Saturday, July 24, 2021

History and the Unreliable Narrator

Most English teachers have somewhere in their pocket that lesson about Edgar Allan Poe's "The Telltale Heart." The story is narrated by a guy who's clearly in the grip of madness, and so we have to filter what he tells us through our understanding that what he's reporting is not what another observer might see. He's an unreliable narrator, a literary trick that Poe perfected, which is why for all Poe's reputation as a teller of scary tales, there's nothing in Poe that is undeniably supernatural. Mostly it's just subjective madness, filtered through the unreliable narrator's twisted lens. 

Narrators can be unreliable for a variety of reasons; they may be deliberately misleading or simply unaware of their own blind spots and biases. 

Poe is obviously not the only author to present us with unreliable narrators. And even authors who are not always associated with the technique present us with versions of it. Ernest Hemmingway is often cited as an example of an author who presents unvarnished, cold, hard views of the events in his novel, but even his narrators require us to sort out what is really happening. Take this snip from The Sun Also Rises:

One of them saw Georgette and said: "I do declare. There is an actual harlot. I'm going to dance with her, Lett. You watch me." 

The tall dark one, called Lett, said: "Don't you be rash."

The wavy blond one answered: "Don't you worry, dear." And with them was Brett. 

I was very angry. Somehow they always made me angry. I know they are supposed to be amusing, and you should be tolerant, but I wanted to swing on one, any one, anything to shatter that superior, simpering composure. Instead, I walked down the street and had a beer at the bar at the next Bal. The beer was not good and I had a worse cognac to take the taste out of my mouth.

It's the first time we see Brett, and Jake, our narrator, tells us everything except how he feels about her reappearance. It's left for us to sort out his reaction to her and what it tells us about him. 

Nor are unreliable narrators confined to fiction. 

All history has to be treated as the work of unreliable narrators, because every writer has to make choices. If I write a biography of Abraham Lincoln that carefully and exactingly reports every detail of his life, you will need as much time to read about his life as he took to live it. So choices must be made.

Writing about history rests on a thesis and a judgment. If I'm writing about, say, the Civil War, I need a thesis, a main idea, a central point, a lens, an idea of what my book is going to be about. That guiding idea becomes my measure for the mountain of details I face, helping me decide what to keep and what to throw away. If I'm unscrupulous, or excessively committed to one viewpoint, I might throw out a bunch of contradictory detail, but even if I'm a scrupulous historian, everything gets passed through that lens I've created out of my own view of the world and the lens I've crafted based on my own ideas and studies. This is how there can be a gazillion Lincoln biographies with more still coming--because each passes his life through a unique and different filter. 

And so even the writer of a history is unreliable, and the work will tell me much about that writer as well as the subject matter. Biographies may be the most prone to this effect, simply because it's hard for a biographer to spend that much time with a person and not develop feelings about their subject. 

I suspect that the belief in a reliable narrator is a function of our video age. Movies and television rarely give us am obviously unreliable narrator, and the use of a camera creates the illusion that we are just looking at the clear unvarnished unbiased truth. But, of course, someone has made decisions about where to point the camera, how to frame the shot, how to edit the bits of film. In fact, visual storytelling is solidly based on unreliable narration, telling us, for instance, that Vin Diesel just plucked  a woman out of the air after she was flung from the back of a speeding tank when in fact no such thing happened at all. 

We are surrounded by a glut of evidence that the world is filled with unreliable narration. In fact the work of Einstein and the physicists (quantum and otherwise) who came after him tells us that things we think of as immutable and objectively dependable--time, space, gravity--aren't that way at all. Time and space are what we subjectively perceive them to be. Heck, we still don't even know how gravity even works.

And yet.

Yet somehow, we have folks who demand that history be taught as "just the facts" or "objectively" or "without any kind of bias." 

It cannot be done.

Everyone is an unreliable narrator. That's one reason that relationships matter--because if we know and understand someone reasonably well, we can factor in the filter through which they pass their version of reality, to better understand how it would look from the unique and subjective place where we ourselves stand. 

This is also why words matter and why, in my universe, it's immoral and unethical to use them to obscure and distort rather than to clarify and reveal. I'm not arguing that all ideas and viewpoints are equally valid and that everything is true and nothing matters--just the opposite. Really look, really listen, and really think about what you've taken in, and then express that honestly. Don't lie, and don't bullshit people--but also don't ever sit back and think that you never need to be open to reconsidering an idea ever again. 

