Education Reform Tragedy, and Catharsis
From Cooperation Catalyst:
“November 22, 2010 has been declared the National Day of Blogging for Real Education Reform, promoted by AASA and ASCD. ASCD has gathered 10 articles, in advance of Monday’s Day of National Blogging, in The New Faces of Ed Reform that discuss reforming education with teachers as leaders and partners in meaningful, lasting change.”
With some luck, and more self-editing than usual, I just might post this entry before midnight (PST) and make my contribution to the National Day of Blogging for Real Education Reform. And while I’d like to offer my positive vision for education reform, at the moment, I’m too pessimistic about our short term prospects.
Lately I’ve been feeling like a member of the Chorus in a Greek tragedy, watching the tragedy unfold and calling out warning, after warning, after warning, in a fruitless effort to advise the tragic hero that it’s not too late to change course.
Nominees for the tragic hero can be found up and down the political landscape. These education reformers display the characteristic hubris of the tragic hero. Their high positions and their power assure that they rarely have to face the consequences of their arrogance or ignorance. With limited understanding of the enterprise they manage, they nonetheless walk into the highest offices in education, appointed for their political sympathies and connections rather than their expertise. They insulate themselves from critical viewpoints in their day-to-day work, and carefully manage their publicity and limited public outings. Their supporters stand ready to publish sympathetic editorials, produce slick TV shows and movies, and line the pockets of corporate sponsors seen and unseen.
Members of the Greek Chorus may represent the wise elders or the common people – in this case, the growing numbers of parents and teachers who look at what’s happening in the classroom, and shout out, “No! You’re wrong!” But we work all day long, with no business-oriented think tanks occupying their days to advance our agenda. We lack the media machinery and the high-powered friends whose billions of dollars buy them a voice and an air of authority in topics they know only from a limited outsider perspective. We exclaim, “That’s not the right way!” and they smugly insult us for supporting the status quo though we’ve done nothing of the sort. We live the consequences of each mistake they make, and they blame us for their failures.
The Greek tragedy always ends with the downfall of the tragic hero. Too late, he realizes the error of ways. The Chorus was right, he admits. And then we lament what has been lost, and look for ways to restore order, balance, and peace.
If today’s brand of education reform were a play, or a movie, who among us could fail to recognize the rich and powerful standing above the masses proclaiming “I am right,” listen to the Chorus respond in unison, “You are wrong,” and not conclude that leadership without willing followers is nothing more than a delusion of grandeur, hubris of the highest order, sometimes hidden and sometimes propped up by the two-dimensional façade of media approval and political manipulation?