The Blackboard Gulag
I wish I knew more about the circumstances that led up to that long-haired kid in Texas lecturing his teacher about, well, teaching.
You’ve probably seen the viral vid:
Context, of course, is everything and the kid could easily have been either a courageous fighter for students’ rights or a disruptive pain in the ass who was getting thrown out of class anyway and decided to perform a dramatic misdirection.
My first impulse is to embrace the kid because, frankly, I went to school too, so I know all about miserably ineffective and even counterproductive teachers. The first class in which I learned anything of value was Art in my sophomore year of high school. So, I’d spent a full decade squirming in my seat, learning nothing, before the school experience began paying off.
The Learning Experience
Which was why I found myself oddly conflicted when Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker and various other Tea Party-ists began waging war on unionized government employees, specifically teachers. Natch, I found Walker et al’s union-busting nauseating and frightening. On the other hand, the blowback against him verged on hysteria. Teachers, we were told, were angels put on Earth to raise us up from the slime of ignorance. The hagiography, the paeans, the hosannas for those in the education rackets became a roar.
Where, I wondered, were all these selfless saviors, these avatars or the mind, when I was a student?
The vast majority of my teachers were more like what we assume the teacher in the video to be. Well-behaved little cogs in the machine whose primary goal was to make sure we students turned out to be well-behaved little cogs in the machine.
Teachers, in fact, are so well-behaved that their very malleability has hurt them more than they can possibly imagine. We’ve all heard teachers complain about having to pay out of their own pockets for supplies and even books for their classrooms. This on top of the fact that they are paid, in comparison to, say, pro football quarterbacks and Fox News bleaters, virtually nothing. I’d love to see an across-the-board, national strike of teachers wherein their goal would be to be paid in a fashion somewhat commensurate with their self-advertised value to society. And if that strike lasts a full year? So be it.
We Want More Pennies!
But teachers and their unions continue to settle for crumbs. Any other professional group that has to spend so many years and so many dollars to be certified to do a specialized job would have squeezed the system for every penny. That’s the advantage and the goal of collective bargaining. Teachers, meanwhile, occasionally go on strike for three days, win themselves a few more cents and a bunch of seniority protections, apologize profusely, and go back to work almost before the kids even realize they’ve had an unscheduled break.
They’re victims of their own group culture that champions good behavior above all. They are, in other words, too compliant for their own good.
Want proof? Witness how hard they come down on kids who aren’t compliant. Like, apparently, that long-haired kid in Texas.
Take The Test
I’m reading “Are You My Mother?” by Alison Bechdel right now. Only a few pages from finishing the graphic novel. It’s simultaneously riveting and off-putting. Bechdel tries to come to terms with her relationship with her mother — which is deeply compelling — but she spends most of her adult life (as well as her childhood, for that matter) analyzing, over-analyzing, and re-analyzing her actions and feelings — which is not.
Still, it’s a worthwhile read. Count me a big fan of Bechdel, even if she does navel-gaze too much.
Corrigan hipped me to the Bechdel Test. Believe me, it’ll open your eyes to the pervasiveness of sex-typing in Hollywood movies.
Here’s how it works: think of any big movie or TV show you’ve ever seen. Think of the scenes between two women (the scenes have to last 60 seconds or longer and, consequently, are important to the plot.) What do the women talk about?
In shockingly disproportionate numbers, they talk about men. As in Do I like him? Should I Like him? Does he like me? Should he like me? and other such profound explorations into the human condition.
What Women Do
So women, Hollywood would have us believe, are babbling idiots. They don’t concern themselves with pressing issues like war, art, career, and the Meaning of Life. Only Will he ever love me?
Of course, you didn’t need the Bechdel Test to know that, did you?