May 9, 2012

Reject the Status Quo to Solve Problems

Original article published on Huffington Post by Marc Ozburn

The underlying theme to America’s central struggles over recent years is that they’re problems created over time and ignored as they grew in size and scale. The financial crisis, the housing collapse, and the terror threat are all the result of problems that have stewed for years. It was easier to turn a blind eye, keep our head down and follow the leaderless crowd of status quo. Eventually, like a covered pot of boiling water, the problem becomes so big and pervasive that it defies gravity and overflows beyond our capacity to control it.

One would think that we would learn a thing or two from The Great Recession and two costly wars, but we still face unprecedented dilemmas. These large issues require a re-evaluation of fundamentals and foundation restructuring opposed to choosing “whitewash” solutions. With political divides that prefers competition to collaboration, we continue to face unavoidable issues like a rising debt crisis, a deteriorating education system, an energy shortage and undeniable climate change. Every day at, we assist school communities to rethink ineffective strategies and lead them towards innovation. Surprisingly, schools are more resistant to change than you may think and become protectors of the practices that clearly hold them back. This is why I am constantly inspired by individuals who face problems head on to teach us the real life lesson that you must reject the status quo to truly resolve the fundamentals of a problem.

Jamie Oliver and the movement he has built through the The Jamie Oliver Food Revolution (JOFR) is a great example of someone who has rejected institutions and classic ideologies. He observed the way these methods led to a corrosive obesity epidemic, with obesity and overweight alone killing at least 2.8 million people each year and 43 million children under the age of five being overweight and obese. The Jamie Oliver Food Revolution seeks to educate, empower and inspire people of all ages to change the way they eat. TheDoGooder is a proud supporter of the movement because they are revolutionizing schools’ lunch offerings and rejecting the onslaught of processed foods, which lack the nutritional value essential for learning. Loss of health priorities and regulatory oversight have created a new generation of food addicts. Chemical additives are literally changing body chemistry and causing Diabetes to be the fastest growing cause of death in the world. Check out more about the Revolution here.

The Jamie Oliver Food Revolution designated May 19th, 2012 as Food Revolution Day for those who love food to come together, reject the status quo and advocate for better food and education for everyone. Schools, businesses, chefs, restaurants and food lovers all over the world will host or take part in an event to promote locally sourced, fresh food and the need for better food education.

Similarly, a DoGooder Spotlight exemplifies the same philosophy of rejecting the status quo and shaking up education policy through Educators 4 Excellence. Sydney Morris and Evan Stone both taught at a traditional elementary school in the North Bronx and became frustrated with the lack of control they had over policy decisions made for their students outside of the classroom. Morris and Stone co-founded the teacher-led nonprofit organization Educators 4 Excellence in 2010 to give teachers like them a voice in the debate that affected them the most. The organization started with 16 teachers and has grown in less than two years to include 3,200 teachers. Educators 4 Excellence works to ensure that the voices of classroom teachers are included in education policy decision-making.

Last year, New York City was facing upwards of 4,000 teacher layoffs. Many Educators 4 Excellence teachers were facing this very real threat and thought about how these decisions were going to affect their students. “We wanted to come up with a solution that would hurt our students the least,” recalls Morris. “We needed to figure out how to keep our best teachers in front of the classroom in this worst-case scenario.” The policy on teacher lay-offs was based on seniority, or “Last In, First Out”. Educators 4 Excellence teachers decided they disagreed about seniority being the best system. The organization presented their ideas to numerous elected officials, proposing that teachers should be evaluated on objective criteria aligned with student achievement and gave their participating teachers a new voice versus the traditional objectives by the established union.

Although it is easier to “kick the can down the road” and not put yourself out there to fix ingrained problems, every single thing that is great about America has come from those who addressed entrenched problems head on and took a stand for a new way. Both The Jamie Oliver Food Revolution and Educators 4 Excellence show that when people have the courage to put themselves out there, you can shift society monumentally towards progress. The hardest problems to fix are the ones that are most complicated, and they require progressive solutions. To resolve for the long term, we must challenge the status quo to address the underlying fundamentals rather than settling for short term, easy fixes.