Recently, I was in New Orleans taking in the sights, sounds, and decadence. It’s an overload for the senses. The people are warm and friendly. The tourists are loud and obnoxious. However, in the middle of the chaos are moments of humanity. While wandering the streets, I stumbled upon two kids not more than eleven years old. They were sitting on old paint buckets just off the sidewalk. They had set up their donation box and in front of each boy was an old paint bucket and drumsticks in their hands. Just as they started pounding out rhythmic beats, two street vendors from the adjacent sidewalk art fair approached the two boys. The man and woman asked the boys to move and they were neither kind or patient. They even tried offering the boys money if they would move. The boys, without disrespect or raised voices, declined their offer. They slowing started playing again to a gathering crowd of generous strangers. Finally, realizing their defeat, the two street vendors reluctantly backed away.
Both boys were clearly talented and excited to share their passion with the passersby. One boy was more experienced than the other, but allowed his friend moments to shine as they volleyed solo performances between them. The crowd was excited and cheered as each boy displayed his talents. In a matter of minutes, people were dropping several dollar bills in the cardboard box as the boys continued to play on. The warm, humid air was filled with rhythmic beats and determination as they continued to perform for the crowds.
In watching these two boys, a thought occurred. The fear and frustration exhibited by the street vendors was no different than the experience people feel every day when faced with the possibility of disruption to their known environment. The word disruption can cause fear and paralysis. We think that something bad is going to follow. What disruption really does is challenges the status quo. It can create pathways for opportunities. These boys did not allow those who disagreed with them to dictate their actions. They believed in their talents, had the right to perform on the street, and maximized the opportunity to prove that their was a demand for their artistry as well.
Disruption can take on many different forms. It can have a short or long-term impact. However, ultimately, truly effective disruption depends on the opportunities seized by individuals who can see the potential in a situation and are strong enough to ignore the unbelievers. Higher education does not need a silver bullet solution. Students need accessible and affordable educational options not limited by fear of the unknown. Students need to know that institutions care about their needs, their learning styles, and allow them to follow their passions whether it be in teaching, nursing, or refining their talents on the streets of New Orleans.