When I used to be a teacher, I was responsible for the inhabitants of classrooms filled with living, breathing, laughing children, and a large part of my job entailed getting to know these young creatures well enough to teach them effectively and kindly. To teach them, I had to learn them. Part of what the boss people paid me to do involved figuring out how to implement a curriculum decided upon through the joint efforts of my administrators and fellow faculty members, and I was trusted to use my best judgement in choosing the proper methods to inculcate the results of our collaborative efforts into the tiny, tender minds of my young charges.
When I used to be a teacher, my students and I had the freedom to embark on meaningful tangents of inquiry, because my administrators and fellow teachers realized that not all learning is linear and programmable. I could let my kids’ minds wander wide-eyed into areas that actually interested them; real learning occurred because there was honest enthusiasm and the journey into our topics of discussion was not a forced march. My kids were invested in their own learning because they were helping to create it.
I’m not exactly sure what it is that I do now. I’m still employed by a school district, and I still stand in front of a group of youngsters each weekday morning, but almost none of the above learning activities get to happen anymore. Instead we are given mandates by principals who are given mandates by administrators who are given mandates by commissioners who are given mandates by corporations that seek to disembowel and devour public education because there’s a LOT of money to be made from channeling our tax dollars into the coffers of soulless, mega-giant “education” factories who care about as much for your kid as Kissinger did for the Cambodians. Creativity and fun are being systematically squeezed out of American education like the end of the toothpaste. We are in the business of training and equipping robots; we are now forced to assist in the construction of bland, obedient, child simulacrums who regurgitate accurately parsed quotes from select informational texts upon command. The people who used to be teachers are terrified of doing anything that isn’t in lockstep with the mandates from the corporate intelligentsia because of a very real fear for their employment; if the youngsters they are assigned don’t do well on the splooge of tests they’re being forced to swallow, their teachers are deemed “ineffective”, regardless of whether or not those youngsters were spawned in the shallow end of the gene pool, or if they happened to have been born poor and were probably hungry or tired the day of the test. Nature is ignored by the gods of testing, because nature does not and cannot conform to the corporate “reform” agenda and is therefore dismissed as irrelevant. Real people and human needs are mere afterthoughts, impediments to the creation of more wealth for vile and disgusting companies like Pearson and McGraw-Hill.
The full spectrum corporate domination of the learning environment in the name of naked avarice is bad enough, but what is most disturbing is that the steady drip of testing indoctrination is succeeding in its drive to change kids into grade-hungry data generators. Young people who were once bright and inquisitive, who challenged me with intelligent questioning and really made ME think about literature and life, have slowly been transmogrified into a fetid gaggle of willing, desperate-to-please bubble-fillers. The pursuit of knowledge for its own sake is considered quaint and somewhat anachronistic; there’s nothing worth learning if it’s not directly connected to future potential financial gain. The only thing that matters is the grade on the test; neither the content of the bubblicious testing thing nor the process it took to absorb the information contained within it have any real value to these plugged in, name branded young’ns. I have been told by Honors, high school senior English classes that it has been accepted as common practice to cram for the test and then forget everything about it as soon as the following quarter rolls around. It would never occur to them that there might be something else of value lurking in those weird “book” things whose innards they’re encouraged to digest.
Of course kids, especially those with parents who love them AND value a balanced education, have been grade conscious ever since we’ve had schools. But there is a qualitative difference between the two types of “A” mongers. Remember the end of the first Terminator movie? The scene where Ahhnold the robot is dying, and that little red light in his eye slowly, ever so slowly, dims and then winks out? That is an almost exact metaphor for what has been done to the creativity and individuality of spirit that used to dwell in American students. Everything that makes them unique and precious and irreplaceable is being siphoned from their souls by the relentless suck of useless, expensive testing instruments being promulgated by the filth at the helm of the ironically-named death juggernaut we refer to as the education “reform” movement.
Isn’t it bad enough that we’ve already allowed these corporatist scumbags to take control of every major media outlet in the country? That we’ve allowed them to euchre poor kids into signing up for a trip to the horror and insanity of the Oil Wars? Do we really have to let them take over our schools as well? They’ve already turned the majority of the population into television-addicted zomboids, ignored the psychic and physical pain of thousands of young Oil War veterans, and now they’re trying to scrutinize and privatize and digitize the educational system. Why do we continue to allow them to do it?
By the way, your kids are more than likely becoming even more lobotomized as you read this. By Facebook. By American Idol. By American Gladiators. By All-American Tom Brady.
And we’re talking about your very own kids, right now. Not “their” kids. Your kids. Please don’t try and claim you support education if you allow your kids to spend hours a day plugged into any one of a number of corporate pacifiers. If you have been trained to use the computer or the tee vee or a PlayStation/Xbox/Nintendo or an iPhone/Pod/Pad as an electronic babysitter, you’re part of the problem. Don’t complain when Junior can’t read, write or multiply, but he’s best on his Call of Duty server and has a really sweet jump shot. In NBA 2015.
When do you start getting pissed? How much longer do you squeeze your eyelids even tighter and pretend everything is fine because “It’s too hard to get off the couch, and besides, my show is on . . .”? How long do you clutch that sickening, gelatinous, posturing, self-serving posture of “tolerance” and that outwardly genteel, thoroughly ineffective attitude of “understanding” to your socially unconscious breast (Namasté!) while realizing full well that the people wielding the stick have got NO intention of entertaining ANY of those lovely, romantic delusions, not even for pretends, the way you and your nice friends have been trained to do? Are you really willing to sacrifice the emotional well-being of your kids, our kids, because we’re too timid/lazy/frightened/apathetic to make sure they don’t get completely snowed under by the blizzard of steer feces corporate ghoul-monkeys have been pelting them with since birth?
Those aren’t rhetorical questions . . .