Sometimes, when people ask me what I do, I’m tempted to say that I’m trying to make the concept of relinquishment normal.
Right now, it is not normal to let educators operate their own schools; to let families choose amongst these schools; and to transition to government to more of a regulatory role.
Rather, it is normal for the government to directly operate schools; for families to be assigned a school based on their address; and for regulation to be handled by the same entity that is operating schools.
Every Adopter Reduces Psycho-Social Barriers for the Next Adopter
New Orleans was the first city to build an education system on the aforementioned principles, and it did so in a very abnormal situation.
New Orleans (in so many ways!) is not normal.
Perhaps if 8-10 cities adopt similar principles, then these ideas will become modestly normal.
And then perhaps 10-20 other cities will start pushing that direction.
The more normal it is, the more quickly it will be adopted. Each marginal user slightly lowers the psychological barrier for the next user.
“Vote for Abnormality!” is Not a Winning Slogan
Most people react negatively to abnormal things. This is why in Massachusetts, the home of the nation’s highest performing charter schools (in Boston), people in the suburbs will likely vote against eliminating the charter school cap.
For people in the suburbs, neighborhood public schools – as well as private schools – are normal. Charter schools are not normal.
When you’re in a referendum, you don’t want to be the abnormal option.
People’s Fidelity to Normality is Much Higher than Their Fidelity to Ideas
Many people disagree with an idea when it is abnormal and then agree with the idea when it becomes normal.
This, for example, is why I think getting to ~50% charter market share is so important. All of a sudden, charters become normal – and the people who previously did not like charter schools become ok with them.
Other policies such as unified enrollment, unified accountability, the transformation of operators for failing schools…. all these things can become normal over time, as New Orleans has shown.
Abnormal is for the Moment of Disruption, Normal is for Scale
Entrepreneurs who come up with amazing ideas are often very abnormal people; however, to scale their disruption, they generally have to do a lot of normal things, including convincing others that their new idea will become the new normal.
Sometimes they fail to make this transition.
Equally problematic: sometimes people who are trying to disrupt things act too normal. They say they want to change the world, but ultimately they want to be liked… and be normal.
This doesn’t work either.
So you need congruence between your current level of normality and the level of normality that the situation requires for you to be successful.
This can be tricky to pull off.