To insist that you don't need to take in any new ideas or observations or information about anything is to be willfully ignorant and to damage your own understanding of the world and your place in it. To insist that there is an objective and unbiased view of events is really to insist that everyone accept and agree to your own personal view and that people who have a different view just shut up, already. Which is the current stance of the anti-anti-racism crowd.

So this has gotten kind of heavy (or at least thick) so I want to leave you with a children's book which is an excellent example of how unreliable narrating can work. If I were still teaching, I'd be making all my students read this. But you get a special edition read by David Harbour.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Why choice won't solve the CRT panic

 A curious new pro-choice argument has surfaced in these days of sturm and drang, exemplified by the Cato Institute Battle Map, on which the Libertarian thinky tank tracks the public schools in the midst of some sort of battle over policy issues.

The argument here, pushed daily on Twitter by Cato's Neal McClusky, is that "public schools leave people no choice but to be at each others' throats" and that the system leaves no choice but to either ban or impose policies and ideas. Therefor, the argument goes, school choice offers a chance to make all the conflict go away. Folks over here can choose a school that actively pursues diversity and anti-racists policies, while folks over here can choose a school that actively blocks such policies. Allowing diverse school approaches will, the argument goes, somehow reduce the conflicts currently tearing at the social fabric of our country. 

I have several problems with this idea.

This kind of choice has serious limits.

So first we get a school that separates from the original public district so that it can keep out all sorts of diversity and anti-racist programs. But then that school splits over a conflict about whether or not to teach creationism. Then the creationism school splits over an argument about which books to ban from the school library, and then that school splits over policies regarding LGBTQ+ students. The continued spinning off of entities based on new policy disputes will be familiar to anyone who knows the Protestant church. Meanwhile, many parents will factor in location and student body demographics for their decisions, and of the many schools spun off to "settle" the various disputes, half will fold because they don't make enough money. 

In the end, "Well, if they don't like that policy, they'll be able to choose a school with which they agree," will turn out to be a false promise.

Some choices are not healthy.

We have seen the use of school choice to avoid conflict before. After Brown v. Board of Education, lots of folks decided they had a problem sending their white children to school with Black students, and they "solved" that conflict by creating schools that let them choose segregation. When it comes to the current CRT panic, there may well be some schools that have gone a step too far with their anti-racist work (though--plot twist--those schools keep turning out to be not public ones). But an awful lot of the panic is fueled by folks opportunistically whipping up some good old-fashioned white outrage over encroaching Blackness, and we've been here before.

Some choices are not good for the country. We do not benefit from having a bunch of white kids taught that slavery wasn't so bad and the Civil War was just about state's rights. We do not benefit from having students taught that science isn't real. We do not benefit from having students taught that Trump is really still President and 1/6 was just some unruly tourists. And we so very much don't benefit as a society from schools that segregate both students and content based on race. Not all possible choices should be available. 

Bubbles do not banish conflict.

I agree with the part of the premise that says, more or less, "Holy crap, but we are spending a lot of time arguing bitterly and separating ourselves into chasm-separated camps!" What I don't get, at all, is how separating the children of these warring factions into their own separate education bubbles is going to help. How will having been immersed in nothing but the particular view of their parents' camp prepare them to be workers, neighbors, and citizens in a society where other people with other views exist. 

Upon graduation, will they proceed to a college or trade school that is also designed to strictly fit with their parents' beliefs? And then will they search, diploma in hand. for employers who also embrace only the world view that these well-bubbled citizens have been taught is the One True View? 

How does growing up in a bubble prepare you for life outside it--particularly if your bubble teaches things that are neither nuanced or accurate views. 

Sometimes conflict exists. For any number of reasons, most related to how humans function and that this country has many such humans around. When conflict exists, the only way out is through. Our current problem is not that we have conflicts--that's normal. Our problem is the large number of people who believe (and are encouraged to believe) that conflict is "managed" by obliterating the people who disagree with you. But we need improved conflict management skills (which is a whole other post), not conflict avoidance techniques. Take it from a guy with one failed marriage in his rearview mirror-- when conflict exists, it can never be avoided, but only postponed, and while it's waiting, it sits in escrow and gathers interest. 

It won't actually work.

See above. A young adult who has been brought up to believe that slavery was not so bad and all racial problems were fixed around 1960 and Civil War generals are great American heroes--this is not a person who is poised to live harmoniously with POC in the 21st century. 

