I’m fascinated by people’s resistance to change. I suppose my fascination stems from my fondness for change. I used to not appreciate how different I am from the norm. But I finally got it. I finally understand humans’ deep resistance to change.
I suppose there’s probably an evolutionary explanation. Not that it matters. An understanding of its roots wouldn’t change this phenomenon. We simply have to deal with it, in real time.
One of the areas where our resistance to change is most profound, and most damaging to our kids, concerns starting times for our kids’ schools. We’ve known for quite some time that the starting time for our high schools is much too early on average. Teenagers need their sleep, and they’re not early risers. So it makes no sense to haul their sorry tired minds into classrooms early in the morning. Yet that’s what we usually do.
Very few high schools have modified their starting times to take into account this new knowledge. And that’s despite the overwhelming evidence of benefits incurring to our children from later starting times — for instance, significantly higher academic performance, fewer traffic accidents, better psychological health, etc.
A neighboring school district is proposing to push back its starting time by an hour. In my world, it’s a no-brainer. It should have been done years ago. Yet it’s meeting with resistance, as expected.
The superintendent was quoted as saying:
We are the only industry, the only profession, that ignores research because change is difficult.
She may be right but I suspect she’s not. I suspect there are other industries that are resistant to change even in the face of an overwhelming body of evidence that indicts their current practices. But education is perhaps the worst offender. Educators and academics seem to be a particularly stuck-in-the-mud lot.
There’s a lesson in all of this for you, Vera: be mindful of people’s resistance to change and don’t try to push change in situations in which there is a high probability of failure or where the cost to be paid by you, the change agent, is too steep. In other words, look out after yourself and don’t assume others will do the right thing when presented by compelling evidence, for, often, they will not.
And when you find something that warrants a push for change, despite the expected resistance, go all in. Prepare for a long and arduous process. But stick with it to the end.
I used to struggle with this reality about humans’ resistance to change. It made no sense to me. It still doesn’t. But I’ve at least accepted the reality.
Deal with the world as it is, not the world you think should be. And never assume that decisions are dictated by evidence. And never underestimate the power of inertia and the status quo.
All of this sounds easy. Yet in my experience, it isn’t.