Competition, Cooperative Learning, Control Theory, and Choice Theory
(Before I write anything today I want to emphasize that the “What is the purpose of Bible class?” discussion has been very interesting and even helpful. It has been interesting as your comments and explanations have stimulated our thinking and challenged us to really examine our approaches. It has been helpful because I have shared your comments with my “Teaching K-12 Bible” class. Your points, suggestions, and admissions have provided excellent springboards and gateways into class discussion and deeper learning.)
We aren’t done with our Bible class discussion (e.g. – we haven’t even mentioned Bible class and choice theory yet), but today . . . well . . . today is my 40 year reunion at Rio Lindo Academy. And, apparently, with 40 year reunions comes reflection. What have I experienced in the 40 years since I was 18? What did I make happen? What did I let happen? How have I changed? The change question got me to thinking about the big ideas that led to significant changes in my life. I don’t know how complete this list is, but these areas definitely stick out in importance for me. For some reason, they each begin with the letter C.
I was very much involved with sports and competition as a young man (it was basically my life), yet by the time I finished college I had come to the conclusion that competition was unhealthy for me, and basically unhealthy for everything and everyone it touched. This was a remarkable epiphany for me, given the extent to which I had come to rely on competition. Coming into a better understanding of how competition shows up in our lives and ways in which it affects us marked much of my early career. I did some writing on the topic. See Should Adventist Schools Be Involved with Inter-school Sports? Review & Herald, Oct. 13, 1988.
Cooperative learning was a huge discovery for me. I remember feeling like the little boy (I’ve heard a story about this somewhere) who was playing beside a puddle on a foggy morning, but as the fog lifted he could see that the puddle was connected to a pond, and then to an inlet, and ultimately to the ocean. It was incredible to me that someone who had fought for competition so vehemently could now be seeking to turn people on to cooperative formats. In 1986 I began to get training in cooperative learning (from the Johnson brothers) and soon thereafter I started The Cooperation Company, a mail order company with a catalog of over 130 books, games, and resources, all of them focused on cooperating. I let the company go when I became an associate superintendent in 1996, a mistake, I think. Two of our blog family, Dick and Anita Molstead, I actually met because of The Cooperation Company. I did some writing on topic. See the April/May, 1995, edition of the Journal of Adventist Education.
I read Schools Without Failure, for an MAT class I was taking at Andrews University in 1978, and it did have an impact on my thinking. During my early years of teaching–Kingsway College, in Oshawa, Ontario, and Feather River School in Oroville, California–I adjusted my grading practices because of Glasser. But I didn’t in any way see the big picture, the more far-reaching implications. In 1991, though, I read The Quality School and not only re-discovered Glasser, I also began to get a glimpse of the importance of his ideas. This era would have been during my time as principal of Foothills Elementary in Deer Park, California, and especially during my time as principal of Livingstone Junior Academy in Salem, Oregon. I began to try and apply the concepts of control theory at home and at work. I liked the results, especially how it seemed to affect my own thinking. I began to see that I could be less controlled by my feelings. The faculty and staff at LJA participated in a control theory in-service and I don’t think Livingstone has been the same since. Control theory certainly helped me to begin to be a better husband and father, too. I began to write Soul Shapers during this time.
I can remember how surprised I was as an associate superintendent in the Upper Columbia Conference to learn that Glasser had changed control theory to choice theory, and that he had rejected school discipline plans, in general, and especially a management approach known as Restitution. I had been drawn to his ideas, even applied them as a principal and presented them as a superintendent, yet now I wondered was going on. I wondered from a distance, as I had never met Glasser and didn’t know anyone with whom he was close. I certainly had no idea then that I would meet him in at the 2000 NAD convention in Dallas; that we would become friends; that I would begin a doctorate and conduct a biographical study, with his involvement, on the development of his ideas; and that I would become his authorized biographer as a result. Since 2000 I completed training to become a faculty member for Glasser International, Inc., completed the doctorate, and after years of interviews and research, completed the manuscript for Glasser’s biography, which is being published this year.
It is interesting that I would think of these guiding ideas, these big idea eras, on a nostalgic day like a 40 year reunion. Apparently, my basic need for purpose and meaning is pretty high. When you look back, what are the big ideas that have influenced you? Is there one in particular that has been significant for you? I would love to hear about your big idea list!