Yes, this is all really hard.

Yes, it's a challenge when many people have different visions of what education is supposed to be and do. Yes, sorting out conflicts in a pluralistic democratic-ish society is messy. Yes, it can become tiring that "solutions" are really just a process of balancing between various forces in tension and so is never, ever done and settled. Yes, it can be alarming that the forces in tension sometimes include a pull in a direction that seems clearly wrong and dangerous. And yes, it's a pain when the times call for you to stand up and "fight" for what you think is right. But there we are--welcome to life on this planet as a human being, where the "solutions" to these conundrums always turn out to be destructive and wrong and not-actually-worky.

As I have said periodically, there are legitimate arguments for school choice. But this is not one of them. 

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Charter Advocates Chicken Littling Spending Item

The House Appropriations Committee has caused a stir with one tiny paragraph in its 198-page health, labor and education spending bill.

SEC. 314. None of the funds made available by this Act or any other Act may be awarded to a charter school that contracts with a for-profit entity to operate, oversee or manage the activities of the school.

Charter advocates are flipping their collective lids because this would mean real trouble. It's almost as if the modern charter movement would collapse if it didn't include a chance for someone to hoover up a bundle of sweet sweet taxpayer dollars. 

The problem for the charter sector is the large number of charter schools that are fronting for profiteering enterprises. I've often made the point that many for-profit charters hide behind non-profit fig leaves. Bruce Baker made the valid point on Twitter that it's not really about for- or non-profit so much as it's about "specific practices, financial arrangements, related party transactions and disclosures." It's possible that the House's blunt instrument could be effectively replaced by actual regulations governing how charters operate.

But right now, charter advocates are up in arms and calling on the troops, leaning heavily on a couple of arguments. One is old and worn, and the other is an attempt to use an inaccurate argument to muddy the water.

The old favorite is "for the kids." If charters are defunded, the argument goes, it will hurt the poor and brown and Black and special needs students, and so shame on Congress for threatening them. This is well-worn territory, and I'm not going to rehash it at the moment (what about all the poor and brown and Black and special need students that charters deliberately choose not to help). 

Instead, I want to point out some problems with this argument. First, it's a silly extension of the non- and for-profit distinction. "We charter school operators are in it for the kids, but we have to hire profit-based outfits to help make it happen," is a variation on the attempt to distance charter schools from the profit motive, as if charter schools and charter management organizations are completely different and separate beasts. Honestly, I'm coming around to wishing that for-profits hadn't been outlawed in most states so that we didn't have this attempt to hide all the profiteering behind masks and smoke and mirrors. Charters never fought hard against outlawing for-profits because they knew it was a bad look and incompatible with "for the kids" marketing and political posturing. Charter schools and CMOs are two ends of the same animal, and trying to point at your butt and say, "It's not me--the poop comes out of that end" is disingenuous at best. 

Besides, if you really are all about serving the students, you could just stop making profits. If your East Egg Charter hires East Egg CMO to run the operation, just hire the top people from East Egg CMO to work at your school. Hire the East Egg CMO as your curriculum director or chief administrator. You could save money because you would just hire people without having to also finance the profits for East Egg CMO. There is no earthly reason that charter schools have to involve somebody making a profit (Exhibit A: All the public schools in America). This is one of the slickest pieces of PR that modern reformsters have pulled off--to get everyone to accept the unchallenged assumption that school choice must include the chance for private operators to turn a profit.

The just-plain-not-so argument is here in this email from Nina Rees, head honcho of the National Alliance for Public [sic] Charter Schools, sent out to her supporters.

We are under attack in a new education funding bill proposed by Congress to cut off ALL federal funding for charter schools. That includes cutting funding for students from low-income communities and students with disabilities who attend our schools.

The reason? Congress wants to punish charter schools for contracting with businesses to help run their schools. Even though those very same businesses contract with nearby district and magnet schools.

If this passes, charter school leaders would be forced to choose between accessing the federal funds their students are entitled to or working with businesses to provide the supplies and services their students need.

Emphasis mine. Rees would like to suggest that the House bill targets things like hiring bus companies or cafeteria operators. It doesn't. Rees is invited to give examples of public schools that, for instance, enter "sweeps" contracts to companies that run all of the daily teaching operations of the school in return for 95% of the school's revenue. 

