Another dot in the blogosphere?

More alike than different

Posted on: July 27, 2014

I like that we are different. I celebrate it and design for it and I wish more would do the same.

But sometimes we are more alike than different. I have made a point of pointing this out when I hosted visitors in NIE or when I have extended conversations with people when I am overseas.

In education, we all want the best contextual solutions for our children. We all face the same types of political, administrative, policy and other problems. We all have the same passionate problem-solvers.

So why do we tend to focus on our differences? For example, when visitors come here, they want to find out what we do “differently” in Math or assessment or ICT. Perhaps our visitors think that they will find something of value or out of their box.

It makes sense that if we seem to be doing better at international tests, then what we do differently is likely to be a contributing factor. If we are doing the same thing but the results are different, then the same thing seems unlikely to be the cause.

I think there is a more insidious reason for why we look for differences instead of similarities. I realized this thanks to a seemingly unrelated tweet for help.

I was piqued by the issue and Googled for leads. I found something promising.

I tweeted a link to a library article about an event where the speaker mentioned how authors and publishers were pressured into selling books that emphasized differences instead similarities.

If you were going to read about another culture or travel to another country, you would want to find out about the different food, practices, weather, scenery, etc. You would not want to bore yourself with finding out more about the same or wasting your money to experience what you already have at home.

But the fact of the matter is that when you make that jump and spend a significant enough amount of time in a place, the more likely you are to find out how similar the problems and solutions are.

I think that only focusing on how we are different is a mistake. We are more likely to bring home a different solution without fully understanding its context. If we focus on how we are the same, we are more likely to gain an understanding of that context first. We then understand our differences better and we avoid repeating the same mistakes.

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