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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Hearts of Stone & Bleeding Hearts

Which institution do you hate to deal with the most: Bank? Post office? Motor vehicles? IRS? Supermarket? Social security? Which bureaucrat gets the “Heart of Stone Award”? (Serendipity Bible 10th Anniversary Edition, page 1201).

At that time Jesus said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.” (Matthew 11:25-26 NIV).

Bureaucracies can be the expression of either of two extremes: “the Heart of Stone Monolith” or “the Bleeding Heart Cascade”. I think it is obvious that neither one of these extremes will do. A bureaucracy is in many ways a professional organization that shares certain characteristics with a college professor. A professor, as with a bureaucracy, is a repository of expertise and specialized knowledge. The professor ideally will receive respect and a good measure of abeyance from his students. Anyone who has gone through school will recognize teachers with traits manifesting two extremes: a teacher with a heart of stone versus a teacher with a bleeding heart. The heart of stone professor has a closed mind and closed ears. He is absolutely and always totally right and the students had best keep quiet and absorb and do everything the professor says exactly without questioning anything. The other extreme is the bleeding heart professor who endlessly compromises on everything, is totally solicitous of his students, and—if the truth be known—is full of self-doubt as to whether he has anything valuable or substantial to offer. In the first instance the student as customer is always wrong. In the second instance the student as customer is always right.

The ideal professor will be neither one of these extremes. He will of course have expertise and specialized knowledge, but he never assumes the stance of complete rectitude – one who has cornered the market on knowledge, understanding, and perception of truth. He always stands ready to accept that students can have interesting questions and can cast a new light on accepted truths. He has neither a closed mind nor closed ears. He is readily assessable but retains standards and backbone. In contrast, the two extremes are essentially artificial, inhumane, and dishonest. We sense intuitively that something is wrong, delusional, and untrustworthy about them – something that cannot pass reality checks. The need is for bureaucracies (and college professors) that are for real.

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