I caught this part of their conversation:
I don’t think public education should be paying vendors for the privilege of play-testing new and improved books and programs that further entrench seat-work and other levers and measures of student compliance.
However, I don’t think all businesses take advantage of their customers. Nor do I think all education businesses operate like the vendors I decry.
I’m at a point where my desire for change trumps my teacher’s fego. Why not partner public education and private business in ways that make teaching and learning matter more to kids and their communities?
I confuse myself. Sometimes I prophesy doom and blame business (and the fed (and us)) for some kind of impending techno-maniacal educational apocalypse. Sometimes I write about how ginchy it is to have Google Time in the classroom. What the hell? Is Google suddenly not a businesses? Do I not hoard Apple products in my classroom? Do I not push apps with the Sansing Seal of Approval on my students and their work? Where do I think our books come from – our tables and chairs?
I really loved preparing for a life of the mind in high school and college. I have a lot of fond memories of books, even if I can’t change the oil in my own car. Maybe someone can tweet me the steps or talk me through it at Educon. Anyway, as a result of my education (and baseless overidentification with Leonardo DiCaprio?), I can’t go a day without thinking of the Friar’s speech from Act III, Scene iii, in Romeo and Juliet.
So when I read Chad and Jerrid’s tweets today, I thought about business and education and told myself “there art thou happy” (see line 108).
What – or whom – do we teachers admire in business?
What do we consider authentic education? What do we consider Project-based learning – the kind with a capital P? What do we consider to be best practices in student feedback and democratic classrooms? In communicating with stakeholders? What do we consider to be fair pay for professional work? Where do these things happen most?
In businesses, or in public schools?
At what point do we trade off our systemic inertia for the managerial practices that could bring about the changes we want much more quickly than educational administration can? At what point do we acknowledge that our preeminent professional organizations – the unions – are both a blessing and a curse in preserving us from the leadership we want and – I say – deserve?
How will results-driven leaders learn how to effectively transform education so long as we hold them at arm’s length? Don’t we share a distaste of bureaucracy? Might we not share a distaste for assessment that obstruct learning?
There are businesses with consciences. There are successful non-profits. There are visionary educators and administrators.
What will keep business’s best practices for learning and change from our schools won’t be any real incompatibility between platforms, but rather our instance on seeing teaching as a proprietary trade. What will keep the public from buying us will be our opaqueness.
I’m not saying that we’re not ready for change. I’m not saying that I’m really ready, either. I’m saying that we share complicity in supporting a system that rails against private business because we feel powerless to break away from our longstanding relationships with privateers.
What work do we need to let go of, and whose work do we need to follow?
What, rouse thee, man! thy Learning is alive,
For whose dear sake thou wast but lately dead;
There art thou happy: testing would kill thee,
But thou slew’st testing; there are thou happy too:
The law that threaten’d death becomes thy friend
And turns it to exile; there art thou happy:
A pack of blessings lights up upon thy back;
Happiness courts thee in her best array;
But, like a mishaved and sullen wench,
Thou pout’st upon thy fortune and thy love.
Take heed, take heed, for such die miserable.
If we want to get businesses interested in something like this, than maybe it’s time to let them compete with the current system for the opportunity to lead us there. How can we capture a stake in school choice that means more than choosing between test scores? How can we confront a system that stifles our best selves? What are we willing to say and do about our work, and who will find a way to support the best teaching and learning no matter what? What school board will be the first to turn its back on state-approved “turn-around” partners for corporate partners who will invest in radically transforming schools before expecting a return?
When it becomes clear that we’re contributing to a better world – to better businesses and schools – there will be no question of our worth, nor any doubt of our sincerity in serving students and their learning. I think business might be interested in that brand. I think that’s the brand of education we believe in, even if that’s not the message our system sends. Why not get new PR?
Is it more important to change education or to make all the changes ourselves?
We shouldn’t go into new relationships as lovestruck as Romeo, but neither should we play Kate. In fact, we might just be running around the woods chasing after the wrong things until we Stoppard and take ourselves to Act V of American education.
So let’s start turning some pages, even if they’re on the Kindle App for iPhone. (And can I just add that if I could time travel it would be to play that song at the end of my high school talent show, life of the mind be damned?)