Racializing The Bird. And Creating an Organizational Culture of Happiness.

Whew.  The last 9x9x25 post of the semester.  What to write about?  So many topics, so few sentences.
So, I choose to briefly discuss two discoveries I made this week.

While browsing my phone, I discovered one could “emoji” the finger (aka, the bird).  But to my chagrin and perturbation, I saw that this crude symbol has also been racialized–that is, you can flip off someone on the internet in a variety of skin tones, which could take on a number of meanings, none of which could be good.  This is what my research turned up:

“The Reversed Hand With Middle Finger Extended emoji supports skin tone modifiers. A yellow (or other non-human) skin tone should be shown by default, unless an emoji modifier is applied.”
I share this not to be provocative (ok, maybe a little…but I got your attention!), but to draw attention that bigotry is alive and well, and unfortunately on the rise.  We–the human race–have found yet another way to denigrate each other, based on nothing other than the color of our skin (over which we have no personal control).  This discovery–and its potential to stir up hatred and turmoil, at both a group and personal level–truly saddens me. 😢

This month’s (November 2017) issue of National Geographic features “The Search for Happiness.”  In it, persons from Costa Rica, Denmark and Singapore (the happiest places on their respective continents) are highlighted.  (Interestingly, the U.S. is the only country in North America where less than 75% of the population experiences “daily happiness,” as measured by social scientists.)
The article, which dissects the “science of happiness,” reports the following:
Image result for faces of happy people“The researchers who publish the annual World Happiness Report found that about three-quarters of human happiness is driven by six factors: [1] strong economic growth, [2] healthy life expectancy, [3] quality social relationships, [4] generosity, [5] trust, and [6] freedom to live the life that’s right for you.  These factors don’t materialize by chance; they are intimately related to a country’s government and its cultural values.  In other words, the happiest places incubate happiness for their people.”
What if, I wondered, an organization (such as Yavapai College) would take the “happiness” of their students, staff and faculty seriously?  We know (also from research) that persons with a positive “approach” attitude learn more!  
What if the leadership and culture of the college were reshaped with the well-being of its constituents in mind (rather than some other motive–finances, enrollment, ego, getting on the latest educational bandwagon, etc.)?  What would these six characteristics of national life look like at the institutional level?  Allow me to speculate.
[1]  Fair, equitable and regular economic compensation of employees (something like a commitment to a salary schedule that was a part of our college culture a decade ago).
[2]  Job security, at ALL levels (including an appeals/grievance process for administrators).
[3]  A highly collaborative planning, teaching and learning environment (shared governance).
[4]  Loyalty to the institution (based on the above 3 environmental traits) that creates a culture of going “above and beyond” instead of “tit-for-tat.”
[5]  Transparency at all levels of the organization, resulting in mutual trust and respect.
[6]  As much professional autonomy as practically possible.
One of the main takeaways for me was that the citizens of these happiest countries actually trusted their governments to look after and encourage their well-being.  In analyzing 500,000 surveys of immigrants who had moved to Canada, social scientists found that within a few years of arriving, the happiness of those immigrants increased.  “Seemingly their environment accounted for their increased happiness.”
I believe It is possible to create a flourishing college environment.  But it would require a high degree of intentionality and attention to human factors, even over programs, curricula, personal agendas and so many other things on which we tend to see as highly important.  A “happy” college would no doubt be a productive and welcoming place for teaching and learning.
Image result for happy faces

2 thoughts on “Racializing The Bird. And Creating an Organizational Culture of Happiness.

  1. I chuckle at the bird comments. This was my customary ‘wave’ when driving past my best friends in high school. -Jared

  2. I emoji’d my friend a pretty blue bird I found in the animal collection and he took it as the finger. We worked it out ;+

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