Sunday, February 14, 2016

Politicians Make My Job Harder

Sure, the fact that politicians have commandeered education and inflicted a whole boat-load of anti-education, anti-teacher, anti-students-who-aren't-from-the-right-families rules and regulations. But there are days when I think that all the bad policies, all the funding issues, all the bad leadership on the state and national level, all the esoteric and philosophical and policy issues that take us space on this blog-- none of that compares to trying to swim upstream in a culture that actively rejects some of the values that we're trying to teach.

We invest millions of dollars and endless hours of our attention, for instance, on anti-bullying programs within the walls of our schools. Then we send our students out into a world where bullying is how you Get Things Done. Our policymakers and politicians bully each other to score political victories. Donald Trump is walking away with the GOP nomination for President of the United Freaking States of America because he is the most effective bully in the field.

Or let's try to promote the basic principles of democracy, but at the same time, the Democratic Party will continue to operate its anti-democratic Superdelegate system, by which the party establishment has a buffer against their nomination process being derailed by the actual voters. And no, I don't feel better is you tell me that Superdelegates always follow the will of the voters, because if that's what they always do, they are completely unnecessary.

It is equally challenging to try pushing critical thinking in a world that is actively opposed to it. Take this current very tricky logic problem that our leaders currently face.

1) Supreme court vacancies are filled by the President.
2) The President is Barack Obama
3) There is a Supreme Court vacancy

So-- what happens next?

This is not a hard one to work out, yet we are already awash in people who are trying their damnedest to avoid the clear conclusion that Barack Obama should now nominate someone to fill the vacancy.

But this is politics as currently practiced, dependent on the very opposite of critical thinking. For critical thinking, we need to collect the evidence, analyze the evidence, and follow it wherever it leads. But in politics, we decide what conclusion want to reach, and then start collecting (or ignoring) evidence to support our pre-determined (or pre-paid for) conclusion. Hell, there are already politicians who oppose Obama's theoretical currently-non-existent nominee based on exactly zero evidence.

Sometimes, the adult world looks a lot like the guy who tells kids not to smoke or drink while puffing on a cigarette and throwing back a beer. Oh, wait. That would be our advertising, in which "responsible" alcohol manufacturers deliver the message, "Kids, you totally should not use this really awesome product that will make you feel wonderful. Just say no."

So here's my message to our political and policy leaders. If you want to oppose corruption, don't be corrupt.  If you want to oppose bullying, don't build your career around it. If you think children should tell the truth, stop lying (and doing it badly). And if you want to promote critical thinking, use it.

1 comment:

  1. It's not just the politicians, Peter. It's our whole culture. Good guys really do finish last, almost every time. That's how the system works.

    When we teach our kids values that are counter to the might-makes-right, winner-take-all mentality that dominates and defines our culture, we are practicing a kind of faith. We are hoping against hope that somehow, unlike every generation of young people ever, this new crop will somehow keep believing what we tell them until they are old enough to be in charge.

    We are a society made up of only the cynical and the naive. In my opinion, the real reason we teachers are despised by people who have "real" jobs and live in the "real" world is not that our SAT scores were lower than other majors, not that we work only 9 months a year, not that our health insurance doesn't suck as bad as theirs, not that we can't be fired instantaneously for no reason.

    No, they think we're dumb enough to believe what we're telling the kids and that makes us a joke to them.