Ed Johnson is a relentless watchdog over public education in Atlanta. He happens to be a devotee of the thought of W. Edwards Deming, and he opposes the current corporate reform philosophy of disruption, top-down orders, ranking, rating, punishment, and rewards. Johnson understands that accountability begins at the top, and that the role of leadership is to support those who work in the organization, not to micro-manage or give orders. He recently sent this mini-essay to members of the Atlanta Board of Education:

Atlanta Superintendent: “Changes are never easy”

Why yet another trifling and regressive catchphrase of the same variety as “change is hard” and “people are afraid of change?” Augh!

All too often the reason the autocratic, self-absorbed leader summarily talks about change being hard or never easy amounts to the leader implicitly self-promoting the leader’s standing and implicitly denigrating the standing of others. It is an ingrained, intentional, and perverted psychopathy of blaming meant to intimidate and silence dissension from the get go. It provides for immediately reframing and thereby dismissing dissenters as “being afraid of change.” It is a slick, accusatory way of saying: “Others have to change, I don’t.”

Heaven forbid such a leader should be asked: “Well, why are changes never easy? What are you doing to make it otherwise?”

change (v.) make or become different

Meanwhile, in reality, in general, change is indeed easy simply because change is a ubiquitous fact of life. No change, no life. In fact, ones very being is change. We all do and experience change, every day, every hour, every second, every whatever time unit. We are so embedded in and involved with change that we rarely notice change. We tend to notice change only when change is imposed, and then when change seems pointless, untenable, threatening, unjust, amoral, unethical, evil, etc.; in short, change for change sake.

Then what, in reality, is not a ubiquitous fact of life? Improvement.

improve (v.) make or become better

Unlike change, improvement stems from getting new knowledge; no new knowledge, no improvement. However, the autocratic, self-absorbed leader already knows all there is to know, so is generally fearful hence wickedly controlling of others learning and getting new knowledge and improving because, for the leader, the collective role of others simply is to perform well to benefit mostly the leader’s standing and aspirations.

Sadly, nowadays, with competitive market-based school reform and school choice and such, “others” includes children controlled and manipulated to perform to “high expectations” and “high standards” of college and career readiness and such, with authentic learning and getting new knowledge and improving made secondary.

Then for whom is change truly hard and not easy?

Consider change is truly hard and not easy, if not impossible, for the autocratic, self-absorbed leader who chooses the easier task of imposing change upon others rather than choosing the harder challenge of leading improvement.

Why bother making Atlanta Public Schools better when making it different, at a cost now approaching one billion dollars, is so much easier, quicker, and efficient to do. Plus, top leadership need not change their ways.

Ed Johnson
Advocate for Quality in Public Education
Atlanta GA
(404) 505-8176 | edwjohnson@aol.com