Dottie Douglas wasn’t sure what she would learn from her first blue highway journey. She even wondered if any of the places she would visit even had internet connections. What she found was very different than what she expected, and in fact, she learned an important lesson on the limitations of technology. She often referred to her journey as her Road Scholars Tour.
It began as she entered the first small town. There was a sign post recognizing local students who had received prestigious national and international awards. She was astonished to find out that the local high school had never exceeded 55 students in its graduating class. She decided to visit the principal to see if she could understand why the students were so successful. What she heard was that there was no magic to success, but when the principal described the award winners, she used phrases such as humility, resourcefulness, compassion, and sincerity. Obviously these were very bright people, but that wasn’t how the principal described them. They had been leaders but humble, not prone to bragging about their accomplishments. Dottie was impressed.
When she entered the next town, she again saw a recognition plaque of the award winners. She just had to visit the principal of the local high school to see if the traits the first principal identified were affirmed. They were, but new traits were also identified: graciousness, purposefulness, curiosity, and courage.
In town after town she visited, she saw the same remarkable student achievements. But one thing she noticed was that there were no award winners in the last five years. She decided to ask the principal in the final high school she was to visit why the drop off in award winners.
As she was meeting with the principal a woman, who the principal immediately recognized, walked in. “Dottie I want you to meet our Congresswoman. She was an award winner of one of those scholarships. You will see her name on the list: Helen Boyd. Ask her your question.”
Dottie asked the Congresswoman why there were no recent winners. She was surprised by the answer. “In a word, technology is the answer to your question. When I was interviewed for the scholarship, I met the judges in person. Today everything is virtual. Candidates are interviewed remotely. Our local students will never be competitive if you are looking at them on paper or through a screen. They just don’t have the opportunities that students from elite schools have. The traits that make our students successful can only be seen in person.”
As Dottie reflected on the day, she began to realize that none of the traits the principals had mentioned to her were ones that you could evaluate with technology. She also had to admit to herself that technology had limits. She began to realize that the essential question for technology was not whether the capability existed but whether the technology was appropriate.
In this case, she realized that technology was not appropriate for capturing the true wholeheartedness of candidates.
* * *
“Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.”
– Brené Brown (author)