1973 - when I started asking questions, like, "Why are we all dressed so funny?"

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

News! Masters become Slaves...

It is known by everyone who was taught in a public school that there are really only two ways to make more money (three if you count going into administration): (1) years of creditable service or "time served" and (2) education. Time flows at a constantly velocity, so one can not accelerate the years, but moving up the pay scale is something one can do by taking graduate courses or by earning a Masters or Ph.D.

Here's something curious: full-time teachers in a full-time graduate program. Hmm, does anyone really think it is possible to have the cake and eat it too? The "system" would seem to believe it, for otherwise a provision outside of this insanity of working full-time and going to school full-time would not be encouraged.

Two cases:

Case #1: Jennifer J. (a social studies teacher at a Denver high school). Jennifer was in a media and technology class taught by David Hildebrand at the University of Colorado, Denver. It was a fascinating class. Texts included Albert Borgmann's Holding On to Reality: The Nature of Information at the Turn of the Millennium, Neil Postman's Amusing Ourselves to Death and other works. One evening I was talking to Jennifer after class and she was really angry at the professor. Apparently he had said that in his opinion she was trying to do too much and that her academic work was suffering as a consequence. I asked her, "Well, what are you getting out of this course? How did your last paper go?" She said with work and the course, she was just having trouble concentrating, but she was sure if the professor would just give her more time, she could get it all done. In other words, Doctor Hildebrand was correct!

Case #2: Myself. While working at a charter high school in the Denver area I was working on my alternative teaching license. As I recall, we had classes every other Saturday with a lot of reading and analysis in between. It was a lot and it trivialized teacher education. Not necessarily by design (though it does not take a rocket scientist to realize that if one is doing full-time graduate work AND holding down a full-time job that one of these will suffer), but certainly by consequence. I tried to balance the demands of the job and of the program, but both suffered to some degree. Naturally, my family suffered, too as I became increasingly insufferable that year.

What did I really learn in an alternative teacher program? My biggest "lesson learned" was that public education is extremely superficial. For all the reams of data and analysis, education is seen to be about technique, not passion; manipulation, not wonder.

What is the meaning of this post's title -- Masters become Slaves? It is only this: by encouraging teachers to work and to study to the point of exhaustion, sheer frenetic activity is encouraged and thought is siphoned off. If education is a "communication of yourself" (Julian Carron), then teachers willy-nilly communicate their own busyness to their students.

In other words, stressed-out teachers keep their nose to the grindstone and encourage their students to do likewise. The message is "It's not who you are that matters, but what you do."

Rather than facing the riddle of existence, it's "busy, busy, busy" (as Kurt Vonnegut has it in Cat's Cradle). Or as those of a more theological mind have put it: Bad Infinity -- the multiplication of the finite (be it sex or shopping or booze) to make up for one's own nothingness, one's lack.

That's how slavery gets perpetuated.

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