Recently, I learned a new word while engaged in a completely different context than writing this book. The word’s implication for what I was trying to share fascinated me and several hours were spent in researching its history and usage. The word is akrasia. It is a Greek word meaning “weakness of will.” Akrasia was the Greek Goddess of distraction and her name is the basis for our English word “crazy”.” More recently psychologists have revived the term to describe the action people take to engage in high-risk behavior when much safer alternatives are available. Some modern uses of the term also imply that the high-risk behavior is engaged in even though the safer alternative is well known. The example of smoking is given-where a person intellectually knows that smoking is a high-risk behavior, yet continues to make that choice-evidencing a “weakness of will”. This akratic action is the same for all kinds of high-risk addictions. There perhaps is a duality within the akratic person or group that suggests that they know the harmful nature of their actions and that they believe that they will not suffer the consequences (magic thinking). In the book, edited by Robert J. Sternberg, “Why Smart People Can Be So Stupid” the point is made that smart people can succumb to akrasia at the same rate as less-smart people. Without belaboring the point, I believe that school improvement planning that does not make use of Databased Decision Making (DBDM) is akratic planning. Its participants are demonstrating “weakness of will” while knowingly engaging in high risk behavior in the hope that they will not suffer the consequences of their actions. It is also akratic in that it is probably an addiction. “We have always done it this way.” Does anyone in American education
today not know that the effective use of data is the key to improving schools? The risks of not using data properly are:
♦ wasted time and effort by those involved as well as by organization,
♦ wasted resources,
♦ loss of good will due to the preceding items, and
♦ loss of opportunity to improve learning for students.