Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Least

I have a friend who posits a simple rule for relationships-- the person who has the least concern has the most power. The person who has less interest has more control.

I'm not sure how useful the rule is for understanding romance, but it certainly does deconstruct plenty of other relationships. If dishes in the sink don't bother me, I can let them sit well past the science experimenty point at which you will snap and do them.

And if I care way more than you do whether teaching is done well or not, you are in the driver's seat. Folks look at actions like the North Carolina legislature's stated intention of rendering teaching non-viable as a career and ask, "Don't they realize this will destroy teaching, that nobody will ever want to teach in this state?!" And the answer is they probably do know-- they just don't care. We are often so caught up in our own values that we assume only people who don't understand the situation could be so uncaring. Teachers repeatedly get caught in versions of the following conversation:

Teacher: So there's the explanation. Do you see now how much damage you'll be doing? Do you see how that will just wreck the system and fly in the face of everything we know about education? Do you see what you're doing?

Reformster: Well, sure I see what I'm doing. What's your point?

Teacher: Fine, then. I'll just quit and you'll have to find some brain-damaged drunken slacker to come in and teach the students in my place, and he won't even try to work as hard at it as I have.

Reformster: Cool! Sounds good!

Reformsters don't care about public education, and certainly not about the teachers who work in it, other than the amount of "care" that is wrapped up in a desire to wipe something out. Supporters of public ed will always find dialogue with reformsters frustrating because the reformsters just don't give a rats tiny little posterior.

When someone cares less about something than you do, you have no leverage. That's why folks often open a negotiation by trying to find some leverage

For instance, it became shockingly clear that students do not feel an inherent need to work try their very best to generate useful data on standardized testing instruments-- almost as if they recognized that these tests are a big fat waste of student time and #2 pencil lead. So to take back control of the situation, reformsters made the tests necessary to get out of high school (or, in the most lunatic situations, to get out of third grade).

To make people care more than you do, take hostages. Take their diplomas hostage, or their careers.

What can advocates for public education do? What hostage can we take? Well, the reformsters are mostly about money and power. These are not easy things to take hostage. But I seriously doubt that anything else will move the needle.


  1. Enlightening post - makes sense of this nonsense.

  2. Opt out will take them hostage - no data - no money - no money and the power dwindles quite quickly :)
    - Peggy Robertson

  3. I'm not sure we have much of a choice anymore except real unity and activism. Face it...the Big Money behind the various "reform" movements have done a masterful job by both creating in the public mind a belief in a false "crisis," and then offering a business model "solution" to that crisis. We as educators are already perceived as the greedy lazy demons destroying our children's future, so what difference does it make if we, in concert with parents, actually fight back? I actually believe that that "opt out" movement has the most potential to make some difference. I have as much to lose personally as anyone, but our profession, our livelihoods, are being hit pretty hard. And what else can you do when someone hits you except hit back harder?

  4. I don't give a rats ass about
    high stakes tests
    Data walls
    Close reading
    Graduation tests

    SO the reformer types can kiss my ass. I will hold them hostage by not allowing them to have any leverage. I opt out.