Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The NJCCCS ideal committee

This past Saturday my daughter caught a decent sized fish--I clubbed it, knocking it out with the first blow, then hit it again to be sure. A quivering fin assured me the priest had done its job.

I lifted up it gill cover, then sliced at the gill arch with my knife. A fine stream of blood shot a couple of feet into the air, staining my shorts with blood the same deep red color as my own.

My daughter and I filleted the fish together 3 hours later, celebrating life, mourning death. Then we feasted.

I showed the picture of my daughter holding the fish to a fellow teacher--"looks like she can take care of herself" was her reply.

Yesterday we had a memo from the state of New Jersey waxing eloquent on the needs of the 21st century, on the need to prepare a child (the same child) for vocational school, college, and careers. I wondered how many folks on that committee ever saw the arc of blood pumping out of a dying animal.

I've seen it in fish, I've seen it in humans.

In 1714, back when Ben Franklin was still a wee lad, Stephen Hale tapped the artery of a horse to measure its pressure--Hale was immortalized, but the horse, of course, died.

We all eventually follow the horse.


I am not suggesting that someone needs to watch the arc of blood shoot out of a dying beast in order to qualify for whatever committee comes up with standards like this:

Work in collaboration with peers and experts in the field to develop a product using the design process, data analysis, and trends, and maintain a digital log with annotated sketches to record the development cycle.

I am suggesting, though, that someone who has even a twinkle of an idea connecting this thing called life to a curriculum worth the attention of child, someone who knows that food is not just a bag of Doritos, someone with a sense of what matters beyond a corporate board room might see the above standard as, well, ridiculous.

A committee of well-educated professionals thought it was inspiring.

Maybe we need a different committee. Maybe a degree that gains you entrance into powerful committees but blinds you to the obvious does not deserve respect.

A degree will get you into some boardrooms, and it might even get you some cash if the current economic shenanigans don't end with the hunter-gatherers among us superseding the white-collared executives.

We don't need more folks with college degrees on these committees--we need folks with knowledge.

Here are my minimum requirements for participating on any committee that makes any rules directly affecting the lives of our lambs dragged into our schools under the threat of law:

1) You must know how to change a tire, replace a faucet washer, or do any of myriad chores "relegated" to blue collar workers. Doing any these things for a living should make you chair of the committee. If you cannot take care of minor day-to-day maintenance, you have no business telling me how to teach.

2) You must know how to grow food. Outside. In dirt. Reading a book on how to do this counts for nothing. Books matter because they help us live. They become poison when they replace living.

3) If you eat meat, you must have slaughtered an animal that you ate. If you drink water, you must drink from an outside source--a spring, a creek, rainwater in a cistern--at least once a year. If you shit, you must shit in the woods in a mindful way. (No, I' m not talking about spiritual ommmmm and a prayer nonsense--I'm talking about knowing how far from the water, how deep in the soil to do your business so you do not foul your nest.)

4) You must have taught in a school within the last 5 years. This one is negotiable, but somewhere along the way you need to have a clue what can work, and what will not work, in a classroom.

5) You must be a parent. This one is negotiable, but somewhere along the way you need to have a clue what a child can, and cannot, do.

Some of the current standards in New Jersey are laughable.
What the standards do to kids, however, is not.


John Spencer said...

I cannot replace a faucet washer, but my wife can. Does that count? I can't fix anything, but she keeps me around because I do dishes and cook well and share the burden of the laundry.

Aside from that, I can actually say that I fit the description. Although on #2, I am still learning. Half of what I grow dies before I get a chance to eat it.

I would add to this list, you have to have seen death. By this I mean, you have to have seen a person dead and preferably you would have helped carry a casket or dig a grave. One of the saddest trends I've seen is doing away with funerals and only doing memorial services. We've shut ourselves off from seeing the reality of death.

Anonymous said...

i want to propose another one

any committee member needs to have attended a public school and a public college

Anonymous said...

I propose the same set of minimum requirements be set for school board members. Would be better than the current requirements which seem to be:

1. live in district
2. have a pulse
3. feel strongly about one particular issue (usually related to the ridiculous amount of money schools need to operate.)

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora e Michael.

I have two lovely daughters who are very familiar with the use of standards in school. When I support them in their study I often think of Brian Patten's poem:

When I was a child I sat an exam.
The test was so simple
There was no way I could fail.

Q1. Describe the taste of the moon.

It tastes like Creation I wrote,
it has the flavour of starlight.

Q2. What colour is Love?

Love is the colour of the water a man
lost in the desert finds, I wrote.

Q3. Why do snowflakes melt?

I wrote, they melt because they fall
onto the warm tongue of God.

There were other questions.
They were as simple.

I described the grief of Adam when he was expelled from Eden.
I wrote down the exact weight of an elephant's dream.

Yet today, many years later,
For my living I sweep the streets
or clean out the toilets of the fat hotels.

Why? Because I constantly failed my exams.
Why? Well, let me set a test.
Q1. How large is a child's imagination?
Q2. How shallow is the soul of the Minister for Exams?

Brian Patten

Catchya later

doyle said...

Dear John,

I may have to change the requirements to "lives in a household where folks can take care of themselves." I like the idea of a household economy, apologies to Wendell Berry.

I may need to replace arcing arterial bleeds with just witnessing death. Corporations are now immortal. We are not. Those who recognize this inevitably alter their behavior.

Dear Anonymous,

A huge miss on my part--of course! Some folks wondered why I chose not to send my kids to private school, I had more than enough money. I chose to send them to public schools because public schools were better for them.

(Full disclosure--I spent a few months in parochial school--I made it to March in 1st grade--after that, all public schools. Harmony Elementary School, Thorne Junior High, Middletown North High, University of Michigan, and UMDNJ--NJ Med School. I did spend a couple of years in a post-baccalaureate program at Bloomfield College, a private school. But I got to go for free, since Leslie works there.)

Dear Ken,

Great poem--makes me ashamed that I dod not fail more tests than I did in school!

Leslie said...

And, to be fair, the students at Bloomfield College are lower income, on average, than those in any of the other schools you attended. So, they won't skew your experiences too much.

Kathryn J said...

Hmmmm. I pass most of those tests. Interesting - and as much as I have read, studied, and tried - I am not a teacher; I have student taught and now am substitute teaching but the long trajectory of classroom and curriculum are not in my experience bank.

LOL about the life experience stuff. As a chemical engineer - pumps, washers, and plumbing are almost second nature; I grow things including my food; my dad made me rotate the tires as a prerequisite for borrowing the car keys. You are on target with your prerequisites.

The fish looks like quite a feast and sharing these times with your daughter is, to borrow an awful commercial phrase, priceless.