Power vs. Control

Horses, children, laws, teachers, health, life-

Today, after the usual four hours of uninterrupted focus on emails, blogs and research relative to the ongoing battle to save our public school system from corporatist reformers, I reminded myself that this is Saturday - the first warm, sunny Saturday in a long time.  I had sworn to breathe the fresh air, get some outside exercise and piddle around in my garden.  So I belatedly went outside and started digging in my garden and pulling up weeds. 

 It reminded me, first of all, why I garden,  but most importantly how gardening exemplifies my understanding of the importance and dangers of the human need for control and the difference between control and power.  

Gardening was the first activity of which I am aware that I actually experienced power devoid of control.  Of course I didn't assimilate that understanding at the time.  I thought gardening was the one activity I could control.   What I found out of course was that Mother Nature was the force in control.  So how do I perceive the power in my gardening?   
My garden only existed because of me.  I could design it, plant it and maintain it at will and in spite of the ultimate control of Mother Nature there was power in the physical and mental act of gardening.  Simply pulling a weed is an example.  I had no control over weeds constantly returning to my garden but I had the power to remove them when they did.  It was a physical sense of power too so it was particularly gratifying to dig my fingers down into the dirt, grasp the roots and pull them out.  People who hire someone else to maintain their gardens mistakenly believe they have control over their gardens. Money buys "control"  for them.  What they don't understand is that they have no power; their money has power and of course the person who is hired who can quit at any time has that power.  And power trumps control because the reality is that control is only an illusion.  

Yet human nature wants to "control."  The illusion of control drives high stakes standardized testing, teacher evaluation based on student performance, and school performance scores that carry the threat of state takeover for failure.  

When I was 19 I quit LSU against my parents' wishes.  That was a powerful experience for me but the beginning of my education about the false promises of control as evidenced in my parents' loss of "control" over me.  I didn't "get it" yet though.  

I married when I was 20.  This was a grand opportunity for testing my control.  What I didn't understand then was that there were all kinds of opportunities to exercise power, which I did, but "control" did not exist as I learned years later in my divorce experience.  

I had three children during my first marriage.  You guessed it.  I had all kinds of power but little control even when they were younger,  with even  that rapidly diminishing as they approached adolescence.  Unlike many parents, I understood my limitations and tried as an inexperienced parent to exercise my power to influence my children.  My power was often trumped by the powers of peer pressure, society and just plain obstinance (their natural desire for control).  In this respect I was a miserable parent.  

I began learning dressage and training horses when I was 25 years old.  Over a 20 year period during which I grew more accomplished at riding, training and then teaching dressage, I gained a full understanding of the difference between power and control.  There was a great sense of power felt in training and riding my horses, but the illusion of control was broken every time I was bucked off or run away with.  

At 42, after raising three children, learning to train horses and divorcing,  I decided to become a teacher.  I feel like in those 17 years I had a measure of success and was able to enjoy teaching   because I had no illusions of control.  What I had that drove me was the sense of power that I felt in influencing minds.  I had the power to make that choice knowing that I had no control over each child's outcome.   
Unfortunately children are robbed of the important ability to exercise power in their lives.  They have no power over high stakes standardized tests which are a mystery to them.  They have no power over their learning because they are discouraged in the curriculum from creative and divergent thinking. They have no power in the development of their own sense of self because they are taught to be standardized and that their future hopes and happiness will be the product of their ability to acquire gainful employment to become a productive member of the workforce.  I could go on but it is depressing. Children, like adults, need to experience POWER! 

Parents need to understand that while they have no CONTROL over the spectors of high stakes testing, data collection and a destructive set of standards and curriculum that they do have POWER!  And remember power trumps control because real control is only an illusion.  Control is GIVEN by those in power.  Do not give control of your child to those who wish to control our public schools and the future of our children.  Without your children (your power) they have no control.  Now is the time to exercise your power by not allowing them to be victims of these standardized tests.   
Opting out is your power.  There are no high stakes consequences for at least two years for the iLEAP or for the PARCC field test.  Your child does not have to take these tests.  Refusing to abdicate your power may be the only way to convince these policymakers that high stakes testing, inappropriate standards and curriculum,  and bogus teacher evaluation methodologies will not be accepted.  

Now I'm going back to the garden where I can feel the power! 




"If a child struggles to clear the high bar at five feet, she will not become a "world class" jumper because someone raised the bar to six feet and yelled "jump higher," or if her “poor” performance is used to punish her coach." - - CommonSense

"I believe in standardizing automobiles. I do not believe in standardizing human beings. Standardization is a great peril which threatens American culture.”—— Albert Einstein

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