“What is popular is not always right. What is right is not always popular.”
Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, this sign was posted in my offices and/or at my desk when I worked in school safety departments. It reflected my rather well known “political incorrectness” in speaking my mind and speaking the truth, at many times to my own detriment.
The quote is still one of my favorites. It has stayed with me throughout my life of running my own business and consulting nationwide on school safety issues. It is a principle I still try hard to follow, still at many times to my own detriment.
However, the “detriment” has always been to my bank account, not to my personal and professional integrity. And that’s O.K. as I came to live with that a long time ago.
As a well-respected colleague of mine told me many years ago when I found myself surrounded by a cesspool of political vultures with their own agendas, and not agendas for the best interest of kids and safety: “You can find another job. You can’t find another reputation if you make the wrong choice.” That was great advice and a supportive reinforcement. It is one I’ve always tried to live by and one which I believe is the only way to go through your personal and professional short time on this planet.
Today, more than ever, the dialogue is not about right and wrong, but whose rhetoric and political strength wins in being perceived as “right” whether it is or is not right. It is a matter of who “wins” rather than what is the right thing to do.
I have had great professional opportunities to brief Congress, governors, and international educators and safety officials. I have also been blessed to train and consult with school safety officers, school resource officers, secretaries, food service workers, bus drivers, custodians, school nurses, teachers, principals, parents, students, and others on the front-lines of education. An inside view from all of these perspectives has been a very interesting and intriguing part of my career.
Those on the front-lines so often want what is right, not what is popular or politically-correct. Many feel powerless. Many wonder why ridiculous laws, funding cuts, policies and administrative decisions so often are directly in opposition to what is needed to keep kids and teachers safer, and to promote learning. I frequently wonder the same.
This is where, “What is popular is not always right. What is right is not always popular,” hits home. This is especially true today as we see increasing funding cuts to school safety from the federal to the local levels, and in a number of cases useless political grandstanding and hollow laws proposed under the guise of creating safer schools.
I don’t know who said it first. A quick Google check produced some conflicting or empty answers. And I don’t really care who was the first to say it. But I sure do care about seeing it followed as a guide for improved policy, administrative, and funding decisions regarding school safety.
While I promise to keep working with that quote as a part of my foundation, I think we have a long way to go to make it the norm for some of our most powerful and influential decision-makers. I invite you to join me. Progress starts with each individual.
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