Guide Dogs and Fraternity Obedience

If you've been reading this blog, you know by now that I believe a little defiance in the fraternity/sorority system should be accepted and appreciated.  After all, our organizations were founded to go against the mainstream of the day.  We were developed in defiance to the predominant attitude that education should be structured, conformist, controlled, and orderly.  Fraternities and sororities sought to add some humanness to stodgy and rigid educational environments in early America.  Thus, we shouldn't deny this is a continuing part of our DNA.  It can be one of our most beautiful organizational personality traits.

While we want our chapters to follow policies that will keep members safe, and we want them to stay committed to ethical decision making, we shouldn't prevent opportunities for the defiant side to emerge every now and then.  Who knows what kind of sparks will be created?  Maybe that one chapter does have a better way to approach recruitment.  Maybe the IFC is right about how to improve the risk management policy.

Maybe those sorority members at Alabama actually know better than the alums about who deserves to belong.

When we allow a healthy dose of independence to live within our fraternity and sorority systems, then we allow our members to develop their own thinking and their own solutions to problems. Sure enough, some will abuse that responsibility, which only makes campuses and headquarters want to take more control.  We just need to understand that because of the circumstances of our founding, control is something fraternities and sororities will always resist. 

But I think that's something to be appreciated. I was re-reading an old Ken Blanchard article, and came upon this passage, which made me smile. He is referring to the training of Guide Dogs:

Trainers take two kinds of dogs out of the program - the completely disobedient and the completely obedient. You'd expect the first group to be dismissed, but why the second? Because the only dogs trainer's keep are the ones that will do whatever the master says unless it doesn't make sense. Imagine letting dogs think! And yet, it would be a disaster if a Seeing Eye Dog and his or her master were waiting on the corner and the master said, "Forward." The dog, seeing a car speeding in their direction, shrugs his shoulders and thinks to himself, "This is a real bummer" as he leads his master into the middle of the street.  (p. 24)

Source: Blanchard, K. (1998). Servant-leadership revisited. In L.C. Spears (Ed.), Insights on leadership (pp. 21-28). New York, NY: John Wiley and Sons.


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