Yesterday I wrote about my pet cultural moment, “Please write it down”. Today I would like to explore what is it about my culture that brings on this cultural moment in the first place. Why do I feel such a need to receive information, in step by step bulleted form, in writing? Why do I feel the need for others to write down (in step by step, bulleted form) whatever information I am giving?
My children think that I am peculiar at best and tell me so. Colleagues and friends are more discrete as they side-step the issue. My husband just rolls his eyes, “what a task an American wife”.
I am the odd one out. My children have explained to me why written school calendars are simply not possible. What if something unforeseeable should happen, like a student-led occupation of the school, or the government falling and elections being called, or police closing down the center for a visit by President Bush, or even snow – it could snow for the first time in 30 years. Then what would you do with a calendar set in writing? How would you change it? Who would be responsible for the changes? “You see,” they say, “it is best not to have a calendar in writing and to just make adjustments along the way as they are necessary”.
Having grown up without school calendars, it is difficult for colleagues to deeply understand the need for five year plans and complex multiple critical paths that foresee every possible future environmental factor and plan for its neutralization – like snow days.
Snow days. That is how we calculate and plan for the unforeseeable; we program a margin of five days into the school calendar for the possible inconvenience of snowstorms. In the end it makes us feel good that we foresaw the unforeseeable and had planned what to do about it in advance. I guess we just have a deep rooted need to control or at least plan for the future and writing it down captures the present and projects it into the future. If new environmental elements should come into the picture, we just rip up the old version and write a new one (dated and initialled please). Change is not an issue; it can’t be when you plan everything out without having all the elements at hand. When change is an issue, you can live much more easily without plans and act and adjust as the environment dictates.