Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Suits

Leadership is important.

Distributed leadership is even more important.

If professionals don't feel empowered to take a leadership role in their field of expertise, then that tends to leave a vacuum for power that will quickly attract...

...The Suits.

The Suits are data mongers...

...spreadsheet junkies...

...arm chair generals...

...managers from afar...


When a profession is run by those who have no practical experience or professional training, the professionals who do the actual work tend to be thrown to the sidelines where they will sit until they are alienated into marginal obscurity. 

In the beginning, The Suits will dazzle everyone with their dancing numbers that make spreadsheets sing and bar-graphs bounce. These mind numbing data will drive all decisions.

At first, this will look so cool. All this data that we never had before will liberate us from making uninformed decisions.

Until one day, The Suits will have made a rule for everything. Policy rules the day. Standardization trumps innovation. Compliance stifles creativity, and doing the right thing is bastardized into doing things 'right'. At first it looked so right but now it feels so wrong.

And then there's a set back. The Suits seem to prevail until their data-driven decisions prove to be unsuccessful by even their own spreadsheets. And you hope everyone will come to their senses - after all, The Suits have no one else to blame but...

...those who do the work!?

In a stunning role of reversal, The Suits flip-flop the numbers by changing their algorithms. Like playing darts with a moving target, the numbers fly in and out of focus.

Was that smoke? Are those mirrors? What's happening?

The Suits then move from telling professionals who have decades of experience not only what to do but how to do it. This will be accompanied by more convoluted algorithms that make up complex Data Reductionist Schemes that allow The Suits to interpret Value Added Measures so that they can bribe and threat their way to manipulating professionals to bend to their will.

When the people actually doing the work balk at all this and begin to resist being bullied into compliance, The Suits will simply announce that the unions are resisting change and sabotaging progress.

This whole debacle will go back and forth - back and forth.

The Suits will cloak themselves in ignorance, releasing more and more data that conceals far more than it can ever reveal.

Frustration builds everywhere.

How does this all end? Who knows, but I would wager a bet that nothing good will come until the real professionals empower themselves to be leaders among their colleagues in a bid to finally refuse their cooperation with The Suits, because democracy only exists for those who demand it exist.


  1. Joe,

    This reminds me of a cartoon

    one guy in a suit standing next to an ernomous rough looking thug

    The caption asks ' who is more dangerous '?

  2. I guess I am one of "The Suits" because I believe that we should collect, analyze, and publicize data about many aspects of education. Indeed, I believe that careful, systematic research (watchout, numbers are often involved) can be very useful in many areas of life. True, no person, nor methodology, is perfectly objective. This helps explain why "The Suits," far from being a monolithic group, often publicly disagree with each other. The Suits include people working for school districts, state and federal government, private research institutions, and universities.

  3. This is exactly what I have been saying--I am tired of those with no classroom experience making decisions for students and teachers in the classroom. I don't mind if you are a "suit" as long as you understand what happens in the classroom!!! The best way to do that is to have TEACHING EXPERIENCE... AND by that I mean PUBLIC SCHOOL--WHATEVER GRADE YOU ARE EVALUATING EXPERIENCE. It is like someone working on my car who is not a mechanic. You can tell me whatever you want, but that doesn't mean you can make my car run!


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