Nor does the bill propose to cut all federal funding for charter schools. Any charters that are actual non-profits, both directly and indirectly--and they do exist--will be just fine. The only people who are threatened by the bill are those who use charter schools to turn a profit. Heck, even charters that pay administrators obscene salaries but don't turn a profit for some private organization--even those folks would be just fine. But Rees doesn't frame this as a threat to private companies' bottom line because making sure that East Egg CMO makes a bundle this year isn't very For The Kids. 

You're going to hear plenty of charter advocate panic over this part of the spending bill--just remember that all this chicken littling is about protecting the bottom line of companies making money from the charter school biz. It is the very opposite of For The Kids, because every cent spent on The Kids is a cent that doesn't go into profiteer pockets. Don't be fooled. The sky is not falling; just the roofing on some very comfortable private villas.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Education and the Self-Service Thunderdome

While the Institute Staff was on vacation, circumstances required me to visit one of the Walton Family's Money Collection Sites. It was... something.

The Walmart was nearly empty of employees. I felt weirdly on my own, unable to ask for help in locating the product I was looking for, unable to determine of the sparse offerings on the shelves were in fact all the store had to offer. Had there been product choices available, I certainly wasn't going to find anyone who could help me navigate those choices. And of course at the end, I could check myself out or wait for the aid of the single cashier on duty. 

It's impossible to know how much of my experience was the result of the current labor holdout situation and how much was the result of management policy. But it was weird to be basically on my own in a store.

Of course, we know that my experience is what Walmart has in mind for the future. A store in Fayetteville is going cashier-less, with just a few self-checkout "hosts" to help customers chip in on the process of reducing the Walmart human labor force. I've had friends and family report cashier-free experiences in the House that Sam Walton Built, but this seems to be the first official floating of this ominous boat.

Of course, Walmart says this is going to be wonderful. "Speed up the checkout process." "Serve customers more effectively." "More choices." This PR from the company tries to spin it as a new kind of checkout, with all cashiers becoming hosts who now offer face to face help--a "relationship." Raise your hand if you believe that in a well-entrenched self-service Walmart world, the number of humans employed as hosts will be comparable to the number currently employed as cashiers. 

There are other less obvious side-effects of the move to self-service. In particular, Walmart has been working on heavy-duty surveillance systems to deal with theft, like an AI system that "uses cameras to read the movements of customers, and determine if an item was bagged but not scanned at the self-checkout kiosk."

I'm not opposed to self-service on principle. I do not, for instance, miss gas station attendants at all (you youngsters can go ask your parents or grandparents what they were). Rather than explain to someone what I want and then wait for them to do it, it's far simpler to just get out of the car and do it myself. But what value is added by having me do my own swiping across a bar code reader?

In fact, as we're having the chance to view across many businesses these days, "self-service" is a pretty euphemism for "reduced service." 

It's the dawn of retail thunderdome, in which the retailer provides customers with virtually no service at all except for a building, a marketplace in which to hunt, as best your able, for what you are able to find. Need help? Holler fruitlessly at the surveillance cameras. Can't find what you want? Not their problem--you're welcome to choose from whatever they decide to put on the shelves. Customer, you are on your own.

If this model seems vaguely familiar, that's because it's the same model at the heart of modern school choice. It is self-service education, an "ecosystem" in which customers are on their own, without aid or assistance or even anyone to make sure that the available options are safe. Nobody around to watch out for their interests but themselves. Caveat your own emptor, buddy. Here's a tiny voucher to help you feel as if the community hasn't abandoned you entirely, but once we hand you that voucher, we wash our hands of you.

The Waltons like the newest iteration of their money gathering operation because employing humans is expensive and annoying, even if you do manage to keep union talk squashed. Choice is appealing for the same reason (in fact, literally to the same people) because dealing with humans is expensive and troublesome and especially when it involves paying taxes.

There are people who like self-service checkout, because it works for them and, so far, they still have their old options if they need it. And Walmart is a private business, not a public and community trust, so that's different from education. 

But one principle remains the same--when someone gives you less and tries to convince you that they're doing you a favor, that is not only baloney, but baloney you have to assemble yourself.

Friday, July 9, 2021


The staff of the Curmudgucation Institute home office are on the road for a corporate retreat in Maine. Internet access is spotty there. Also, I am told that sometimes people actually vacation by stepping away from social media. Most years I pre-create some content (usually some greatest hits compilations) but this year I just didn't pull it off.

