Tag Archives: Service


Scholarship is not an enterprise limited to just one dimension. Or one discipline. That is why education has incorporated multiple fields of study for centuries. Included in the curriculum as distinct fields, overlapping only when one function is required as a tool to make other domains work. Such as the use of mathematics in the application of science and technology. Or the use of language in the study of history. Or the pairing of music and graphic arts. 

Who is to say that one subject is most important, or that a certain academic discipline is more indicative of human intelligence than any other? In like fashion, who is to say that creative thinking and acting are sparked by curiosity only within a specific intellectual pursuit?

Academic or intellectual snobbishness distorts creative thinking. It confines the human brain within categories or regions that exclude various possibilities, especially those that benefit from multivariate perspectives.

Possibly the most egregious example of that way of thinking was Nineteenth Century medicine, a field powerfully dominated by science and statistical analysis. It retarded the quality of human life for decades. Data and conclusions drawn by those declared to be especially sophisticated and learned superseded the “what if” of intellectual meandering to the point of peril.

Many horrible diseases and epidemics were not overcome until some courageous practitioner risked his or her professional career to try something previously unheard of. Something the sophisticates believed to be voodoo science or religious hocus pocus.   

Hypotheses are starting points for further research but were for years reduced to activities considered measurable in ways discernable only in concrete data. Which makes sense to those who believe in safeguards and the protection of professional credibility. And makes sense to me up to a point, the overdependence on statistical analysis.

Reasoned creativity is an important aspect of human life. The kind of creativity rooted in qualitative thinking and acting. The “what if” factor rooted in logic surrounded by mysteries as big and omnipresent as the universe in which earth is only a small and insignificant part.

Reasoned creativity is also relational. Our ideas and “what ifs” are never confined to one person’s brain or life experiences. Existence on this planet involves thousands of interdependent functions. Without them, the world would be devoid of anything more than rock.

My ideas are never born in one cell of my brain, or even thousands of cells. My ideas come from interactions with other human beings. A wide variety of experiences that become a conglomeration of viewpoints and perspectives.

Technical Creativity is Not Enough

In recent decades we have been asked to believe that creative thinking is most essential in the technical fields, through a plethora of amazing machines and other devices. Devices that entertain us, support the vehicles that move us from place to place, or make our homes safer and more convenient.

Our schools and universities are refashioning their academic programs to upgrade and expand majors in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). No criticism there. Simply a commentary on what we value most in our society. Teachers and professors in the liberal and fine arts are either replaced or allowed to retire without filling the position with someone else.

Why do these trends matter? Because the language of creative thought is being constricted. Diminished to the point of excluding matters associated with ways of being and living. The kind of cognitive and emotional expansiveness influenced by great literature and spiritual influencers.

Pushed aside are Greek literature and philosophy, ancient poems like Beowulf, and other forms of literature from various cultures. All of them once an essential part of anyone’s education.

Language is now technically descriptive more than thought-provoking. Constructed in ways people who have nothing more than a fourth-grade education can understand it.

Much of today’s religious writing, with some remarkable exceptions, tends toward maxims based on right and wrong thinking and acting. Absolute and eternal-sounding directives. Technically reasonable in the sense of practical applications to everyday life.

Secular admonitions that correspond to absolutism overlap such theological approaches to learning. Allowing people to seek control of our lives. To use sound bites and words with alarming overtones to convince us their solutions to problems or controversial circumstances are immutable. 

Jesus Christ: Creative Thinker and Advocate

Jesus, Son of God, and the heavenly representative of God’s will for us, came among us to explain that our existence is dependent on more than following patriarchal rules of behavior and worship.

Jesus was God’s service to humanity.

His message from his father and our God turned civilization upside down. Making an abstract condition called love more important than any other driving force in our lives.

While sounding innocuous to modern people, Jesus’ message from God our creator to the residents of Judea and their earthbound rulers was threatening. Even dangerous. Unconditional love as the basis for all relationships violated good political and military order. Tested belief systems of those who appointed themselves representatives of faith in the Almighty. It broke down established hierarchies by creating an aura of acceptance. A bitter pill for those with money, property, and power.

Not much has changed in today’s world. Rejecting that creative message Jesus brought from God continues to present an extremely detrimental impact on human life. For those of us who believe that unconditional love, as the root of Christian faith, must ourselves find creative ways to reinstate or reinvigorate Christ’s major principle. For ourselves. For each other.

Not through technical tinkering but through finding and using better ways to communicate with those we care for now. For those we want to care for in the larger scope of things. Through our actions and our words. Through enlarging the idea and practice of love, as Jesus taught us to do.

To define “church” as both a place to worship and a repository of meaningful exploration. As both a place to reinforce our faith and a source of ideas that stimulate people in our larger community toward a clearer understanding of how unconditional love makes a difference. In ourselves as human beings. In our institutions such as schools and businesses. In our neighborhoods, both proximate and beyond.

©2022 Stu Ervay – All Rights Reserved


The word “fellowship” is a broadening of the word “relationship.” One that symbolizes purpose based on convictions and intentions supported by determination. Such as a determination to serve others in a positive way, a way that changes things for the better.

A relationship can be any kind of undefined connection between one or more people or activities. It can be familial or intensely personal. Or merely a friendly connection. It can run the gamut from acquaintanceship to romantic intensity.

Even matching a task with a tool is relational, as is linking a job with a person.

The way “relationship” is used in a sentence is important. “They have a relationship” can mean one thing. “They are in a relationship” means something entirely different.

I like to use  “relationship” as a way of thinking and behaving, associated with philosophical and emotional depth. More like “fellowship.”

The word “fellowship” has social overtones. But it also incorporates something almost metaphysical. An intertwining of many kinds of somewhat more esoteric relationships. Ranging from incidental to scholastic, from introspection to spiritual awareness.

A relationship can be casual and temporary. A fellowship implies something more complex and permanent with an aura of purposefulness surrounding it. One that transcends a mere connection of human beings at a superficial social level.  

Teams are Fellowships with a Purpose

The word team is usually associated with sports or any activity with the goal of winning or succeeding in some competitive setting. In the military I was often asked to serve in a combat team, usually consisting of a combination of infantry and vehicles. Members of a team have specific assignments, as in sports when someone plays a “position.” The same is true in the military or even a business combination of some kind.

Teams are units designed to combine people for the purpose of accomplishing a mission, the goal only a group of people can achieve. Team members are trained to work together in the context of accomplishing the team’s intentions. Sometimes, especially in team sports, psychology is necessary to make the team cohere enough to meet the mission.

Because dysfunctional teams will certainly lose.

Teams are fellowships with outward facing goals. Serving their members only to the extent they fulfill their assigned roles. And win their games.

