Messianic arrogance

Am I any different than your friend or relative that insists on witnessing to you every time you see each other? Am I any different than the Hare Krishnas at the airport or the Mormons or Jehovah’s Witnesses who knock at your front door?

Seriously, am I? Let’s look at the evidence:

  1. Deeply-held belief in the true cause (in my case, I believe that schools need to transition into the digital, global age NOW and that leaders are the essential lever to make it happen).
  2. Deeply-held belief that I, rather than others, know what’s best.
  3. Deeply-held belief that others should be listening to me.
  4. Deeply-held belief that others should be acting upon what I say, preferably sooner rather than later.
  5. Deeply-held belief (and sometime-snarky comments) that I will be proved right in the end and that those that delay will wish that they had listened to me when they had the chance.

Passionate, visionary leadership or self-righteous, messianic arrogance? I (we?) have some hard thinking to do…

11 Responses to “Messianic arrogance”

  1. LOL. I think there are a couple of differences. The main one is that you’re not interested in changing my personal life so much as my professional practice. That’s a meaningful distinction. You want me to teach my kids to blog, or to replace the 10 year old encyclopedia in my classroom with a Google search. (I know those are both oversimplifications.) The Mormons, on the other hand, want me to STOP DRINKING COFFEE!

  2. Just get new business cards with a title that has the word Evangelist in it. My official job title has that word in it. Covers a multitude of sins. (pun intendend)

  3. Whisker-thin line between the two, innit?

  4. To elaborate on what Greg mentioned, the personal nature of religious witnessing brings about weighty issues. While some teachers might take offense in a professional sense to someone saying their school is inadequate, it is nothing compared to the offense people take when they are informed of items like eternal damnation.

    But perhaps more important is the method to bring about change. Are you, as a provocateur of educational change, willing to engage in a dialectic? Willing to be persuaded and changed yourself? I would say yes, although I barely know you. Interestingly enough, there are many religious leaders and thinkers who are likewise willing to engage in that dialectic, that their theological outlook isn’t locked in stone. But unfortunately (in my opinion), these thinkers are drowned out by the “witnessers” that you are alluding to.

  5. I like the Evangelist idea… comes up all the time in my job. I’m the “Business Analyst and Mac Guru” on campus, but I may change the title to “Mac Evangelist and Information Munger”.

  6. I have a couple comments, based on the facts that (1) I’m an active Mormon who served two years as a full-time missionary and (2) now, in addition to using opportunities to share that gospel, I also preach the edtech plan o’ salvation.

    First, I think what you do is very similar to what I did as a missionary: invite people to discover for themselves whether what you are teaching is true (or correct) and can improve their life. And that’s the test – the fruits. Christ said, if you want to know if what I’m saying is my own made up stuff or if it’s divine truth, try it out (John 7:17).

    Second, you shouldn’t be too discouraged by the rate of rejection of your message. A good friend wrote to me while I was serving my mission. He said, “Don’t worry about rejection. The more sincere you are, the more reason people will have to reject you.”

    So, your success is in sharing the message – inviting others to try for themselves. If they aren’t willing to try something different for the benefit of themselves (making teaching easier) and their students (discovering their capacity and internal motivation for learning), that can be discouraging. But, you’ve done your part by preaching “unto all nations” (Matt. 28:19). They will choose for themselves whether or not to enter the waters of baptism into the edtech gospel!


  7. The problem with evangelism is when it becomes coercive, manipulative or in any way more than a simple invitation to learn more. We Mormons have a phrase we use (even if we don’t follow it enough) that calls for “gentle persuasion.” I think that should be the nature of evangelism, and as such, your site qualifies.

  8. Scott,
    What a great analogy. I see myself in all five of the pieces of evidence you laid out. I live in rural western Nebraska and there are so few of us who are ready to move into the 21st century. I got in some trouble earlier this week with a rather snarky comment that I made about schools in my region not embracing technology. My “email heard around Nebraska” touched so many nerves because it is true! I am frustrated with the pace that changes are taking place. Most teachers have never heard of blogs, wikis, or anything Web 2.0. I started a Ning this week called the Nebraska Educators Network. I hope it is received well by my colleagues here in the Panhandle who seem to be under the impression that social networks and wikipedia are evil!

  9. Amen,Brother! Where do I send my check?

  10. Unfortunately, I think many edtech enthusiasts make the same mistakes that over-the-top (and unsuccessful) religious evangelists (and other “true believers”) do. Because of that, I suspect they will always be “right,” but just not very effective in their mission of changing how large numbers of people and institutions act.

    During my nineteen years as a community organizer, I learned that the way to move people to action was first to learn their self-interests — what was their vision for themselves, their families and the world. I could only do that in the context of developing a reciprocal relationship, which could not be done unilaterally. I had to also exchange my story and be open to seeing other views and the possibilities of thinking differently myself.

    Once I developed that relationship, and learned those self-interests, I was able to think through with them how my perspectives might help them realize their goals. It was not a quick process.

    However, if you look at the experience of community organizing groups around the country and, in fact, the history of most successful social change (whether you agree with the change that occurred or not) this is the kind of strategy that was used. Variations of it are also used by the religious evangelists who are successful in attracting large numbers of people to their cause.

    I’m impressed that you would raise this kind of question, Scott…


  11. I’m a little late to this party, but Seth Godin’s book Tribes addresses this issue brilliantly. The book is equal parts leadership and marketing, which is incidentally what many ed tech evangelicals fancy themselves.

    I think ed tech-ers niche themselves out of more impact because we make too big a deal out of tech, and not a big enough deal out of purpose. Techology is a great accelerator, but unless there’s a unifying mission to drive toward, tech integration will simply scatter any group of educators (except for the most enthusiastic).

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