A few days ago I posted a drawing of a road sign that depicted, in theory, “four possible routes,” one of which is indicated as “temporarily closed.” In that post I referenced a paper by George Spindler that I think helps to explain these “four alternatives.” By all means feel free to check out that reference to see how Spindler applies this typology to what happens when prospective teachers undergo teacher education, how they integrate exposure to countervailing approaches to teaching and learning, and what effect that heterodoxy has on their teaching styles once in the classroom with real students. What’s stuck with me ever since I was first introduced to Spindler’s framework in the early 1980s as a grad student in anthropology, besides its timeless applicability in terms of teacher education, is its essential typological power and generalizability, especially in the polarized context of our current political discourse.
To shorten this a bit, I’ll pose a question. How many sides are there to the story? Two right? Two because you’re either right or wrong, right? Two because there’s good and bad, black and white, up and down, in and out, and so on, right? Well, you guessed it; not so fast, right? Right.
Spindler’s typology, while its used in a purely inconspicuous and instrumental fashion, helps us see that there are perhaps more than two sides to the story, as it were. And here’s the thing. There aren’t just three sides either, you know, that side that magically emerges whenever you look at both sides of the story…in what some might call a fair and balanced approach. No, no magic here, even though that’s heading in the right direction. Why? Because it’s very possible and even more tempting to look at two sides (or more) in an unfair and imbalanced way. In Spindler’s typology those who incompetently, unfairly, and inconsistently look at both sides of the story are identified as Vacillators. So now there are at least three ways to get carried away by the story: (See Temporarily Closed)
1. Exaggeratedly right-leaning (i.e., crazy from the get go coming from the Right). Derived from Spindler’s Reaffirmative Traditionalist,
2. Exaggeratedly left-leaning (i.e., crazy from the get go coming from the Left). Derived from Spindler’s Compensatory Emergentist, and
3. Incompetently and inconsistently both right-ish and/or left-ish leaning (i.e., even crazier coming at times from both sides without even knowing it). Derived from Spindler’s Vacillator, the most dangerous and destructive orientation.
Now, there is a fourth side that Spindler calls the Adjusted. This orientation requires the most cultural, communicative, and interactive competence. My aim is to identify myself as an Adjusted, but in all honesty, I admit that I’m not always successful.
Where do you see yourself?