So tonight we're in a motel in Bennington, Vermont, and tomorrow, we'll finish the trip to a camp that my grandfather, a general contractor, first built way back in the day. I'll be back in ten days or so, unless something happens and I just can't bite my tongue. Pass the time with the very smart people listed  on the right. See you soon.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

The Single Biggest Scourge of Education Reform

Privatization? Profiteering? Vouchers? Charters? Teacher-proof classrooms? High-stakes testing? 

No, these issues, in their worst forms, all have their roots in the same soil, the same fertile ground from which all rotten education fruit grows.


The current flap flying under the banner of critical race theory panic is just the freshest example of people who really, truly don't understand how schools actually work. Take this really ignorant tweet from CRT-panicker-in-chief Christopher Rufo

Every statement there reveals a huge lack of understanding about how schools work (though I particular like the idea that voters via state legislators set curriculum). That is not how this works. That is not how any of this works.

The problem of amateurs futzing around in education is not new. Everybody went to school, so everybody thinks they're an expert. That leads to a common edu-amateur phenomenon-- setting out to fix something that was true in schools 20-40 years ago, the reform equivalent of announcing that you've worked out a patch to help Windows 98 work better. 

And we have school boards, a system by which local amateurs are put in charge of local school districts. While this can often cause teachers some frustration, it's still a good system. It provides accountability to the taxpayers and requires educators to remember that they have to communicate with civilians. And the board hires actual educators (usually) to run things for them; when a board tries to micromanage a district, it never ends well.

The modern education reform movement has been powered primarily by people whose biggest problem is that when it comes to school, they don't know what they're talking about. Bill Gates is arguably a pretty smart guy and certainly a savvy, cutthroat businessman, but he has demonstrated at great length how little he understands about how actual schools work. Many of these edu-amateurs, like David "Common Core" Coleman, wear their lack of expertise like a badge of honor, particularly back in the early days of modern ed reform when part of the theory of action was that teachers have failed and therefor their expertise is invalid and should be ignored.

Teach for America pushed not just the idea that any person (from the right college) could become a teacher, but that any such person could become an education expert. They've sent thousands of amateurs out in the world to lead school districts, consulting forms, entrepreneurial endeavors, even state departments of education--all based on two years in the classroom (two years that they knew would come to an end, thereby freeing them form the need to really come to grips with their rookie teacher issues). 

We also see lots of people whose expertise is the ins and outs of bureaucratic policy discussions who think that their experience gives them understanding of how a classroom actually functions. It doesn't.

There are people in the education reform world who have actual knowledge of schools and classrooms. You can spot them because while you may disagree with them on matters of policy or philosophy, they don't insist on saying ignorant things (like the legislature controls curriculum). Also, it's possible to understand how schools and classrooms work if you make the effort to learn and talk to people who know.

Some modern ed reform isn't really about education anyway. Voucher advocates, for example, mostly advocate for freedom (either the freedom for parents to choose or the freedom for private operators to profit from public tax dollars, depending on where you stand). 

But if you think competition in the free marketplace, either between schools (for funding) or teachers (for merit pay) is going to improve education, you don't understand how schools work. Hint: there are no teachers out there saying, "I know how to do better, but I'm going to hold onto that secret till someone offers me a bonus."

If you think high stakes testing is a good measure of education, you've never looked at an actual test, and you've never spent time in a classroom with students taking that test. If you think those tests are necessary in order for teachers to know how students are doing, you don't understand how a classroom works or how testing works.

If you think the individual issues of teachers can be "fixed" by giving teachers a script or a strict set of standards-based teacher-proof materials, you don't understand how a classroom works. 

If you're deeply opposed to unions (and by extension the teachers in them) because you imagine they have these awesome powers and are up to all manner of deep, nefarious schemes, you don't understand who teachers are, what unions do, and how widely varied the teaching force is.

And if you think teachers can indoctrinate young minds to believe whatever you either do or don't want them to believe, then you don't understand how a classroom works. 

There isn't a single failed initiative of the ed reform movement whose failure was not met by thousands of teachers rolling their eyes and thinking (or saying), "This is not a surprise." Sometimes reformsters will announce that they've figured something out (like Chris Barbic, discovering that Tennessee's Achievement School District plan was not going to work), and every teacher who already knew that thing will just bite their tongue (well, most will bite their tongue--some of us blog because our tongues are already tired). So much could fail could have been avoided if someone had just asked teachers, or even just asked the person pushing the idea, "How do you know this will work?"

