Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Timely vs Timeless: A Thought on Mission Statements

     I can't find the Tweet now, and I can't remember who said it; so I'm probably going to misquote it. It went something like "Just adding innovative to your mission statement doesn't mean you really are." I found myself nodding and thinking about all the other trendy words have been added to countless mission statements over the past decade or so: leadership, diverse, mindful, 21st centuryresilient (or grit), global...please complete the list with your own favorites.
     As I've been reflecting on our own mission statement and asking others to do so as well, I've heard and read a great deal about what makes one effective. And, just as importantly, why most lack a certain something. We all know the reasons for each. But this Tweet crystallized for me a notion that I think is worth pondering, mainly because it points beyond mission to a larger challenge.
     When we add such words to our mission, we fall into what I guess is a human trap of grasping hopefully onto the timely. How many times can you think of education having latched onto something and proclaiming it as the silver bullet? Recall that even television was once seen as such. We do the same thing with more abstract concepts such as leadership. When it becomes a buzzword, often school even incorporate it into our mission statements. Our mission can then become like too much of our curricula--wider and wider with perhaps less depth.
     If schools really are re-imagining themselves and their mission statements, rather than take on the timely, they should consider the timeless. Don't just gaze into the supposed future. Instead, plumb the depths of what makes us human, those eternal qualities which have enabled us to innovate for thousands of years.

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