Have you ever been in a large room, where someone is trying to make a joke, possibly at a wedding or lecture, and it falls completely flat? Where silence, all of a sudden takes over the entire environment, and inside yourself, you feel a little bit sick. Usually this feeling is based on sadness, not for me, but for the person who has just embarrassed themselves up on stage. Essentially I have become embarrassed for the person’s embarrassment. This is a sickening feeling, and this is the same feeling I get in the pit of my stomach, when I am reading or watching, or am about to watch, the mainstream media’s portrayal of education in America.
Even before I have clicked onto the article or video, I am already aware of the inaccuracies that are about to be displayed about learning, teaching, understanding, facilitating, and education in general. Often times this embarrassed feeling is quickly replaced by a sense of shock and then anger. I find myself screaming at the computer, telling the individuals to, “OPEN YOUR EYES!!! THERE ARE MASSIVE CHANGES THAT NEED TO BE MADE!!” — Obviously, this leads to silence on the other end…resonating with me the notion that while we may scream at the top of our lungs in a room full of people, it still feels like it has little effect, and that no one is hearing us.
At the same time, it is sort of like being in a club…a very secretive, highly exclusive club. Being the individual who is in on the joke, understanding its subtle and subversive meaning and messaging. We can laugh out loud at the wedding, but instead of doing so, we suffer a sickening feeling in our pit, so that the others can be embarrassed and we can simply be associated with that embarrassment, rather than being, that guy, the guy who laughed at the joke when no one else did. While I enjoy being in on the joke, being associated with the truth of learning, connecting in a way that many others do not understand or get the opportunity to be enlightened by, I cannot help but wish that everyone just got the joke and the real changes and conversations could begin.
Unfortunately, the real joke is the media’s portrayal of the education system in America and how to “fix” it. Once one’s eyes have been open to the massive inconsistencies, double speak and lip service, one cannot go back and become blinded once again. I have eaten of the fruit and now know the difference between good and evil. And, yes, I understand there are many working to change this perception, both inside the system and from without. Organizations like I.D.E.A. and individual teachers who have been through the trenches and survived, still trying to make a difference in their own classrooms, do have an impact. I only wish it was just the school boards and just the parents and just unmotivated teachers and just the money and bureaucracy of government officials and politicians and just the textbook corporations, looking to make huge profits. Unfortunately, it is also the media, and the public relations spin, to either defend teachers or tear them down, to either meet “higher” standards, or politicians adding flexibility to the curriculum.
Here at the COOP, we are changing education as we speak – but out there, the lies continue, the endless spin moves on and what is lost, is the conversation we are having right here, right now! I am tired of the lies, I am tired of the political spin, and I am most certainly tired of that embarrassing feeling in the pit of my stomach, knowing I am in the joke and letting it fall flat anyways. From now on, I will laugh at the joke and erase any doubt of where I stand, and in so doing, end that sickening feeling buried inside.