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Rationale or rationalization?

rationale: an underlying reason
rationalization: an excuse or more attractive explanation

Two related, but different words. Two situations to which my reasons may fall into either category.


The first came during the SIGMS Forum at NECC, when the panel was asked if the goal of "saving library jobs" was self-serving. On the surface it certainly appears so. But I personally don't look at it that way.

rational.gifThe library media special has some unique roles in a school - the promotion of independent reading and love of reading; the teaching of critical research and information evaluation skills; and the promotion of intellectual freedom and provision of a diversity of ideas and options that cannot be found in textbooks.  While I would not argue for the retention of any one librarian, I can certainly argue for the retention of the position, just as I would argue for not eliminating art, music, PE, math, science, or any other position that offers children a unique learning experience.

The second situation comes as a response to a comment left on the Blue Skunk to a "take-away" listed Wednesday that read:  Best simple idea: If you want to get teachers using online resources with kids, cut their Xerox budgets. Dan replied:

"Best Simple Idea" oughtta be retitled "Best Indication That [Whoever Pitched That One] Is Too Far Removed From Classroom Teaching For [His/Her] Own Good."

Likelier than this cheerful migration online, which the author envisions, is a lot of grumbling, ending if and only if the administration accedes funds.

I mean, carrots over sticks. Every time, right?

LC gave some support for the idea:

I like your best "simple idea." It's super environmentally friendly. If teachers that have the access to online education still use paper to teach their students, I think they need to be seriously reprimanded, maybe even put in jail for a day. Well, OK, maybe that's a bit on the harsh side, but in the spirit of educational progress, I think teachers must find reasons to use the internet and software for educational purposes. Think outside the box. On the internet, you can reverse your work almost always, and do it instantaneously without damaging the environment. On paper, you can scribble over it or erase it, but eventually you will have to ask for another sheet of paper. Webpages provide a heck of a lot more info than sheet pages. The return from purchasing internet programs and software will be noticeable within the first day you use it. It's a worthy investment.

Well, it really wasn't my idea, but it deserves some consideration.  In every school I've worked at, funding is a zero-sum game. In other words, there is a finite amount that can be spent on all programs, and by spending on one thing, you have less to spend in other areas. And vice versa.

So, if we can use technology to decrease the amount of money spent on printing, paper, toner, and time spent copying, that frees up additional funds for lower class sizes, better materials, extra-curriculars, etc. One inherent advantage of placing stuff online is that doing so is virtually free.

Tom Landry once described leadership as "getting people to do what they don't want to do, in order to achieve what they want to achieve." This is that sort of leadership whether the carrot or stick approach is used.


But back to my original question. Are my responses rationales or rationalizations?  To me a primary difference is that rationales are made prior to forming an opinion, whereas rationalizations often occur after the opinion has been formed - and publicly stated.

I have to admit, both of my reasons may be more rationalizations than rationales.

Did I ever mention I am not a quick thinker?

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Reader Comments (4)

I'm sorry, I should've paid attention to the fact that those ideas you posted were actually just rhetorical comments posed to your audience for interpretation. Way to mask them as your own, though! After having read Dan's comment on the idea, I realized I was giving the viewpoint of the whoever who's "Too Far Removed From Classroom Teaching For [His/Her] Own Good." I've never had to fund a school on a budget. And I've never seen [what I like to call] third-world schools and their yearly budgets. Online education is a privilege and an experience worth having,if the school can provide for the students to have it. I grew up in well-to-do neighborhoods, so I assumed that a computer with an internet connection was practically standard. Dan is right. Administrations with money generally tend to think that upgrades mean better teaching methods, when in actuality, the most basic and primitive method has stood the test of time and helped educate the working adults the Earth supports today.
With a counterargument, I would also have to say that Mr. Landry's comment is right. For administrations with budgetary needs that want the use of online technology, or any new teaching materials, they must be willing to search for the funds in every nook and cranny of their communities and state's budget to provide the best for their students. Dan's comment was right, but it didn't acknowledge that in some schools, especially ones with special ed students, technology is necessary to get through to kids of a computerized generation. They will not survive if they cannot be at least minimally technologically literate.

I think I'm making sense here, but I easily fall into tangent mode. Correct me if I'm at all misguided.

July 6, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterL C

Hi LC,

There are plenty of reasons to argue either side of this issue. Looks like you've done a little back and forth on this as well. That's the purpose of entry and glad it worked for you.


July 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

I know that is very easy for us who do not have to teach to make judgements about those who do. While I do agree that budgets to impose some pretty significant limitations on what teachers can do in their classrooms, I wish there were better ways for school library media specialists and technology integrationists, or if those staff are lacking, support for teachers working together as peers to figure out how teachers can use WHATEVER technology is available when it makes sense to enhance the learning experience for the student. Many times the budget is used as the barrier for trying anything new, when what is really needed is to examine what is currently being done and decide if it could just be done differently within the same financial parameters.

I think cutting the xerox budget might be an extreme or even frightening view for some, but how about redirecting those funds to help the teacher who may be using paper worksheets because they simply haven't had the time or had access to someone who can help maximize the lesson by finding an online source or a different type of activity for the students through technology that might be more engaging or more up-to-date.

I was once attending a teacher workshop where a trainer was showing a group of teachers the possibilities of working with some of the Google World tools for teaching science and geography. The teachers saw the possibilities but there was some pushback from some of the group who asked "and when am I supposed to have the time to explore all these great things and work them in to my curriculum?" The instructor's response was "you no longer have a choice." I agree that he was right, although I felt his response was rather harsh.

For me this means we need to find ways to encourage and help teachers to examine how they are teaching and how they might find ways to make lessons more relevant for students - not by adding a bunch of new requirements or activities to the existing curriculum, but to discover ways to alter current practices in a refreshing, relevant way for the students.

July 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterMary M

Even as a rhetorical idea of cutting xerox budgets---I like it. I'd love to try it.

Here's my big but (Everyone has one, right?): my district does not allow any wikis, GoogleDocs, or other social networking tools through its filters. Even student e-mail is banned.

There are lots of us who would love to go paperless (or less paper), but we have no alternatives.

July 7, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterThe Science Goddess

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