Welcome to the circusMarch 11th, 2013
In an earlier article, I mentioned that these days, it’s fashionable to blame all the failings in our school systems on teachers.
And in this regard, I’ve been disappointed with the actions of our foremost education administrator, our esteemed President (who I voted for twice) and who I think is greatly misguided in his education policy by jumping on the bandwagon of teacher bashing.
Of all people, he should be the first one to understand that good students are not the result of good teaching but of good parenting.
Does he attribute his own success to the mentoring he received from his grandparents and the personal interest his mother took in his education getting him up personally at 5 am to do his homework, or to some ‘super teacher’ in his life?
In the article above, he himself said that “she seemed intent on raising a combination of “Einstein, Gandhi, and Harry Belafonte.”
In his infinite wisdom, how could he fail to recognize that this was the secret to his success and not some imaginary ‘teacher-of-the-year’ in his life?
But these days, it seems to be the trend to blame all the problems in our schools on teachers.
And even worse, to apply workplace standards and business practices to the task of educating our children.
In other words, to equate the education of our children with manufacturing products and running a business.
It is true, in most industries, if the products are not up to par, you can often lay the blame squarely on the workers.
For example, if you’re building cars and you’re getting recall after recall of those cars for defective workmanship, it’s not unreasonable to blame the workers in the factory for those defects.
But can we apply those same standards to teachers?
Can we apply factory floor manufacturing standards and expectations to schools and the task of educating our young?
On the factory floor, if you assemble a car, the results are predictable. When you put in a screw, the screw stays there. When you install a part, the part stays there. In other words, you’re working in an environment of predictable outcomes. What you put in is what you get out.
Teaching, however, exists in quite a different environment.
You’re dealing with unpredictables, because you’re not dealing with inanimate objects that are completely under your control, you’re dealing with thinking human beings.
(If you don’t know what a thinking human being is, try asking a teenager to take out the trash and you’ll soon find out.)
And here’s the crux of the problem.
The student is not some inanimate object that is completely subject to your will and control. It’s not a product rolling off a factory floor that you have 100 % control over. It’s a live thinking human being with a mind of their own.
Imagine if you will, a car manufacturing plant.
Cars are rolling down the conveyor belts, and you’re a worker on the floor installing, let’s say, the headlights.
Only this is no ordinary factory – in this factory, every automobile part is a live thing with a mind of their own.
So you try to put in the first headlight, but instead of going into its designated space, it decides to roll onto the floor.
You chase after it, and after some effort, you manage to get it into the space but now the screws refuse to go in. So there you are trying to persuade them to be good and allow you to tighten them, when the manager comes along and asks why you’re not doing your job.
It sounds like a crazy world but that’s the world of education.
You’re trying to do the best you can, but you’re constantly being sabotaged by students and administrators.
Truly a thankless task.
First, you have to try to persuade your typical facebooked-texted-friend-me-twittered-video-gamed-to-the-eyeballs distracted student – trying to persuade them that perhaps they should do their homework besides these other great ‘priorities’ in their lives.
Or on the other side of the coin, trying to persuade children who have no strong and involved adults in their lives, children who have been indoctrinated by popular culture that being cool is better than getting good grades.
And doing all this while having to justify your job by writing countless ‘learning outcomes’ reports, and undergoing endless evaluations to determine your dedication to your profession.
And on top of that, an unsympathetic President and other opportunistic politicians and administrators who would use teachers as scapegoats for all the failings in our society.
Welcome to the circus, otherwise known as the wonderful world of education in America.