Stacked in Our Favor

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Sunday, November 28, 2010

Mock Caldecott, ambiguity and making decisions

On Monday, the participants in the adult version of the Mock Caldecott will meet to nominate their top three books. A list of these books will be compiled and we will all read these titles. I expect chaos to ensue. In fact, I’m looking forward to it.

Last week people kept saying to me “I’m still looking for THE ONE.” I can sympathize. They want one that blows them over, knocks them over the head and has a label that says “This is the one.” No one wants to be wrong.

This is part of a trend I’ve been seeing for a while. People want to know the right answer. They are afraid of getting it wrong. Standardized testing doesn’t do much to alleviate our fears. We are trained to pick “the right answer” from a group of four possibilities. Frankly, life isn’t much like that. There’s so much more ambiguity.

Just think about it. Making choices in health care is seldom a clear-cut experience. You have to weigh the pros and the cons and make your best guess. Even gathering reams of information won’t help you make a decision that is definitely the correct one. There is room for error. You have to make your best guess based on what you know. It’s a leap of faith.

Our current political and economic environment doesn’t help. There’s plenty of ambiguity facing people in personally significant ways. People who have lost jobs, homes, cars and hard cold cash in the economic downturn must feel the need for answers. There are certainly many, many questions. Finding a silver bullet remains elusive.

Choosing a career, a spouse, a home, even a vacation are all matters of weighing the pros and cons. The career may be the wrong one if a field dries up. Think about people who continued making buggy whips after the motorcar was invented. A spouse can have a mid-life crisis. A hurricane can whip through your vacation paradise. No one can be sure that the decision they are making is the only “right” choice. But we want to feel that there is, out there somewhere, a correct choice to choose.

Life just isn’t that certain.

So participating in an activity that is fraught with ambiguity is at times uncomfortable. Fear of inadequacy, incompetence and failure haunts us.  Sometimes we hope that the right answer is there, that we will somehow miraculously choose it. Then that feeling of discomfort will pass away.

To enjoy the process of the Mock Caldecott you have to let it go. It is much more enjoyable to me to listen to others and learn from them than to think I know the answer. Though it’s not something I’m proud of, I must admit it has taken some effort for me to get to that point. It hasn’t come naturally.

Naturally, I would like to pick the winner. I still remember what it felt like to tell students that I had chosen Jerry Pinkney’s The Lion and the Mouse as my pick for the medal. How glorious it felt to be right. My dear students applauded when they heard the news. They were so proud of me. Will I choose it again this year? Maybe, but maybe not. That’s not the point. This year, I’ve moved beyond that. It is not whether I am “right” or not. It’s really more about the process and who I become through the process. I’ll choose a contender – a really fine book.

I anticipate that there will be participants who come to the meeting on Monday who have not yet made their decisions as well as some who feel confident. No doubt about it, I’m anxious to experience this part of the process.

Am I going to tell you which books I choose? No way. I might be wrong.

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