On Friday night I met my blogging friend Steve for the first time at a bar called The Mad Hatter in New York City. This is the third blogger I have shared a drink with after getting knowing them first through the written word. In person Steve, Reya and Ched were pretty much as they portrayed themselves to be on their blogs - but even more charming, fascinating and interesting. Steve and I spoke briefly about the possibility that the persona someone chooses to put forth through a series of blog posts could be altogether misleading but the essence or 'stink of them' (to paraphrase Boy George) generally shines through.
And I think this can be said for the many roles we 'play' in our daily lives. In a sociolinguistics class I took recently we discussed the fact that each of us takes on a different societal role depending on the circumstances of our surroundings. We have rules of behavior or codes of conduct that determine how we interact in a business meeting as opposed to hanging out with mom and dad. But this is only a surface level manifestation of required etiquette. The character of the person underneath all of this determines how a conversation will play out or an interaction will unfold.
We have choices. We make choices all the time.
In education the choices we make can determine if we are part of the problem or part of the solution. And what 'they' say is true. If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem.
The sad truth of the situation is that everyone loves to blame everyone else for failures in education (and in life it seems) while crediting themselves with any successes. In my experience, it is those who point fingers who tend to be the most insecure, unmotivated and dangerous individuals around. The real person underneath is not so charming, fascinating or interesting.
Today we have a situation wherein our president blames teachers for the failure of schools even when it is his doctrines that have brought about the mad testing that keeps learning from happening. The No Child Left Behind legislation seems to be based on money. The testing companies are run by Bush cronies who are raking in the dough. And I naively believed at one point that the heart of NCLB was pure. What an idiot I was.
In Boston the average sixth grade student has only 53 days (out of 180 school days) where they are not being tested in one way or another.
In NYC upper elementary grade students have 24 full days of testing. This means that a whole unit of study is out the window. Teachers may have to put aside a study of poetry because the students are required to fill in little bubbles. Not to mention the time that is necessary to prepare the students for taking the tests. Teaching to the test instead of teaching to the child has become sadly commonplace. And the worst part is that these assessments are not given to plan instruction. They are given to label children and schools.
The blame game is not only reserved for the president. It is also evident on a smaller scale. In schools the third grade teacher blames the second grade teacher, who blames the first grade teacher, who blames the kindergarten teacher, who blames the parents, who blame the doctor, who blames the fetus, who kicks the dog. Oh, wait I got my wires crossed but you know what I mean. In this climate it is no surprise that the weakest teachers would feel threatened and point fingers before someone notices that they are not doing all they could.
Is it human nature to point fingers and shun responsibility?
I think perhaps it is. But I also think that it is the easy way out. And there are many folks who choose to work a little harder, give a little more and take a minute to ask "what can I do to make this better?"
So I remain hopeful even when I am a little disgusted.
That's all for now.