Cliques are Indulgent Fellowships

Other fellowships can be more like fraternities or sororities, designed as cliques. One is accepted while others are excluded. Acceptance and social interactions based on little more than appearances and demonstrations of behaviors that seem to fit in. Those organizations may construct purposeful functions over time, but the foundation of their existence is within a manufactured revelry and artificial sense of belonging.

Service is the Core of Meaningful Fellowship

Teams and cliques become fellowships when relationships are involved. They provide a service in terms of game winning or social inclusion. However, in the context of advancing the quality of human life, neither are especially meaningful.

Games create diversions. Social groups reinforce status or expand/extend acquaintances over time.

Many might disagree with those definitions, the meaning behind them, or the importance they do and should have in human lives. I understand that.

But for me a meaningful fellowship has a purpose that transcends the ordinary and possesses a level of importance much bigger than our individual lives. That uplifting purpose gives a significance that is inspiring and perhaps a piece of history. An influence on others after our lives end.

My varied experiences as a member of a fellowship includes a 14-day trip through the canyons of the Colorado River with boys about my age. A difficult yet life-affirming venture involving challenging tasks we met and circumstances we overcame together. 168 miles in a rugged wilderness and on a raging river, now mostly covered with Lake Powell.

A few years later the fellowship consisted of trainees in Army basic training, the rigors of ROTC camp, and advanced forms of military challenges. Then serving as a commissioned officer with men involved in the preparation for war, depending on them as much as they depended on me.

Later fellowships involved school faculties, graduate studies, and overcoming the rigors associated with meeting requirements for a doctorate. Then university program building.

My family and its associations became a fellowship with meaning, as did the creation of a service organization for public schools: https://cliweb.org/. People came together to achieve common goals. Worked hard to find solutions to significant problems, day after day.

Fellowship as Discipleship

The Disciples that traveled and worked with Jesus Christ became a fellowship. Christians serve in various ways through different kinds of organizations: communities, orders, denominations, missionary endeavors, and crusades. People who gave away their possessions like the Apostles. Sacrificed their human desires and natural impulses to focus their attention on serving their Lord and Master.

Such religious fellowships are found everywhere, in every corner of the earth, among any who share strong beliefs and convictions. Not necessarily limited to Christianity.

The dark side of fellowship becomes an evil force that parade as people of faith in their own brand of political or devotional dogma. It raised its ugly head throughout history, becoming strong enough during the 20th Century to kill millions. And it is all too alive and well today.

On balance, I believe human fellowship to be a good thing. With an enlightened kind of procedural discipline and deep thought thrown into the mix. With the control of unfettered mass media used to pander to those with questionable or even evil intentions.

No doubt development of radio in the early 20th Century contributed greatly to the expansion of Nazism, Fascism, and dictatorial forms of Communism. Just as it did for oddball belief systems and promotion of foolish medical cures in the United States. Today, social media opens the door to online fellowships that may destroy logical thinking and mental health.

Positive forms of fellowship, such as those created by Jesus in the formation of his Apostles, are disciplined but not controlling. Educational in the sense they promote deep thinking and the formation of creative beliefs and actions. It was no accident that Jesus taught through parables, not admonitions or declarations of unquestioned truisms.

Based on that model for fellowship, we become individually and collectively better through dialogue and stimulation of logical thought. Good fellowship is a means to become individually better, thereby able to contribute back to the larger group insights not previously considered.

Like God’s nature on earth, a kind of yin and yang for the survival of everything. Without bees, no flowers.

Which makes interconnectivity the basis of the universe and our lives within it. Which makes true and interconnected fellowship the foundation for meaning and purpose. For our lives in God’s world.

©2022 Stu Ervay – All Rights Reserved


Servilism is service related to slavery.

It’s when persons providing service are required to comply or be subservient because of a designated station in life. As in a caste system or society in which certain types of human beings are treated as inferior.

Less intelligent or intuitive. Deficient in character or morals. Born for menial jobs that serve the needs and desires of their “betters.” Skin color, physical features or propensities, assumed inferior intelligence, cultural affiliations, stereotypical demeanors, and other characteristics considered abnormal. Creatures to be servile and meritorious only in the context of how well they give of their limited talents to those born more fortunate.

Even today, we human beings who consider ourselves a dominant tribe or culture attempt to eradicate or separate another one considered inferior or threatening. As seen in the Russian conflict with Ukraine. As in the unrelenting diminishment of Jewish people and others tied to historical or theological categories not aligned with mainstream thinking.

As belief in a supreme being grew prevalent throughout the centuries, biases toward those considered inferior were modified to fit religious concepts of right and wrong. Derived from the acceptance that human beings are more alike than different. That other races and cultures are not threats, but merely distinct from one another in superficial ways.

Religiously managed methods of exercising superiority have more to do with the responsibility of the dominant class of human to take care of the inferior classes. Or to improve them in ways more like the superior cultures behave, believe, or even appear.

To accept the responsibility Rudyard Kipling titled “the white man’s burden.” A mantra some even applied to the biological source of all humans. That women are to be cared for as procreators and nurturers of offspring, to serve their families and male rulers with deference as providers of their sustenance.

Many people accepted servitude as a natural state. The slavery culture that developed in the United Kingdom and United States eventually used the “white man’s burden” admonition, violated often by unscrupulous and immoral members of a commercial class. But even among venal overseers and masters, human beings classified as “property” needed to be cared for to maintain their value as workers or commodities in the marketplace.

Women, the biological source of all humanity, were excluded in the participatory and decision-making body of the times. They were restricted from working in so-called male occupations and leadership roles, including governments. Not because they were considered an inferior species, but because their God-given role was designed to concentrate on conceiving, delivering, and nurturing children. And maintaining the families in which they were raised. Which included service to the father of those children, configured any way the man considered appropriate.

Servilism is Alive and Well Today

This negative view of service still endures today—a form of societal servilism. A kind of service not entirely voluntary. Or voluntary only in a constricted sense.

The three main economic systems are capitalism, socialism, and communism. Capitalism and socialism are typically associated with representative government. Communism is linked to a more dictatorial form of decision-making.

All these societies incorporate some kind of class system in which a majority of citizens perform essential services in the marketplace, agencies, institutions, or organizations.

Compensation is always a condition associated with servilism. Even slaves, as property, had to be fed, housed, and medically cared for. Today, when classic slavery is deemed a criminal act like human trafficking, ordinary people are servilely compensated for services they provide through minimum forms of monetary compensation.

Monetary compensation varies depending on what society or the employer considers appropriate in terms of education, preparation, skills, and nature of the work involved. A major factor determines the extent to which the service of an employee or provider is considered valuable.

