Friday, June 10, 2011

The Toryfication of America

I teach for two reasons:
One, I have a ridiculously passionate attachment to watching the world, the one that exists whether (or not) humans exist. It's ultimately unknowable,despite its teasing patterns, and we're all part of it, all of us, no matter our status.

Two, I have a ridiculously passionate attachment to this experiment called America. What Jefferson started is still salvageable, though less so year by year. I only have a decade or two left help Jefferson out. 

A few remarkable things happened this week. I stole ripe cherries from a tree on an urban street, cherries eyed by a few birds but no humans, because humans in this part of the world conjoin "edible" with "supermarket."

And I got called an "ankle-biter" by one of the most powerful men in our state, a man charged with promoting education. Affectionately. I hope.

Governor Christie thinks it's a good idea to allow private companies to run public schools. 

I'm not surprised. He used to be a registered lobbyist for Edison Schools, back when our current Acting Commissioner of Education, Chris Cerf, also worked for Edison Schools. Edison Schools took on the Philly School System, and, well, got their butts kicked.

Mr. Cerf has a lovely office encased in glass, overlooking the Delaware River, the same Delaware River that feeds my bay. My bay. It can be your bay, too, if you care enough to get to know it.

The most important lesson I teach to my lambs is that pretty much any part of the world out there is theirs, if they care to get to know it.

The same could be said for our country.

If we continue to approach education based on some abstract notion of international standards, we will raise a generation suited for the suits, a generation that chases abstract ideas for abstract ends, leading to abstract results.

I pray one of my lambs stopped by a cherry tree today, plucking its burgundy fruit, spitting out the pit a few feet from the life-giving tree.

Most of us would choose the sidelines if we could. We love what we do, this teaching thing, and those of us who get past the second or third year are (mostly) pretty good at it. Our profession has a huge attrition rate, but given our charge, a huge attrition rate is not a bad thing.

I did not look for a fight. The governor approached our school, the commissioner approached me.I will do pretty much anything to help kids. Sometimes I get paid well to do this, sometimes I don't. Anyone who gets to do what they want and makes a decent living is blessed. And, Lord knows, I have been blessed.

But I am not just an "ankle-biter"; I am a pit bull if you mess with my kids.  Just sayin'

And I will be marching in Washington July 30th, with a pack of pit bulls because I am blessed, and because I care.

A little over 200 years ago, our Founding Fathers took on the Tories, and won. The Tories have regained control.

It's time to reclaim our country.

I just want to teach. Well. Finland, anyone?


Sue VanHattum said...

Ankle-biter? Details, man! There's more to this story. I'll be waiting, on the edge of my seat. :^)

Anonymous said...

Sometimes someone has to speak up. That the listeners have to refer to you as a kindergartener indicates that they are concerned with what you say, so they have to belittle you some other way.
They know who you are and they want to keep you quiet. Good job. Keep up the good work.

doyle said...

Dear Sue,

Nothing that dramatic. Mr. Cerf is personable, bright, and charming. We hold contrary views, no surprises there, and both of us are public with our views--he's a public official, and I'm a curmudgeon.

To give him credit, "ankle-biter" was an effective turn of words: it acknowledges both annoyance with me while trivializing any sense of bravado I might have. A perfect insult.

When I played hockey, I would, on rare occasion, get my butt kicked by a perfect body check. I could only smile (once I lined up my teeth again) at the hit. A perfect insult is like a perfect check. Nothing to do but say touché.

Dear Anonymous,

I suspect "ankle-biter" here refers to a pointless puff of fur that yip-yaps and nibbles at the ankles of those who get too close to its leash.

At any rate, we all need to speak up about things that matter. Most of us don't, at least not intelligently.

I can be a royal pain in the arse, and people who love me remind me of this regularly.

They know who you are and they want to keep you quiet.

As much fun as paranoia can be, that's not the case here. Mr. Cerf encourages open discussion, and I trust that he has the best interests of children at heart. If he didn't, I doubt we'd've ever met. He would not have invited me, and I would not have come if invited.

John T. Spencer said...

I love this post and I love the way you embrace democracy. I wish I could go to Washington and I wish I could take my children with me.