Friday, April 25, 2014
Cami, Surgery & Big Stupid Democracy
Like a cat struggling with a fascinatingly ugly hairball, the internet yesterday coughed up an extraordinary video of Cami Anderson. I do not know where she is or why (the wall behind her says "Arizona State University/GSV"), and I do not usually cover New Jersey education because so many capable, local hands already have that covered.
But for the rest of us, the video answers the question, "Is she really that messed up?" And it's also yet another window into the troubled minds of the Masters of Reforming Our Nations' Schools who are defining the current dysfunctional status quo. It's down at the end of the page, but let me break down the best parts.
Cami speaks in the video about "our responsibility as educators" in reference to people actually being attached to their old schools, and she offers an illuminating metaphor.
Her sister is a trauma surgeon, a general surgeon, who cuts people open, and Cami thinks all the time about how, when her sister is in the operating room, with someone's life literally in her hands, she does not ask a bunch of people in the second row to vote on whether or not to close or keep going. She does not have someone in the third row telling her that she has to use a rusty scalpel. She does not have the five loudest people who are anti-everything, shouting and banging on the door about the color of her hair or skin or where she went to school or not. She is empowered to make decisions that are in the best interests of saving that patient, in saving his life so that he is able to live a life as full as possible. We have that responsibility.
Cami, Cami, Cami. Here are the two biggest ways your metaphor is not quite what you had in mind.
First, your sister the surgeon is a trained professional. She has years of training, years of practice, years of learning her craft so that she has a level of expertise that earns her the right to that empowerment. She did not get that empowerment just because she is somehow an inately superior human being.
I guarantee you that she did not get her surgery licensure after five weeks of training, and she didn't get the job in the hospital because of political strings. Well, actually, I don't know that-- but I'm betting it's true. You, on the other hand, have no training, no experience, and no qualification. So in the metaphor, you are not a highly trained surgeon, but a woman whose political connections somehow got you the right to stand in an OR holding a scalpel that you know nothing about using.
Second, your sister the surgeon could not operate until she had the consent of the patient and his family. Even trauma surgeons do not just walk up to someone on the street, announce, "You need surgery," knock them unconscious, and proceed to operate. Doctors must get the consent of the patients (kind of like civil authority flows from the consent of the governed).
Before she could set foot in that operating room, she had to convince people that she had a plan, that the plan was good, and that they should agree to it.
There's more video. Cami toughs out the personal stuff because she came from a big rough family; also, her brothers might come to Jersey to show people what's up. And if a small student can come to school when it sucks, Cami can come to work and hear Mean Things.
But the main thread that we keep finding running through MoRONS speech, from this video to Reed Hastings rant about elected school boards to Arne Duncan's commandeering of the law-making process is this:
Democracy is stupid.
Look, say the Reformistas. We are just better than you are. We are wiser, smarter, and just plain righter than the rest of you. So you should stop getting in our way. All of you lesser humans should stop insisting that you're entitled to some sort of voice-- you aren't. Shut up, sit down, and let the superior humans take care of these difficult matters.
It's extraordinary. Cami feels personally attacked, and yet she does not perceive how her very framing of the situation attacks everyone else for being stupid or complainy or just not special enough to see her awesomeness. I just hope for her sake that Christie's office never decides that she is one more hysterical female who needs to be cut loose.