I'm not saying that teachers are the be-all and end-all of educational information, or that there is nothing that teachers can learn from civilians. That would be problematic; we don't need to live in a world in which only teachers can determine or speak about education. But right now we are a million parsecs away from that world, the pendulum having swung too far into a place in which wealthy, well-connected amateurs hold forth on the theory that their ignorance is as valuable and valid as teacher expertise. 

Sure, if you're a cynic, you'll argue that this is beside the point, that many reformsters don't care about the question of expertise because their true concern$ are el$ewhere. But it remains true that behind all the bad policy ideas, bad practices, bad standards, bad mandates, bad culture war arguments is that one unifying thread--people whose understanding of how schools actually work is hugely, vastly, epically divorced from how real schools in the real world actually really work. 

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Is Teaching About Control?

I knew I was going to hate this piece as soon as I read the first sentence.

In their training, teachers are taught to control the classroom.

This piece appeared on NBCThink, a kind generally guest op-ed page the website runs. It was written by Peshe Kuriloff,  who is a retired professor of education who is now a self-employed consultant. She's got a BA and an M.Ed from Harvard and a PhD from Bryn Mawr. And somebody at NBC (probably) gave this crazy-pants piece the title "A Covid school lesson: Teachers don't have the power they think they do."

I was educated a billion years ago, and I've had numerous student teachers in my classroom throughout my career, and I have no idea what the heck she's talking about. I have never encountered an education professor who asserted that total control of the classroom (which is an odd turn of phrase because, after all, controlling a room is easy enough but then there are all these students in it) is the goal or, as she says, the measure of teacher success. Who teaches that? Did she teach that to her future teachers? (Survey says no)

In reality, however, the idea that teachers hold power over students and can bend them to their will is a misunderstanding of the nature of power in schools, as well as teaching and learning.

Who has that idea? Yes, the anti-indoctrination crowd thinks teachers can bend minds to their will, but that's just one more sign that they don't know what the heck they're talking about. 

There were certainly total control teachers aplenty back many decades ago. But now is not then. I've written about schools that throw weight into asserting their authority, but that pretty much never works. Sure, there are pre-teachers who vastly over-estimate their power as a teacher. If they're at all smart, it takes them about a week to figure out that's not happening. And there are certainly control freaks who make it into the classroom, but they burn out rapidly.

There are some good points in Kuriloff's piece:

The testimony of teachers who have been asked about pandemic learning demonstrates that surviving remote education required unprecedented collaboration, solid relationships between teachers and learners and students stepping up as problem-solvers. Teachers primed to seek those outcomes felt much more successful than those who relied on traditional assumptions about power and control.

Certainly. That's true in every non-pandemic year as well.

But virtually every student teacher I ever had had to learn how to exercise authority. For so many teachers, the first years are marked by a painful awareness that you are just playing teacher in front of young humans who could realize at any moment that you don't have any power over them except for the power they grant you. Classroom imposter syndrome is the worst. My first teaching job involved students who were one year younger than I, and I was never not aware that if they all decided to stand up and walk out, there wasn't a thing I could do about it. Raise your hand if you have that teacher nightmare where your class is spinning out of control and you can't stop it.

You exercise authority in a classroom through a couple of factors.

1) Know what you are doing and what you are talking about. I don't mean that you never commit or admit errors, but you need to mostly have command of the content and an actual plan. 

2) Show respect. There's a classic question about whether you'd rather be loved or feared in a classroom--pick respect. And you get it by knowing what you're doing and showing respect to your students. This, incidentally, covers all of the methods course and theory stuff about making learning student centered and sharing authority and all the rest of that stuff that sounds so complex but really boils down to "treat students like they are intelligent human beings whose time is valuable."

3) Always be moving toward something. It's not about making them stop talking so you can move on. It's about moving on.

I'm traditional. The whole "I learn as much from them as they do from me" makes me cringe, because if you aren't more knowledgeable than your students, what are we paying you for? And students need a safe space, and that includes a space in which there's a competent adult who knows what's going on. 

But traditional doesn't mean autocratic power tripping, and it hasn't for sixty or seventy years, so I'm not sure what the perceived audience for this piece was. Most of her lessons are not new lessons. Yes, pandemic distance learning underscored the value of relationship (and the degree to which it depends on physicality). But otherwise, nothing to see here.