So, the value of a service is dictated by those who control the source of money: owners, managers, bureaucrats, boards, or other elected or appointed decision-makers. And those individuals and groups are greatly influenced by societal beliefs about value.

They are also influenced by the availability of resources to pay employees, and attitudes of society about the importance of the jobs being compensated. Capitalistic societies equate compensation with how critical the work is considered in terms of profits made by the commercial organization. In both capitalistic and socialistic societies, those employed by tax supported agencies or entities that fulfill a critical need are usually paid wages commensurate with their education and the extent to which candidates are available to fill those jobs.

The small percentage of those who have exceptional entertainment or athletic skills often attract large financial rewards during the time they are lauded and maintain the talent for which they are recognized.

Socialistic economies differ somewhat since their representative governments equalize wealth and subsistence levels through tax equalization and income distribution formulas. Designed to avert both extreme wealth and extreme poverty.

Capitalistic countries believe that such a balanced policy retards economic growth, since less money is available for research, investment, and incentives. They accept a huge disparity in quality of life, believing that people work best when they are inspired and capable of achieving economic goals that are enticements to ever greater accomplishment.

Capitalistic societies believe the general education and welfare of children, while important, are familial obligations. General investments in children (such as their schooling) should be limited to sustaining and continuously invigorating the economy. The economy first. Everyone’s fulfilled life —a distant second.

Voluntary Service of the Kind Provided by Christ

Can we conclude that voluntary service is offered only when the contributor is otherwise able to live at the subsistence level or above?

Jesus Christ was not a slave. But he lived in a society considered subservient by its military and political masters—the Romans. And Jewish classes like the Pharisees who believed themselves superior to other Jewish sects. They created laws and rules of behavior that dominated their own race and culture, making them cohorts of the Roman occupiers.

By trade, Jesus was a craftsman, but left that trade to spread his ministry. Nothing biblical suggests financial support from his family. What does show up as support comes from friends and followers, usually in the form of housing and food. Specific people appear as capable of providing tangible as well as spiritual support, specifically men like Arimathea and Nicodemus. Possibly even Lazarus and his sister, Martha. Other women also supported Jesus, particularly Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna (see Luke 8).

Jesus, the Son of God, lived as a human being with the same creature and emotional needs we have. Unlike me and millions like me, he did not have a satisfactory retirement income. Nor did he have an organizational sponsor or a charitable system that donated much to his ministry. He went out alone and convinced other key individuals about who he was and the importance of his message from God.

Spreading the message was different in Jesus’ era. No TV, internet, postal service, radio, public address systems, or phone. Just a man who walked and interacted with others along the way. Done voluntarily because those with whom he interacted helped materially, emotionally, and spiritually.

That voluntary service worked for Jesus because communities were smaller and more interactive than most are today. People shopped outdoors in the markets or conducted their trades in the fields or open-air structures.

Jesus was able to influence others because his speech and demeanor were characteristic of a rabbi or knowledgeable teacher. In that era such a wise and learned person was recognized by reputation, instead of formal academic study and the certification necessary today.

The other reason Jesus was accepted as a volunteer rabbi is because people longed to hear the message he articulately preached. That love and mutual support were at the center of life’s purpose. Not an existence based on submissively serving dominate cultures such as the Romans and Philistines.

Servilism in the Twenty-first Century

Today’s society, especially in the United States, is greatly influenced by the philosophy of servilism. Instead of Roman or Philistine rulers dominating our lives, commercial and political influencers tell us our life’s purpose is to serve their material and emotional wants and needs. As well as their beliefs, convictions, and biases. As hourly employees and professional providers of medical care, educational growth, oversight of property, and protection from life’s hazards.

Monetary compensation for those services varies depending on how much workers are valued by those who control our financial universe. And how much human beings themselves are valued.

As in ancient times, those providing ruler-defined service today are asked to accept life’s meaning and purpose through assigned or available endeavors. Employment in jobs or other forms of legal activities must generate income. Entrepreneurial work in agriculture, manufacturing, or a commercial activity. Fulfillment of governmental responsibilities.

If such purposes are insufficiently satisfying in the minds of those serving, they are given diversions. The Romans excelled at providing exciting games and other forms of entertainment. Just as we do. Diversions with no lasting meaning. Just momentarily significant in the minds of recipients.

Jesus’ life as defined by God, his father, revolved around a single purpose. He found ways to provide service that meant something in a universal and eternal setting. Everlasting. Life enriching for everyone.

Conversely, a purposeful life in the Twenty-first Century is usually defined as something tangible. Relatable. Job descriptions or family responsibilities.  Scholarly pursuits. Hobbies and travel. Activities and involvements. Relationships and interests. Interactions with things, items produced, or nurtured. Constructing and caring for.

What is often missing is a sense of purpose, the kind Jesus held. One in which voluntary service to others absorbs the persona. Becoming not what we do but who we are. Reaching out in order to gather in. Allowing the spirit enveloping others to enlighten us, thereby gaining insights into what a God-directed service should be.

Servilism in the Twenty-first Century exists when we allow ourselves to crave material things and recognition for superficial achievements.

Jesus wanted none of that. He only asked that we love each other as he loves us. 

©2022 Stu Ervay – All Rights Reserved



Service is never one dimensional. It can be offered and delivered for different reasons, some of which are opposites based on practical, political, or religious convictions. Or what one considers correct or incorrect thinking. We serve what we believe at the moment. No matter where or how that belief originated.

My professional service as an educator is rooted in opening intellectual doors to promote critical and creative thinking, which are the foundation for richer and more productive lives. I do not believe in indoctrination. Especially the kind based on promoting skills or actions designed to fulfill intentions of leaders with questionable ambitions or nefarious goals. Or objectives that are either operationally neutral or just mechanistically useful.

Scientists who invented the atom bomb found the project to be an interesting challenge and service to their country. They only later thought about the social implications of their work.

Engineers who designed and built the RMS Titanic and other ships of its class accepted poorly thought-out principles and techniques. To achieve the look of British magnificence and performance. Accepting shortcuts necessary to impress and compete. Which resulted in an unmitigated disaster.

This article is about such ways of thinking and action in our schools for over two decades.

The impact of COVID-19 on schools seems multidimensional. Student enrollment is down. Learning quality has suffered. Teachers and principals are demoralized. Thousands of educators have left or plan to leave.

Multiple solutions are being considered: salary improvements, reductions in certification requirements, and upgrades in working conditions. All quick fixes to address big challenges.

But quick fixes are merely patch jobs. Repairs to keep the schools from sinking until more substantial improvements are made. If ever.

Lessons from the Titanic Disaster

We know the story about the RMS Titanic and its 1912 sinking after striking an iceberg. The iceberg collision revealed fundamental flaws in the ship’s construction and operation.

