, culture, and status, and have yet to engage charisma and intelligence. I invite you to stay with me on this journey, as the most exciting part is yet to come: the post-exposure part where we explore what we do moving forward to ensure our enacting of power is more aligned with the Kingdom.
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Change for Change’s Sake. Not

“Summertime, and the livin’ is easy.” It’s in the pool or at the lake. It’s sleeping in and slowing down. For principals, teachers, and board members, it’s reflecting back and planning forward: not so easy, but slower-paced than during the school year. It’s soooo good to put balance sheets, lesson plans, and school schedules on the shelf for a few weeks. Family time is a bigger chunk of the summertime than during the “schooling” seasons.

For school leaders and boards, summer is a good time to step back to notice changes in schooling over the past decade, most of which occur in both government and religious schools. Gone is the day (except for small schools in isolated areas) of all students sitting at desks going through the same curriculum with all parents satisfied because “The school knows best.”
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Your Vision for the Future

My last post talked about developing strategic alignment within your organization. The first step in accomplishing this is to develop a clear, agreed-upon vision and strategy. The essential task of any leader is to discuss and determine with your boards and with your staff what the “main thing” is for your school.

I often find that there is some confusion between mission and vision. For the purpose of this series of articles, vision is aspirational. It should be a short statement describing the clear and inspirational long-term desired change resulting from an organization’s or program’s work.
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Vocation, Brokenness, and Revealing the Messiah

If in Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3), then is it true that Christ can be revealed through those same treasures of wisdom and knowledge?

Of course! Do we not as Christian educators deal daily with those same treasures, whether in kindergarten or AP calculus? So how are we doing when it comes to revealing Christ within these treasures? It is obviously true that teachers will reveal Christ to those we teach only if we ourselves are looking for him.

But how? Here I am suggesting two ways among many.
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What’s Your Status on Status?

At the outset, I want to acknowledge that the topic of status is challenging to think about. I think that is the case because it is often a hard reality to identify and impossible to quantify. I’m talking about the connection between a person’s status and the power they wield due to that status. And by status I am referring to one’s standing in a community
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Whajagit?

Whajagit? This is the title of a book about giving grades to students. The writer noted that kids, when tests are handed back, use this question with fellow students, “Hey, Nate, whajagit?” It’s still a practice in school, and at home, where parents ask at major marking times, “Whajagit?” The students who ask it the most are the ones who almost always get good grades. They ask it of students with whom they compete. An A feels even better if the respondent says, “A-.”
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