Wednesday, December 29, 2010

An American rant

In that land the great experiment was to be made, by civilized man, of the attempt to construct society upon a new basis; and it was there, for the first time, that theories hitherto unknown, or deemed impracticable, were to exhibit a spectacle for which the world had not been prepared by the history of the past.

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 1821

What is my role as a teacher?

Let's lay it on the table:

I don't give a rodent's orifice what your child grows up "to be"--I got her in front of me every day now, a human being, one who lives now, a good lesson to be learned by all of us.
I would like her to be happy, of course, but that's not my charge. I am charged with helping your child learn how to think in a Peter Pan culture. A functioning republic depends on it.

I don't give a rodent's orifice what your child's potential earnings will be, beyond her ability to reasonably clothe, feed, and house her clan.
Bigger forces than public education are conspiring against her. Just look at the distribution of wealth the past decade or two. I am charged with helping her understand the myriad ways science and technology affect her, and her children, and her children's children.

I don't give a rodent's orifice what her test scores are beyond getting her through graduation requirements.
I do care about what she understands, and how she gets there. If she runs off with John Travolta and I see her expounding on the benefits of Scientology on the local news, well, I failed. I suspect even a decent score on her SATs won't make her less immune to that kind of nonsense.

I don't give a rodent's orifice what your or your daughter's politics are.
I do care that she can sort out various sources of information, critically analyze data, and make reasoned conclusions based on thinking. She should save exercising her amygdala for NFL football and such.

I don't give a rodent's orifice about how your child tests against a child in China or Singapore or Great Britain or The Antilles.
I do hope she can find China on a map, that she grasps enough economics to make reasonable choices when she shops, and that she has a sense of how large (or small) Earth is.

I am an American public school teacher. We are teetering on the edge of failure of the greatest social experiment known to Western culture. We sit on fabulously fertile ground, in a moderate climate, with plenty of water and sunshine, and we judge wealth by how much we earn in cash.

I have no problem if your child should grow up to be a ridiculously rich derivatives trader on Wall Street, so long as she does so deliberately, and so long as she continues to support this American experiment.

I also have no problem if she grows up to be a park ranger, a casino dealer, a greeter, a plumber, a salesperson, or anything else that lets her live her life, contribute to our community, even pursue happiness.

Oh, and maybe remember the equation for photosynthesis along the way....

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