An iceberg in the ocean was like the COVID-19 pandemic. A phenomenon of nature that proved our human vulnerability and hubris.

For the Titanic it is was bad metallurgy. The use of rivets to assemble the hull’s plates. Poorly designed “waterproof” compartments. Excessive nighttime speed through a field of icebergs. Above all, the advertised claim the ship was unsinkable gave both passengers and the ship’s officers a sense of invulnerability and haughtiness.   

And they paid a horrible price. Similar to what is happening to American young people today.

The pandemic exposed existing issues begun 22 years ago with the creation of No Child Left Behind. NCLB’s inspiring name, just like Titanic, masked serious design flaws. Reducing teachers to the level of civil servants made to comply with bureaucratically created academic standards. Held accountable for student success on high stakes pencil and paper tests. Narrowing curriculum to basic skills, which had the effect of minimizing critical thinking and creative behaviors.

During the worst of the pandemic, teachers were forced to conduct virtual instruction from home. They did not have deep enough knowledge of curricular intentions or modified instructional techniques to maintain momentum. That was the beginning of student learning decline and intense teacher anxiety and depression.

There is no chance of preserving much of anything from the wreck of the Titanic, over two miles under the surface. Only a few artifacts have been lifted from the debris field. Scientists believe the entire ship will disappear by the middle part of the 21st Century.

Is that also the destiny of American education?

What Is Learned from Disasters

Since the loss of the Titanic, much has been learned about the building of large metal ships. And how to save passengers when they founder. Can the same be said for the era begun by NCLB?

Titanic foundered primarily because of inadequate rivets and metallurgical issues with its hull in extremely cold conditions. NCLB foundered because it discounted the value of creative and relational teaching/learning processes. It also placed far too much initial importance on basic skill development in reading and mathematics.

The Titanic’s engineers and builders knew about oceanic conditions and weather-related threats. But, like the inventers of NCLB, discounted the underlying importance of variables. Variables like unusually large icebergs with huge subsurface masses. Or human learning needs that are multitudinous and eclectic.

Titanic’s captain and crew understood the threat of icebergs. They accelerated anyway, because they were told their ship was unsinkable. NCLB theorists believed that high stakes tests designed to assess teacher accountability and promote a competitive spirit between and among schools would improve the quality of student learning.

Both assumptions have been proven wrong.

Titanic sideswiped an iceberg and sank. Schools lost whatever effectiveness they had when teachers were micromanaged. Reduced to the level of civil servants. Required to excessively narrow the curriculum. 

Before running into a pandemic.

Restructuring our schools based on what we have learned will take more time and effort than learning how to build better ships. Good ships need a better understanding of their component parts and how they are assembled. Plus crews that know how to effectively pilot them.

Schools need autonomously professional teachers well prepared in both curriculum and instructional design. Teachers given the authority to stimulate and regularly assess the quality of creative learning.

Preparing teachers in such a comprehensive manner and giving them a work environment that allows them to perform in ways that produce quality 21st Century citizens, is no small task.

Nor can it be based on old mindsets as to what teachers are and do.

The professional status of teachers must far exceed what it is now. Not simply in monetary compensation. But also in terms of how well they inspire students as purposeful future citizens who have the potential to live meaningful lives.

©2022 Stu Ervay – All Rights Reserved


In a previous post I discussed service and humility. Defining humility not as a condition of meekness or subservience. But the willingness to be a dynamic force, even a change agent, without expectation of acknowledgement or reward. 

Humility is the opposite of deferential compliance. Which is meeting expectations of those who have found ways to exercise dominance over others. To remain docile and even emotionally paralyzed when encountering the juggernaut of political preferences or managerial power.

I am in the process of converting the blog, newlearninginfrastructure.com, into a book manuscript titled The New Learning Infrastructure: Educators with the Courage to Reform Local Schools. As I wrote the blog and prepared the book manuscript, many courageous educators who inspired me came to mind.

Four of them were and still are my greatest source of inspiration. Who they are and reasons why they inspire me in the realm of authentic school reform:

Doug Christensen, Commissioner Emeritus Nebraska Department of Education

Nebraska’s STARS (School-based, Teacher-led Assessment and Reporting System) is an assessment and reporting system created to support efforts to improve the local schools of the state. The foundation of STARS was three dimensional: (1) originates in the classroom and at the school-level, not the state level; (2) focuses on teaching and learning, not test scores; and (3) provides the data and evidence to support the work of educators and policymakers in improving the quality of decision-making and improvement initiatives.

STARS and its minimal “regulations” built partnerships between the state and the local schools to strengthen curriculum, instruction, and assessment for improved student learning. The STARS system used a different set of philosophies, policies, and practical ideas than the federal No Child Left Behind initiative. Resulting in conflicts and uneasy compromises which have taken center stage since 2001.

Doug Christensen courageously fought imposition of the federal mandate, eventually needing to compromise in order to receive federal funds for discretionary school improvement. Nonetheless, Nebraska was the last state to accede to federal pressure to receive ESEA support. Elements of the STARS program still exist in Nebraska. 

Carol S. Roach, President Emeritus Chairman, Board of Directors Curriculum Leadership Institute

Courage is best reflected in the willingness to accept significant challenges, even when circumstances are vague and not especially promising. It is more remarkable when the ongoing effort to achieve results is full of obstacles and complicated problems. Problems like client acceptance of new ideas and strategies. Significant changes in personal and organizational behaviors.

Carol Roach authored and implemented excellent public school curricular guides for law-related education. She worked closely with the Kansas Joint Commission on Public Understanding of the Law. She later created a series of effective training workshops for community college extension programs, businesses, and public agencies, known as Effective Methods of Teaching/Training Seminars. In 1991 she was co-founder of the Curriculum Leadership Institute (CLI). She co-authored The Curriculum Leader book and dozens of other materials used by public schools throughout the United States and overseas. Carol conducted workshops in hundreds of locations and was a consultant to many school districts and other educational entities such as consortia.

Every project Carol led involved courage to advocate out-of-the-box thinking and acting. Most important is her service as role-model to those now employed by or associated with the Curriculum Leadership Institute. After 30 years, CLI continues to provide nationally recognized nonprofit assistance to the nation’s schools. Carol’s legacy is exceptional. Unparalleled service based on courage and unselfish dedication.  

Dan Lumley, Retired District Administrator Researcher, Motivational Speaker, Change Agent Kansas and Missouri / National

Courageous service is often a product of a leader’s fascination with history and the exploration of the “what ifs” of human existence. Often those thoughts result in exploring ideas that serendipitously seem to work for no predetermined reason. Something like Arnold Toynbee’s observation, “History is just one damn thing after another.” 

