America's Most Critical Journal (since 1999)
Seeking refuge in ignorance, education on the rise
by Starr Sackstein, MJE and concerned city school teacher
With new initiatives changing like hygienic people change their undergarments, little success can be expected from education. “No Child Left Behind” was put in place to ensure that all students were given educational opportunity, but it could be argued that it did just the opposite. School failures and closures are rampant and student learning appears to be hovering on the lower end of the spectrum. The socio-economic divide has conquered the learning curve and this disparity has recklessly endangered minorities. Educational priorities have indeed changed; just not for the better.
A decade of “do this” or “oh no, that isn’t working” has created the apathy seen in both passionate educators and adolescents who are routinely punished through compulsory rote learning. We constantly preach the necessity of intellectual curiosity and critical thinking, holding in highest regard the holy grail of a college education and future success, never once considering or challenging the system.
Since teachers are the hallmark of the problem, a viable alternative must be provided. We must pool all the intellectuals that love words and learning above all else, regardless of their knowledge base or talent, and prepare them with teacher training, until whatever passion they have for set discipline is completely scraped from their existence. The systematic conditioning they will be forced to endure will eradicate their passion and impetus to retaliate; when any potential injustice is served upon them by administrators and businesspeople. The basic tenets of business function identically within education, as all teachers know.
During this short stay of education, the system must make certain to not provide any practical advice or useful strategies to use in the dire situations we see in schools across America today. Why should the textbooks and classes have any real world uses? That would undermine the point of such a lengthy tutorial. It may actually arm these newbies with a toolbox of survival tactics for floating in an ocean of apathy and misplaced expectations. That is a boat that is meant to be solitary and therefore would deflate if actually given the means to escape it. Teachers, after all, work best in isolation, so keeping them alone and disenfranchised keeps them afraid, but motivated.
Once these years of service have been completed, place set “educators” in schools that are already “challenged” and give them one year to produce meaningful change (aka miracles). These schools will be overcrowded, of course, as is the natural way of the system in urban settings, all the while with administrators smiling and saying, “we want what’s best for the kids.” A modest class of 37, at least, any smaller would be impossible to teach, (to condition), with a range of skill levels from the highest needs special education students and the most encouraging and inspired “honors” students. Tell said educator to differentiate and scaffold and leave them to their wiles to produce success.
Administrators should know: success comes with simulated involvement. So, after one week’s time, make sure to unexpectedly observe these teachers. The added pressure of having the administration watching really does help an educated professional feel secure and respected. During this observation, make sure to note, minute by minute, the occurrences of the class down to the frequency of bathroom requests and verbal fillers shared by both educator and students. After the class period passes, be sure to send a threatening email encouraging the educator to try new strategies or else. Of course, the tone must be thinly veiled as an attempt to help or else the educator might take it the wrong way and be likely to feel inadequate thereby rendering him/her incapable of preforming his/her required duties.
And let’s not forget praise... oh wait, I mean, let’s forget praise. It does nothing for morale and ultimately only gives educators the false sense of what they do is good. Never help an educator feel appreciated because an appreciated educator never pushes his or her self harder and ultimately lays back, resting on all of that goodness and self satisfaction. It would clearly disturb the conditioning to share positive feedback and would ultimately undo all of the necessary apathy created. A confident teacher is not a fearful teacher and is less capable of being controlled.
On the other side of the desk, there sits the beautiful faces of the adolescents gently reminded of their duties as students. So students: Sit patiently. Listen attentively. Write aggressively and creatively. Think, always, but not too much, and don’t question any authority regardless of how much it seems that your needs aren’t being met. Work with each other; collectively developing meaning as individuals isn’t important and has no usefulness once graduated. Don’t be alarmed by the fact that simple sentences are beyond your ability and reading six years below grade level is commonplace. As a matter of fact, the graduation rates are higher than ever despite the fact that students are under-credited and haven’t met “state standards”. State standards are no longer important, just the common core which speak to life skills and college readiness. Why bother coming to school when a student can learn all he/she needs from the internet and television?
