Saturday, April 27, 2013

Why to Believe in Others

Below is 1972 video of Viktor Frankel, a renowned psychologist and author best known for his book, Man's Search for Meaning.   Frankel's greatest accomplishment was becoming an unflinching realist and idealist -- a person who simultaneously sees what is and what could be.   To my mind, it would be impossible to get both concepts into proper focus without reading Frankel's book, which I found to be one of the most emotionally jarring and difficult, yet necessary and valuable, experiences of my life. If you are wondering how this could be, read the book.

In the rare footage below, Frankel explains how we harm the world by not hoping for and expecting the very best in others.  

I think the point Frankel makes here has special significance for educators. [posted by Bill Henderson]

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Bill, I appreciate your post about Frankl a great deal, as I've been a huge fan for years. As an educational psychologist in a law school (Univ. of St Thomas School of Law, I see the practical results of setting high expectations of law students. We approach this primarily through frequent, personal interactions with practicing lawyers/mentors and faculty that work to reduce the power gap between students and professionals, and build the student's identity as more than a GPA or LSAT score. In other words, the power of a class rank or LSAT to signal level of expectations is powerful for most law students. To counteract the negative effect for those students with lower numbers, faculty at St Thomas give specific coaching and counseling to students to overcome the stereotype that equates test scores with a set of related expectations. The outcome of these efforts increases student well-being and engagement, for which we have several years of evidence from the Law School Survey of Student Engagement (LSSSE). Some might say this is, well "nice," but with few practical outcomes. I counter that with a compelling and growing body of empirical evidence that engagement and well-being are essential to successful business outcomes (see, e.g., the work of the Gallup organization at I am currently studying these outcomes in the context of healthcare organizations, as a special project with the Mayo Clinic Program in Professionalism and Ethics. I look forward to sharing more of this body of knowledge with law schools and law firms.

Thanks again for posting this video!
Verna Monson, Ph.D.
Research Fellow
Holloran Center for Ethical Leadership in the Professions

Posted by: Verna Monson | May 2, 2013 9:18:45 AM

Verna, thank you so much for your comment. You are making the empirical case for believing in our students. Bill H.

Posted by: Bill Henderson | May 3, 2013 3:01:31 AM

The same principle holds true for lawyers once they begin practice, perhaps especially in government, where the opportunities for both excellence and indolence are extreme. I have seen promising lawyers ruined by low expectations, and others soar when excellence is demanded

Posted by: jt | May 20, 2013 6:59:18 AM

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