The genius of Dan Lumley’s courageous service is detailed in his leadership of curriculum and instruction in three school districts in Kansas and Missouri. His fascination with how people interact intellectually, thereby becoming more engaged and motivated. Dan’s service is also based on an ability to give the ordinary a novel and even humorous twist. A skill that makes students and his workshop attendees see the world through a different lens. Difficult to write into a public-school curriculum because it is anything but unidimensional with just one correct answer.

Dan’s approach to learning aligns well with the new emphasis on creativity as being the preeminent learning outcome in the new Taxonomy of Educational Objectives. Today’s learning theorists avoid the term “learning objectives.” They view learning as a dynamic process, more suitable to 21st century work and living. Dan has advocated that idea for decades, which stimulates students and fellow educators to become more than they thought was possible.

Ken Weaver, Dean Emeritus The Teachers College Emporia State University

In 2010, the Kansas State Department of Education sponsored a committee that wrote Teacher Leader Standards. School district support was sought for teachers to defray expenses of earning the endorsement and a $1000 permanent addition to base salary provided by the legislature. Ken Weaver ensured that Emporia State University would be the first to sign on to the project by offering a teacher leader endorsement. Although lack of funding caused by the 2009 recession stopped project development, ESU continues to have an area of concentration in teacher leadership. Five “domains” that emphasize professional collaboration in using research to improve teaching, learning, and use of data for school improvement.

Although the original project is dormant, Ken’s interim leadership of the National Teachers Hall of Fame is now connected with the National Network of State Teachers of the Year. A strategic plan built on teacher leadership. Ken encourages the members of the National Teachers Hall of Fame to use their NTHF platform to elevate the awareness of the bold initiatives they established as dynamic and creative teacher leaders to change schools.

Ken has provided courageous service in previous endeavors as a Peace Corps volunteer, public school teacher, professor of educational psychology, department chair, and college dean. All those contributions bode well for his exercise of leadership in an organization that for 30 years contributed much to the betterment of American schools. And is poised to do even more in the years ahead.


These four educational leaders demonstrated and continue to provide dynamic service. As opposed to passive and compliant ministrations.

“Dynamic” has many synonyms that underscore its power as an action. Among them are forward-looking, energetic, vital, and vigorous. I add other descriptors that incorporate creativity, essential problem-solving, and incisive sensitivity that result in finding new solutions to perennially perplexing problems.

And above all the courage to assert themselves as people who give their everything to making a significant difference.

©2022 Stu Ervay – All Rights Reserved


Barbara Ervay


According to David Brooks, New York Times columnist and author, there is a difference between living a happy life and one filled with joy.  Joy is said to come from serving others,

Douglas Abrams’ book about the relationship between the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu underscores that point.

And that serving oneself is never a source of true joy.

A kind of contentment or happiness comes from sharing in the love of our families and friends. We can be fulfilled in minor ways by pleasant diversions some call a “bucket list.” 

We can revel in the little but significant things our earth shares with us:  aromatic flowers, scenic vistas, exotic and delicious food, the plethora of animal life, and the geological and plant diversity found on our wonderful planet.

Day to day contentment, happiness, and fulfillment are fundamental goals in life. They constitute a foundation for being human and part of a magnificent universe.

But they are not what marketers want us to believe when enticing us to buy products or services they offer. Their kind of conjured up happiness glitters with superficial facades, which are temporary kinds of euphoria at best.

They do not bring us joy.


Decades ago I was intrigued by research findings that discovered good salaries in a workplace do not make us happy.

Researchers found that good salaries and benefits make us NOT unhappy. But they do not make us happy.

And they certainly do not bring joy to our lives.

In other words, happiness has nothing to do with being not unhappy.

Not unhappy is a neutral middle ground or emotional void. It allows us to comfortably exist in a vacuum devoid of real meaning, or anything that transcends the routine of living.

The routine of living, with occasional blips of gaiety can make us think we are happy.  Especially if those blips are associated with people we love and enjoy being with.

Sometimes we feel giddy when winning prizes or receiving an unexpected award or sum of money.

But that feeling of euphoria is temporary. Never long-lasting or a source of ongoing contentment.

Somehow, we Americans have lost that insight and continue to inflate capitalistic notions that happiness is caused by the acquisition of more. The emphasis on the gaining of more creates a social dormancy, an unenthusiastic acceptance of the status quo that causes society to remain docile and submissive.  

That statement is no attack on capitalism.  Capitalism stimulates incentive and nurtures a dynamic marketplace, something socialistic countries cannot duplicate.  Ambition is, after all, a feeling that stimulates and excites.

But unfortunately, capitalistic enterprise can result in either euphoria or crushing depression.  And euphoria, as wonderful as it seems, leads to the need to acquire even more. And depression based on loss can either motivate or destroy utterly.

There is now a debate among advocates of capitalism. Mostly between those who favor the traditional stockholder system and others who advocate what is called the shareholder model. While the arguments are complex, the idea behind the shareholder concept is that people other than well healed investors should also benefit from company successes.

Even if that modification were possible, I doubt Desmond Tutu or the Dalai Lama would believe a remolding of capitalism would be enough to propel our society toward greater happiness. Certainly not joy.

Joy requires people to feel needed and authentically productive. That their purpose in life is to fulfill the needs of others in meaningful and authentic ways.

No revised status quo economic system can accomplish that, no matter how much it is reshaped.


Archbishop Tutu and the Dalai Lama conversed about the role of suffering as a precondition to finding joy. Both have known great suffering along with remarkable successes in guiding millions of people in finding happiness. Even joy.

My understanding of their conversation took me to the word “empathy.” Empathy is much more than sympathy.

Sympathy is feeling sorry for someone else with no innate sense of what they are really going through.

Empathy is an understanding of the anguish or distress of another person because we have experienced something similar ourselves. As fellow human beings with the same physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual needs.

They hurt. We hurt with them, deeply and authentically. We are who they are, but in a place that is now better.

Because we survived our hurt and learned from it.

Barbara, my wife of 57 years, could be amazingly empathetic. A kind of empathy that grew as an extension of her own suffering. At age 14 she was diagnosed with epilepsy and experienced all its manifestations and limitations on a normal childhood. She understood the social agony of being different than others, and isolated because of it.

What astounded me about her condition, later controlled quite well with medications, is that her empathy extended far beyond a deep understanding of others with that disorder.

Barbara, while in college, could feel the distress and confusion of those who were in a dark place with no apparent exit. Fellow students with terminal conditions that would shorten their lives. Friends with deep spiritual convictions that were shunned by others because of those beliefs. Men and women who discovered in themselves a preference for physical intimacy with members of their own gender.  

