Competence or Compliance? Elliot Washor on Airline Safety and Education

My friend and mentor, Elliot Washor’s blog is called Tinking and Thinking.  I like that, but I think it should be called, Tinking and Thinking and Linking.  Because he often makes great connections between issues in education and things that seemingly have absolutely nothing to do with education (like Irish pottery, cathedrals, and magic tricks–to name just a minute few of the links he’s made over the years).

This week he was reprimanded by a flight attendant and it led him to think about how we approach teaching important things–like how to get out of a plane in an emergency evacuation situation.  Is the system on the plane set up to save lives or to make sure that the airline and flight attendant aren’t liable for whatever might happen in the event of a “surprise landing?”

Check out Elliot’s blog for the whole story:

UPDATE 02/20/10: I was sitting in an exit row today, so I figured I’d do a little test…  After the flight attendant did her whole routine and asked us to respond with a verbal affirmation that we understood and were capable of performing the tasks required in the event of an emergency evacuation, I asked (as earnestly as I could) if we should try it…

She and all five other people in the exit rows laughed.  Loud.  The fact that they laughed is nothing that peculiar in and of itself.  It was an unusual question and I’m a pretty funny guy…  But it was the way they laughed that I found interesting.  They laughed a lot.  And extra hard.  I think they were laughing so much because they deeply understood two contradictory facts:

1.  They understood that it made a ton of life-or-death sense to actually try this exercise out while comfortably seated on a runway (rather than waiting until we had just landed in the Atlantic a few miles off the coast of Connecticut and were watching the water level creep up around the little oval windows).


3.  They understood that there was ABSOLUTELY NO WAY that we were going to be allowed to try opening that door.  Even if we really felt that it was essential to everyone’s safety.

The flight attendant decided my question was a joke and decided that my joke could be interpreted as an affirmative response to her original question.  But what if I had insisted that I could not answer her question without actually seeing whether I could open the door?  I’m guessing they would have told me to leave the exit row. so that they could replace me with someone who would nod “yes” without looking up from his magazine….

1 Response to Competence or Compliance? Elliot Washor on Airline Safety and Education

  1. young whan March 6, 2010 at 5:07 pm | Permalink |

    Hey Sam,

    Elliot told me to check out your blog… so i’m checking it out along with his. I love this dialogue about the airline safety compliance. Definitely does not make me feel any safer! Anyway, I’ve been in conversation with Elliot about some of my writing on schools and students. Would love to connect!

Leave a Response