Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Education Congregation

This excerpt from a post at The Wake-Up Call does give one pause for much reflection:
Teachers are priests. We do the same work. We bring the ages to a new generation. We conjure wonder if not miracles, and bear witness to the challenges of reformation. We fuel the engines of enterprise, including spiritual, and we are demonized by the unruly lords who rule us.

If Shakespeare, Einstein, or Churchill, in their prime, became New York City teachers and performed in the classroom on a par with their other contributions to civilization, they would categorically be hauled in on disciplinary charges and fired for incompetence. These priests would have bucked the micro-managers whose authority is so absurdly higher than their talent. The discrepancies and implications are most stark in education.

The Bard might have been caught shortening, lengthening, or for some cause articulable to him but indefensible to his superiors in the non-meritocracy, the ten-minute mandated "mini-lesson."

Maybe he indulged an original approach to the compulsory five-minute "journal entry" activity, or volunteered on any given Thursday an insight not officially approved by the modeling "literacy coach." Perhaps his room did not boast a print-rich bulletin board like Abe Lincoln would have known, or he was guilty of dominating his lessons to his people, the children, as Moses did. The final blow may well have been his storage of portfolios on a shelf instead of a ledge.

Leonard Bernstein, the late composer and conductor of the New York Philharmonic, was America's premier musical artist ands educator of the last century. He was a priest. Fifteen years of his hypnotic lecture telecasts for children were recently released on DVD. His style was dynamic but unorthodox, arresting but irksomely idiosyncratic. Genius is adamant and will not be compromised. All history's great teachers were geniuses.

Not deterred by Bernstein's "tics...sighing...fumbling...moaning", the New York Times gave it its merited rave review. If Bernstein had been a music teacher in New York City now, he would be rated "unsatisfactory" by a principal who couldn't tell a treble clef from a cocoa puff.

This "manager" would automatically be sustained by several frozen fat layers of non school-based patronage job holders with such intriguing titles as "LIS", "RIS", and "ISS." The Chancellor Klein dictatorship wrought these plums overnight. Many hundreds of these barnacles earn, as the term is loosely defined, roughly triple the pay of many of teachers. They are centurions in the Department of Education's imperial empire of thousands of specious "staff developers", principal's "mentors", "coaches" and hangers-on galore.

Reportedly many of these collaborated on the top-secret leaked seminal tome by the Department of Education: "How to Frame and Fire Teachers for Dummies."
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