After college graduation and entrance into the teaching profession, Barbara revealed that sense of empathy with students. Those who were abused at home. Those from poor families with inadequate food, shelter, or protection from the elements. Students who sensed they were different in ways unacceptable to society in general.

During her teaching and in later years, she realized our society often treated girls and women unfairly. So from that realization she worked tirelessly to give members of her own sex the opportunities and recognition they deserved. In schools. In churches. Everywhere women needed support to advance their own efforts to contribute, and thereby gain joy from the giving. 

To say that Barbara gained joy from her deep sense of caring for others, and serving them the best way she knew, seems on the surface to be overreach. Absolute nonsense.

But joy is multidimensional and hard to pin down. The emotional pain associated with empathy is also a source of realizing God’s purpose for our lives. The joy that goes deep into the soul is connected to our relational needs, that we are all made of the same stuff and feel the same way. With variations that enrich our collective personality and create cultural happiness.

The joy of living.

©2022 Stu Ervay – All Rights Reserved


Writing is not like my service in the military, classroom, university office, church, or work as an AARP volunteer leader. Not like my contributions as a consultant, workshop presenter, or association leader. 

Or the service I provide as husband, father, friend, and responsible member of the human family.

But I hope my writing is a service in helping others find their way through life’s challenges.


Writing can be a service to self or a selected few. Through internal reflection. Penning or typing journals, diaries, confidential letters, and other documents that help us sort out individual problems or manage personally felt anguish.

That kind of writing is a conversation with the self or chosen others. Sometimes to be used later. Or for posterity. Using a medium that supplements memory, registers and acknowledges differences over time.

Service through writing requires introspection and the ability to connect personally felt human frailties and vulnerabilities with our transformational self. 

And with others of our species.

Especially those experiencing similar circumstances in life.

I wrote the book, Confronting Dementia: A Husband’s Journey as an Alzheimer’s Caregiver, to both soften my anguish and help other men who care for a wife with dementia. As a husband, I understood my inability to seek solace from others by sharing the depression and sense of helplessness I experienced. 


I am no historian. But I enjoy reading historical biographies.

Especially intriguing to me are the writings of famous people also known for accomplishing other things. Like Benjamin Franklin, Rachel Carson, Winston Churchill, Jane Goodall, and Theodore Roosevelt.

My reason for favoring those writers is encapsulated by a portion of Roosevelt’s 1910 The Man in the Arena speech: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena.”

Roosevelt sought out challenges and entered many arenas as an administrator, rancher, explorer, military leader, politician, president, and naturalist. He wrote extensively about all those experiences, which gave him credibility far beyond anything written by an uninitiated observer.

When I became a college professor my father congratulated me. But, using his own phrasing, he said something like George Bernard Shaw’s well-known line, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, teach.”

That hurt.

But it motivated me to advocate and practice something I called “applied scholarship.” Now recognized at Emporia State University as part of its service to our community and culture.

The idea behind applied scholarship is simple. Professors have a responsibility to better understand the contemporary world around us. To explain those understandings in the classroom. To identify and act on how to solve problems revealed by their new knowledge. In the real world. 

To share with students how the problem-solving initiatives worked. Or did not. And write about it in professional publications.

My father knew I also liked to write. He cautioned me in much the same way about that medium. As if to say, “Those who can, do; those who can’t, write.”

But in later years, when teaching plumbers, lawyers, accountants, and others how to teach in a community college extension program, it became evident that good teaching and writing are every bit as challenging as anything else.

Maybe more so.

People in those classes who could “do” were often unable to write a cogent paper, organize and present a good lesson, or deliver a convincing speech.

Many so-called experts in their fields can neither write nor teach well. One of my pet peeves is the technical expert who incompetently tries to write instructions for how to assemble or repair something. Or teach novices the same skill.

I could, if so inclined, make an equally dubious statement by reversing Shaw’s remark: “Those who can, fail to communicate their skills in any medium.” Teaching or writing.

But that stereotypical criticism would be fallacious for the thousands of practitioners who excel at both teaching and writing.


America’s second president, John Adams, was often described as cold and arrogantly judgmental. True enough. Many of his policy and political writings reflected that side of him. But his core beliefs and vision of our American society were much more sensitive and refined when seen through the copious letters sent to his wife, Abigail.

Abigail, as reflected in their letters to each other, was John’s “better half” in upholding the rights of women and abolishing slavery. So, he also wrote eloquently on those subjects.

Much of what we consider to be uniquely American is based on the writings of others, like Adams, who founded the country. Especially Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. Both men had personal flaws but were able to reach deeply into history, philosophy, and governmental theory to write documents that today are the bedrock of our national culture.

At a turning point in our nation’s history, Abraham Lincoln used the writings of Jefferson and others, supplemented with biblical references, to construct a powerful and iconic image of who we are and what we stand for as Americans.


Writing also changes who and what we are. For this reason, academic doctoral programs require dissertations. Preceded by the ability to come up with and explain an “intellectual itch that needs scratching.”

Many believe those who receive academic doctorates are just smart folks who take many more semester hours of coursework. And succeed in passing them with high marks.

But that is not true.

The prelude to conducting meaningful research and writing about the experience must be a kind of cognitive agitation. Because something is not right about a piece of our world.

Answers now given about those disparities are inadequate or nonexistent.

Doctoral research also requires a creative mindset to be effective. Asking the same old hackneyed questions will not reveal new knowledge. Devising new questions takes reflection, introspection, and time conjuring up “what ifs.”

And plenty of creative juices.

©2022 Stu Ervay – All Rights Reserved


The English language is an exceptional way to communicate. While I am no linguist, it pleases me to be able to use a language rich in meaning. Malleable in ways that allow emotions to permeate the soul. A stretch from precisely defining something to painting connotative images in a human mind. Images that allow the message’s recipient to imagine and create.

So how can we examine the word “commune” as a root word for both supporting and, conversely, undermining the word “service.”

To commune is good when it is extended to mean interaction, connection, and meaningful collaboration. We commune with each other and God. We communicate to better understand each other. We take communion to cement our relationship with God through Jesus.

It is central to everything good about service.

On the other hand, to be a communist or one practicing communism is interpreted by Americans as being evil. Inappropriate and even disloyal. We have been taught appropriately to believe that way. To perform the correct kind of service, one that opposes both communism and those who practice it on an international scale.


In a previous blog post, I mentioned Dr. Zoya Malkova, a Russian citizen and educational leader. In World War II Zoya was a pursuit pilot for the USSR, shooting down Nazi planes. But she was much more than a national hero in the militaristic sense.

She became a marvelous public school teacher and education official in the nation’s bureaucracy.  

