Kirk and Spock

Don’t Ask Why Not, But How It’s Getting Done

Jose Vilson Jose 2 Comments

Kirk and Spock

Kirk and Spock

Sometime after I saw the movie Star Trek, my girlfriend and I sat in a diner and chit-chatted about education as usual, when the issue of “getting things done” came up. Of course, there’s now a million GTD and DIY-themed sites out there, helping you get from point A to point B for anything, thus making anyone into a virtual Angus McGyver. But this conversation? A little different.

Often, the problem stems from the idea of what people can’t do. You’ll have a row of instructional leaders from all the departments suggest one thing and get about a million rebuttals, most of them just a front to protect the speaker of said rebuttal from any further responsibility. “How will we raise test scores?” the principal will say, and the leaders will, one at a time, come up with something and counter-argue themselves before someone else gets to. Here, it’s on the principal to be like, “Everyone, just listen. No arguments against and for. Just throw out suggestions.”

In the outside world, we see that all the time. When a group of people want to make a movement in one way, there’s always a set of negators waiting on the fringe. While a little dissention is necessary to keep people balanced, we also need to see that fringe as a group of people who can easily turn virulent, and thus incapable of moving that group forward into their one vision. (That whole vision thing is important, too).

My girlfriend’s dealing with a similar situation (or maybe a little more caustic). And she just pops out with,

“My question isn’t why we can’t get this done. It’s ‘How can we get this done?'”

This moment reminded me instantly of some of the philosophical struggles I’ve dealt with, and that coincidentally, Aracelis Girmay posed a day later at the Acentos Poetry Workshop. Let’s ask that second question first, under the assumption that the first question’s been answered. Regardless of how you interpreted the first (implicit and not directly stated) question, the second question will prompt a much different response, almost as if you’re forced to respond in the affirmative.

We often look at certain people and wonder why that person, even if that person is standing right in the mirror, and pontificate on all the challenges that person’s going to face and whether they’ll be able to handle it. But people who are ready will always elicit the following: “Just watch. Don’t ask why I did. Rather, take notes as to how I did.”

Jose, who wants to follow this idea up more tomorrow …

About Jose Vilson

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

Comments 2

  1. Shercole

    Very true. There is basically two types people. The ones who will ask why they can’t do it? and the others who ask how can they do it? That clash is why we have so many problems “fixing problems” because we have yet to realize there are two types and those two types need to work together to create solutions.

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