Students, when you decide to come to school remember that we don’t care about meeting your individual needs. We’ve analyzed the data and have determined what is in your best interest. “Here is your new schedule,” the guidance counselor will say, handing you a program that doesn’t align whatsoever with need or ability. “Don’t worry, your classes will be very big and it will be easy for you to fall through the cracks. Graduation is guaranteed. Pay no attention to the failing grades; we’ll take care of that later.” Guidance counselor seeing the confused look on your face says, “Oh don’t worry, no child is left behind at our school.”
Sitting within these vessels of learning, students are packed cozily like sardines at tables rather than desks to foster team work and plagiarism. Copying develops a collective “right”, eradicates original thought and makes students much easier to educate. The less they question authority, the more readily we can get them through the system and pass them off to colleges who can profit from needed student remediation. After all, that’s what the educational system does: funnel them all into college where they need to repeat their high school education at a cost because all students have to go to college. We no longer have need for vocational programs that produce electricians and plumbers. People can just handle those kinds of issues with their degrees in psychology or cultural anthropology.
Marching through the day, conditioned by the resounding ringing of bells, the bright and curious will also be stripped of their interests. They will be offered choice in their program, only to be placed where they fit because budgets have been cut and the sections are no longer offered. All extra-curricular activities that used to enrich students will no longer be offered because they extend the school day needlessly and develop a sense of community that competes with the mission of the school to educate. But at least then, the students will be the drones we expect them to be and won’t ruin the data.
Ah yes, let’s not forget the data; those valuable calculations that comprise the foundation of all secondary education. The strength of a foundation grounded firmly in fact. Let’s test about testing and analyze the kinds of questions and the kinds of responses to questions. There’s no need to actually “teach” as the data will tell us what students have learned and also what we are doing wrong. If we can make the students as bland and universal as numbers, then the data will provide the accurate information we need. We can chart their numbers in the shapes of their faces and call them by their social security numbers and then place all the charts in a binder, color coded and organized for when the next quality review begins. It is all for the kids after all and if we understand who they are as numbers, we can help them better prepare for life as people.
Developing adolescents into fine human beings is an essential role of school teachers and the educational system. We have character building classes and time management courses in place to teach adolescents how to be organized and respectable because the teacher is now the non-biological parent. Accountability for children can’t possibly be the responsibility of their actual parents. That would require them to be present and authoritative, using a complicated word which has somehow slipped from the English language: “no”. Materialism and bribery are clearly excellent methods for child motivation and parents need to work extra hard at multiple jobs to buy students the expensive gaming systems that account for their after school attention span and supervision. We all understand how much a student can learn from a parental role model, but it is no match for the knowledge and physical activity that can come from a Wii. Twenty years ago, children actually played outside and ate dinner around a table where they talked about their day. They didn’t adjourn to the den to submit themselves to the giant flat screen babysitter.
In addition to exceptionally burdensome work lives, parents engage in relationships with teachers and administrators to help their children become successful. Phone calls and emails go home routinely to share important data about their children. Transparency is of the utmost importance to the educational system and parents should always be watching…except when there is clearly a problem. At that point, it is necessary for parents to turn a blind eye, or else it will be impossible to blame the teachers later. If they know what is going on in their child’s life, then they can actually be culpable for their children’s lack of success. It’s at this point that these fine folks will start to offer solutions to the school to better serve their child: “Can’t my child take the class independent study and then self-assess for credit?” “This teacher clearly has it out for my child. He/she is an “A” student; I’m not sure why the teacher is consistently low balling him/her. It’s time to my child take math pass/fail.” Pretty soon, I’m hoping to offer my teaching position to one of these parents since they obviously know how to do my job better than I can and my administrators agree. It is no longer important to implement that vast teacher education knowledge: if they have seen it on television, they know how to do it.
Once we have carefully completed and perfected these new implementations, the city’s schools will surely begin to thrive. We can create a new business model around these applications and sell them to other suffering systems. The money earned from the sale of these plans can go to funding the salaries of high ranking educational officials, as they are being paid less than folks in the trenches who really don’t deserve to be paid at all. Since educating is a public service, we should treat the actual teaching like volunteerism and pay teachers what they are worth: nothing. After all, they make so many mistakes and don’t care about our precious commodities that are children’s minds.
These solutions will surely result in academic success, financial prosperity and perfectly shaped graphs. Our society will thrive, led by the master-minds who put the whole system together and no teacher, administrator, student or parent will ever be able to complain again. Equilibrium will finally be enacted.