I became friends with Zoya after the fall of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), when she made frequent visits to the United States. The purpose of her visits was to explain to Americans what happens when a governmental system with a strong secular and pragmatic core collapses.

Zoya’s best analogy for Americans was as if our Constitution and government were tossed out. That everything we had been taught to believe is now disparaged. That George Washington, like Stalin, was a despot to be forgotten.

Questions asked by citizens of the now defunct USSR were hard to answer. The foundation of education was in disarray.

What is left for schools to teach? What is left for our families to celebrate? To what do we belong as a culture?

Such questions were hard to answer even before the USSR’s demise. The basic core of communism is economic collectivism, which can seem soulless and rigidly practical. Drab in regulated ways.

Even during the highpoint of the USSR’s existence, the ruling bureaucracy only marginally recognized the uplifting achievements of the union’s member nations. Their contributions in the world of literature, music, dance, and even technology.

Economic collectivism emphasized production and distribution of wealth. Believing in and becoming inspired by a gearbox in a tractor. By the statistics of industrial output.

The center point of national pride had less to do with what was valued spiritually or esthetically. National pride was based on industrial strength, military prowess after defeating Nazi Germany, and the expanding territorial achievements. Gaining dominance in nuclear and rocket science.

After the demise of the USSR the once mighty Stalinist empire, built on what remained after World War II, was real estate chopped into ethnic parcels of land. Pieces of territory reinvigorated traditional cultures that lived there. Or formed totally new cultures and nation states.

Zoya had belonged to the Soviet Communist Party. Not because of its allegiance to the teachings of Vladimir Lenin, or the dictatorial rule of strongman Joseph Stalin, but because she knew no alternative.

The political state ruled by the dictatorship of the proletariat (working class) was based on collectivism, an economic principle established by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. German philosophers, political theorists, and economists who lived and worked in England.

Marx and Engels never thought their ideas would be co-opted by a massive empire like Russia, but Lenin did. Lenin sold the idea that those who do the work should reap the benefits of their labor. He created a political system based on that idea.

Starting with a strong central government (“temporary” dictatorship) to ensure the system was correctly established and maintained.

Communism took the idea of “commune” to new levels of economic principles and political infringement on a culture. Earlier communes like those established by indigenous people (and many American villages of the 18th and 19th centuries) were small and interactive. Often glued together with pervasive beliefs associated with things spiritual and life affirming.

Communism, as envisioned by Lenin in the context of a large nation’s needs, had to become both bureaucratic and rigidly based on uncompromising rules. It was and is a prescribed economic set of beliefs superimposed on a misguided political arrangement. Powerfully enforced rules. Rules that allowed Lenin’s successor Stalin to incarcerate or kill hundreds of thousands who did not comply as prescribed.

Living in that kind of culture makes service mandatory and without any kind of spiritual or altruistic base.

My friend Zoya intensely worried about that cultural mandate. The school curriculum, once supported by teachers and resources as training to be comrades in a collective system, had to be turned into something with no validity or overriding reason for existence.

Communism had corrupted the good connotations associated with communal human relations. It had changed our basic needs to commune with one another for the good of each person. Communistic thinking and acting had corrupted the good definition of communing with each other.


The word and function of service must be based on thoughtful introspection and an insight into how it will benefit others. Service has no meaning if it is designed to be obligatory. Forced on us by a bureaucracy or organization with dubious motives.

Service is neither valuable nor good if it is based solely on the strong proclamations issued by a self-proclaimed leader who appeals to our basest instincts and subliminal biases.

Vladimir Putin, an administrator who once served in the security branch of the USSR’s bureaucracy, finagled himself into gaining dictatorial power in Russia. Putin admired the USSR and achieved power as Russian’s current president. A position unlike the American presidency because it allows almost unlimited authority to the holder of that office.

Putin has used his position and the goal of regaining national pride to initiate aggression against nations that were once members of the USSR. To bring them back into the Soviet fold Stalin created after the upheaval caused by World War II. 

To serve Russia now is to serve Putin’s personally held ambitions to make Russia great again.

Putin’s way of unthinking and morally untethered service is an abomination in meeting the real needs of humankind. 

To authentically serve is to offer our ability to commune with each other in love and charity. To fulfill our life’s purpose in ways God intended.  

©2022 Stu Ervay – All Rights Reserved


Polarization of opinion is a byproduct of democracy.

Constitutional government is better than autocracies. Or other totalitarian ways to manage society. Deliberations can be positive avenues through which possible actions are discerned, created and applied.

However, as good as democracies are, their kind of representative governance is messy—even frustrating. It is anything but quiet contemplation in an atmosphere of efficiency and certainty.

Decision-making seems to take forever as lawmakers debate incessantly. Trying to hammer out compromises. Their positions ‘poles’ apart.

Or if they align themselves with a party platform to show loyalty. To achieve goals emanating from a particular philosophy.

I have never served in an elected position as a legislative or congressional representative. Not something to be proud of. But like many Americans, I hold politics in low esteem.

Especially when candidates pander to crass attack ads paid for by political action committees. “PACs” are financially supported by corporations and special interest groups. They pay PACs huge amounts based on the 2010 Freedom of Speech rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Advertising companies with creative writers can easily sway public opinion. Through a combination of deceptive verbiage, sinister graphics, ominous voiceovers, and shady proclamations.

Americans have been hoodwinked into taking extreme positions by unscrupulous advertisers. By commercial broadcasters allowed to spew out anything they please with no restrictions. By social media giants filling our minds with intellectual detritus. Disgusting!

In 1964 Marshall McLuhan told us “the medium is the message,” taken from his book, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. He said the medium itself should be considered before accepting the message it delivers. In today’s world, that assertion applies to everything from emailed ads to TV sound bites. From bumper stickers to Twitter.

And we are heavily influenced by them, their perceived good way to fix the problem. They too often work as intended. Our education system does not help students guard against untethered hyperbole designed to convince people without supporting evidence. The awful part is that it can lead to mass hysteria. Acceptance of solutions that lead to revolution, war, and millions of deaths.

Many historians point to the 20th Century’s invention and use of commercial radio and motion pictures as media to effectively sway public opinion. To bring to the surface underlying fears and prejudices against human beings perceived to be dangerously different than ourselves. Skin color, religious views, cultural preferences, and political/economic viewpoints.

To make us afraid. Very afraid.

To the point many otherwise decent folks believed in genocide. The total elimination of the other fearsome culture.

Now, in the 21st Century, we have even more invasive media used to promote biases and polarization. The proliferation of unrestricted television and social media produce unverifiable information, used to justify existing prejudices or create new ones.


