By December 8, 2015 Uncategorized 2 Comments

I am a big fan of “Dilbert” cartoonist Scott Adams. He has a gift for dissecting the layers of absurdity and senseless bureaucracy that insulate much of corporate America.

Reading about the daily antics of Dilbert, Wally, Alice, and the pointy-haired boss does more than make us laugh–it helps us recognize and hopefully confront the idiocy in our own jobs.

And, yes, we all deal with a fair share of distractions and idiocy. I readily admit having occasionally imposed my unique strain of idiocy on people with whom I’ve worked. Just ask them.

Oh, and since I am now my district’s Administrator for Personnel, I would be remiss in not mentioning one of my favorite characters, Catbert, the evil HR Director.

“Hug myself and purr.” Hilarious!

Scott’s comedic satire embodies the time-wasting, circular reasoning, and ignorant mentality of bad bosses and organizational “group think” that many workers are all too familiar with. And while Scott’s barbs are generally targeted at the business world, many of his messages are easily transferable to the world of education, particularly the misplaced efforts of ed-reformers.

This Sunday’s contribution was no exception.

Now, let’s be clear. I am not at all pushing the idea that our schools are filled with disruptive idiots. I firmly believe the majority of our buildings are filled with highly competent, passionate educators who are working extra hard every day with energy and enthusiasm.

Instead, I would label as the “disruptive idiots” those education reformers who seek to disrupt public education through test-based accountability and persistent disparagement of educators and schools.

These entities represent the “pointy-haired boss,” who cluelessly try to lead change based on something they heard in a political think tank or read in a Milton Friedman article.

They are puzzled why schools cannot make miracles happen for every student while working behind the scenes to strip teachers of resources, autonomy, and respect. They envision schools where every child is able to learn the same standards at the same time to the same level, regardless of outside factors. They believe that students with significant learning disabilities or language deficits can master the same curriculum as regular education students if teachers would just get to work and “stop yacking about it.”

Combined with the efforts of so-called fiscal conservatives who seek to “starve the beast” of public education–seemingly out of existence–we now have a perfect storm that makes it incredibly challenging to recruit and retain high-quality educators.

These people assert that throwing money at education solves nothing, yet lament the so-called paucity of highly qualified teachers.

How many other professions pay their loyal, hard-working employees with Master’s degrees and 25 years of experience only $44,000 a year?

In all seriousness, it is nothing short of miraculous that schools are able to find the number of talented, passionate, and highly skilled teachers we now have. Our communities are blessed to have so many caring and competent educators who are willing to devote the time (and love) to make a difference in the lives of children.

Despite this, many reformers continue to treat teachers as adversaries. Rather than including us in the conversation relative to the true challenges facing public schools and the possible solutions, they dismiss educators as self-serving, unyielding, union sycophants. After all, what would we know about running schools and educating kids?

In their mind, we educators just don’t belong in this conversation about the future of education in America. After all, we’re just… teachers.

As the blogger, Peter Greene writes:

“Arne Duncan gets to play basketball with the Reformster-in-Chief. The corporate titans of reformsterdom hobnob with the rich and famous. The hedge fund operators of reformsterdom deal with heads of state and juggle billions of dollars. We reformsters are big, important, rich, powerful people. Why the heck would they want to sit down with a bunch of women who make thirty-five grand a year and manage milk money for a roomful of seven-year-olds?”

Instead, these folks can simply partner up at social events and challenge each other to come up with ridiculous ideas for improving schools; things like value-added models, holding art teachers accountable for the school reading scores, and punishing students because they can’t pass an algebra test.

The reformers continue to work their false narrative that public schools are failing and that teachers and school leaders are lousy and uncaring. They employ slick rhetoric about “trying to close the opportunity gap” while implementing reforms that elevate the advantaged and punish the disadvantaged.

Many are beholden to wealthy philanthropists and corporate lobbyists who see public education primarily as a cash cow to be milked and not as the social fabric and great equalizer of our nation.

Their test-based reforms also cause us to waste precious time and energy focused on improving the model of education that America offered students in the 20th century–although it no longer works for most of our students.

Practically no effort is being made to create and implement a better, more future-oriented education for all of our kids; an education that will enable them to deal with the complex issues and realities that will face in their lifetimes.

How do we change their minds? Probably not by calling them, idiots but, hey! And how do we gain the trust of people who view us as untrustworthy based primarily on how our students do on a once-a-year multiple choice test?

The best way to create the demand for meaningful change in education may be to tell fewer stories about the idiots and more stories of the teachers and schools who are actively pursuing excellence every day—one child at a time. 

I like those stories better.

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