Monday, August 15, 2005

Effective Educational Reformers: Do "Looks" Matter?

It's generally accepted that our culture gives good-looking people numerous advantages over those that aren't so pleasing to the eye. Google lists numerous articles, studies, and reports affirming that idea.

Writing at This Week in Education, Alexander Russo posits that being handsome or beautiful
is also beneficial when it comes to one's effectiveness as a would-be education reformer. Here is a taste:
Physical attractiveness is an obvious, though rarely-stated dynamic that plays out just beneath the surface at even the most mundane conference, job interview, faculty meeting, or professional development session.

Add some real excitement to the mix -- a new initiative, funders in the room, TV cameras, or the intoxicating whiff of TFA -- and you might as well be in the VIP section of the hippest lounge. Or as close to it as school reform gets.

And, yes, looks matter -- even in education. You know they do. OK, maybe they matter a little more to me than they should, but I'm not alone. There've been studies. People behave differently around and towards the highly symmetrical and genetically blessed. Parents. Teachers. Administrators. Funders. Policymakers.

Now, nobody's suggesting that looks alone can get you to the top of the heap. There's lots of additional hard work, ridiculous luck, overconfident hand-waving, and shameless brown-nosing that's required for that. Or exceptional virtue and smarts.

And there probably aren't many educators who should quit their day jobs and head for Hollywood or the runways of Milan. After all, being hot for education circles is like what Wonkette (the blogging hottie) calls being "famous for DC." It's all relative.
This Week goes on to list the top five best-looking reformers in education. I can't help but support the reasoning. Even if you disagree with the ideologies of any (or all) of the "top five," it's hard to argue that each one of them has not had a significant impact in the debate over public education.

It's too bad that
my own physical appearance isn't at all attractive. If I were better-looking, maybe I would be more effective in our advocacy of the following: long-overdue democratization of the teachers unions, the adoption of better instructional practices, greater fiscal accountability for all public-education entities, the inclusion of parental and student responsibility in the formula for academic success, stamping-out the nepotism and cronyism that infests public education, and professionalization of the teaching-craft.

*sigh* We will just have to keep doing the best we can with what we've got.
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