Cooperation, politically referred to as bipartisanship, is now a sought-for goal in Congress and other representative groups. Advocated by those critical of the polarization. Fueled to overcome the hysteria caused by the purveyors of hate and narrow cultural viewpoints.  

Bipartisanship has existed throughout American history. Usually, it starts with an influential leader who articulately asserts a point-of-view through words or actions.  S/he enlightens with “ah ha” moments. “I never thought of it that way before” reactions.

That is the ultimate kind of service. Often produced by people brought to the brink of despair.  The example: Abraham Lincoln when he penned The Gettysburg Address.

Some highly principled people were intelligent and self-effacing enough to work together to find solutions to the nation’s problems. They were creative thinkers, articulate writers, and responsive negotiators.

Their service was equated with self-effacement. Simply the right thing to do. Rudyard Kipling’s poem, IF inspired me to provide that kind of service.

But Kipling was also an advocate of service in the guise of “the white man’s burden” genre. That interpretation of service caused the kind of superior feelings which resulted in many misguided missionary endeavors. Patronizing behaviors toward women and minority groups. The idea that those of us born with theoretically superior attributes should care for those born with inferior intelligence or abilities.

That kind of thinking was polarization of the worst kind. Should we be happy to serve others if they would just recognize their inferior status and show appreciation for our largess? Recognizing and accepting our Christian charity without seeking equality with us?

Service with strings attached. Service that creates the kind of resentment that seethes below. That makes polarization worse.


As an educator, the service I try to provide is one in which students are given the intellectual, emotional, and academic tools to become contributors to humanity. My job as a teacher is to help my students progressively become ‘more.’

Many of my students were potentially already more than I. But sometimes had to be convinced of their precociousness.

Service with no strings attached. With no polarizing wall between who I am and who he or she will someday be.

With no fear of being dominated or the possibility of succumbing to the inclination to dominate another. Just knowing we are on this earth to serve each other’s welfare. Whatever way we can, thereby leaving a legacy for others to follow.

©2022 Stu Ervay – All Rights Reserved


In my opinion, writing is performing a service. Or a precursor to the offering of a service that is truly meaningful.

Because writing requires deep intellectual engagement before any action is started. A probe that goes deep into our selfhood and pulls out who and what we are, thereby giving us insights into the world in all its dimensions.

Writing causes a better understanding of our strengths, weaknesses, and potential.

Most of all, it makes our unique and beneficial leadership qualities come to the surface. And gives us courage to use them for the common good.

It is the reverse of the kind of service depicted in The Nun’s Story. Sister Luke was expected to disappear into a collective of those giving allegiance to a core set of beliefs. She was asked repeatedly to sacrifice everything she believed herself to be.

Her writing was limited to keeping medical notes used in nursing or a record of when she was too prideful. Or unable to comply with the rules of her order or proper living.

It worked somewhat, until that sacrifice became unbearable. Coping with the reality of war, the loss of her father, and trying to answer questions not provided by faith alone. To use her intellect and insights to confront evil and serve humanity in a creative way.

My experience in the military was similar. Allowing myself to buy into the military culture until I could not.

The tank is not an object that promotes warm feelings. Nor are its weapons, ammunition, and the human skills needed to make them work effectively. A tank is a death-dealing machine that can also cause massive destruction to buildings and infrastructure. No redeeming value except as a tool to kill and hurt other human beings. Those we identify as the enemy. People like us. Taught to identify us as the enemy.

During my time in the military I wrote letters. Often to my mother and father. Eventually to my fiancé, who later became my wife. Much of my writing focused on how I felt about my work.

That writing made me think about what I was doing at the time and how I felt about it.

By the time I left the Regular Army and National Guard, I had earned a master’s degree and begun a doctoral program in educational leadership. In the Guard, I was encouraged to attend the Advanced Armor Officer School at Fort Knox, Kentucky.

At age 26 I had already attained the rank of captain and was being groomed to become a field grade officer within a few years. Completing advanced combat courses, and later programs referred to as Command and General Staff Officers’ Courses. They pretty much assured promotion up to and through the rank of lieutenant colonel.

Those with advanced degrees who could also write, teach, and effectively manage a unit command were at a real advantage. Combat commanders, while often recognized for their courage and skills in leading successful campaigns under hostile fire, did not always achieve high rank.

As a student of history, it was evident that leaders like Dwight Eisenhower and Colin Powell were successful in the army because they communicated well. They accepted and succeeded in fulfilling difficult managerial responsibilities. Powell served as a small unit commander in Vietnam. But Eisenhower never had such an experience. His skills were both managerial and collaborative decision-making. Especially among diverse and domineering personalities such as those involved with the Allied War Effort in WW II.

And Eisenhower wrote very well.

I admired these men. But I often wondered if their accomplishments were more related to career success than selfless service. My ultimate conclusion was both.

As an 18-year-old private first class in an Army reserve unit, I was asked by a sergeant to conduct a short instructional program on how to use a particular piece of equipment. Since I had no idea how to use that equipment, I turned to the Army field manual. It soon became clear why the sergeant asked me to conduct the instruction.

The technical writing used in the manual was gobbledygook. Filled with military jargon and convoluted instructions. To develop a lesson plan, I rewrote the most critical part of the manual, creating a step-by-step visual for classroom use.

An officer who watched my instruction was critical of my rewriting the manual. But he admitted that the resultant lesson was more lucid and understandable. How insubordinate I was! To have the nerve to redo a document written by a college educated officer skilled in technical writing and use of that piece of equipment.

That experience taught me a valuable lesson. My initiative was a service to the Army and the men who participated in the class. To the disapproving officer, I was an insubordinate young soldier exercising an initiative that would hurt my chances for promotion.

Instead, I circumvented the system and became an officer. With the goal of serving competently, not to just advance my military career.

Eisenhower and Powell also circumvented the rigid “by the book” system. Eisenhower was the architect of the campaign to rid Europe of the Nazi scourge. His leadership often put him into conflict with politicians and subordinates. But his intelligence and communication skills overrode the opinions of those preoccupied with protocol and rigid strategies. Eisenhower became our president during the 1950s and applied those special skills.

Eisenhower’s fresh way of thinking and ability to communicate were more than career advantages. They were a genuine service to the nation.

Powell did much the same thing by reforming a dysfunctional Vietnam era military into the quality force it is today. A good career move. And a good service to his country.

After retirement from the military Powell became the founding Chairman of America’s Promise—The Alliance for Youth. A group meant to mobilize people from every sector to build the character and competence of our country’s youth. Service through communicating. Through speeches and the written word.

We read, reflect, AND write to become more effective human beings. Those actions make us more than robotically motivated creatures programmed with stimulus-response software. They allow us to serve with sensitivity and moral awareness.

©2022 Stu Ervay – All Rights Reserved