Thursday, July 28, 2016

Choosing a School, III

As I and others have said countless times, if another country were responsible for our current education system, we would invade it and trash its sorry citizenry with drone strikes.

But another country is not responsible for this mess. We are. Probably, unknowingly, I hope unknowingly, we elected the people who dreamed up this nonsense. And we hired people up and down the educational hierarchy who were too spineless to rebel against it.

Do the perpetrators of this destruction send their kids to private schools? Did the perpetrators themselves attend private schools? If they attended public schools, were they abused, beaten, bullied, neglected and starved, thus justifying their obvious intention to destroy public schools? Are they simply ignorant about all things related to teaching and learning? 

The latter would explain why they so frequently throw some cockamamie "initiative" (oh, how I hate that empty, soulless word) into the schools, then, five years later when the teachers finally man up (or person up, if you prefer) and complain about it, they revise or scrap it.

Then they invariably claim to do so in the interest of "our kids, who are our future," and to show their -- the perpetrators' -- support for education, thinking we'll be amnesiac enough to reelect them (and we are). They never admit it was their idea, or, more likely, the idea of their deep-pocketed contributors.

As loads of crap were successively dumped on my head during my last two years as a teacher, I would speculate about who elected those responsible for it. I could come up with only two possibilities: 

The most obvious target: The inhabitants of the Rod Serlingesque community called the Villages, home of golf-cart drag races and a surprisingly high risk of sexually transmitted diseases. 

Outside of this haven of draft beer and spring breakers, there are roughly 4 million more Floridians over 65. I have to wonder how much of their tax money they want to go to other people's grandchildren. And how much they care about the fruits of a lousy education when they will be no more than ashy compost by the time those fruits ripen.

The other possibility: People who fear that teachers aren't earning the big bucks they drain from the State's budget. People who believe teachers must be held accountable, and the only way to do that is to quantify and measure their work. And the only way to do that is through evaluations and test scores.  

To them, test scores will only be valid if we go back to the good ol' days of readin, ritin, and rithmetic and leaving off the first letters of words if they interfere with catchy alliteration, and leaving off the last letters to make them sound more folksy.

These people also apparently believe that teachers show up for work just before the first bell, then leave right after the last one (sadly, some teachers do this, but very few), get home at midafternoon, take a nap, toss back a bottle of Thunderbird or Wild Irish Rose, then settle in for a bingefest of "Real Housewives of Bithlo." Then they get three months off (they actually get two) in which they lounge around in their pajamas eating Cheetos and watching reruns of "Family Feud" all day.

So politicians can easily convince the above constituencies that America's cheap-seat standing in the world's educational arena is a result of shoddy teaching and a lack of attention to basic standards. Therefore, they argue, we must clearly define a set of standards (there go the flexibility, diversity and creativity so vital to learning) and then create exams to show how well we meet those standards.

So who is to blame? My answer is much like the blame Vietnam War veteran Tim O'Brien gave in The Things They Carried when his narrator attempts to nail down who was to blame for that war. I'll paraphrase: Everyone and no one. People who were too lazy to read newspapers. People who switched TV channels at the mention of complex educational issues. People who placed their own desires ahead of the health and development of children. People who forgot to vote. People who have no clue what the life of an actual teacher is like.

In short, they are the people who, as products of the stultifying, superficial, archaic, exam-driven, one-size-fits-all education they support, lack the logical and critical thinking skills and the empathy every citizen should have, especially during election years. 

This pernicious but fixable cycle is strong evidence that we get what we deserve. If I were paranoid and gullible and susceptible to conspiracy theories, I would believe our politicians prefer it this way. "They love the poorly educated," I would think if I were paranoid.


  1. Ahhhh there are days that I hate fighting life, but then I read your missives.. and laugh. Thank you, again, and again, and again, and again.

    1. Thank YOU. I love making people laugh more than teaching. I'm afraid I always have

  2. "Those people" really do lack the logical & critical thinking skills to head our education system while requiring teachers and students to prove the same. I detest & am weary of being handed those copied-off set of standards each year. I want, no NEED more flexibility, creativity & diversity... does anyone really care about educating these sheep to become real thinkers & writers instead of churned-out robots for society? Probably not. I just may have to stay zoned out watching those classy housewives of Bithlo. You are an eternal optimist Doc for thinking this vicious cycle is fixable, I think it is more fair to say it is a conspiracy theory. However, are "those people" really bright enough to have planned it?

    1. Well, I don't mean fixable in my lifetime. Actually, it CAN be fixed, but our system is rigged to prevent it. As Bob Dylan says, "Money doens't talk, it swears"

  3. Roy your comment citing Bob Dylan lyrics is spot on-- and scary as hell.