"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Cucumber Austerity of Teaching: Merit Pay and Grapes

This isn't dystopian fiction, but it certainly could be.

Nancy Flanagan led (by way of Twitter) me and Jersey Jazzman to this wonderful and chilling video of monkeys confronting the concept of fairness:

2 Monkeys Were Paid Unequally; See What Happens Next

I agree with Jersey Jazzman that this video makes me think of how teachers are being treated under the Arne Duncan era of austerity in education, how Duncan/Obama have been pulled into the Gates cult of cannibalistic capitalism.

Now, back to the potential dytopian-fiction-as-reality:

The current "No Excuses" Reform exists within a worldview in which teachers are caged monkeys. Most teachers are the monkey on the viewer's left in the video, destined to hand back the stone we are issued, always rewarded with the same insufficient cucumber, and perpetually "motivated" by the seeming possibility of being the monkey on the viewer's right that gets the grape.

You don't need to be a scientist to figure this scenario out.

Teachers, I fear, though are like the cucumber monkey in that we keep grabbing the stone and handing it back, but we are unlike the cucumber monkey since we rarely fling the cucumber back at our masters to express our anger, our rightful anger about the unfair conditions of our teaching, which are the unfair conditions of every child's education (except for the children of all the masters who live in the world outside the cages and the lab, of course).

For the record: I am not motivated or even concerned about what other teachers earn in their jobs. I am not motivated by the allure of making more money than my teaching comrades. I am concerned about the fairness of my entire professional existence, a part of which includes my pay.

The people in leadership positions who see the world as one big behavioral experiment, who can tolerate caging teachers and students to see how we can make the best rise to the top on the backs of all the rest—these leaders are the problem. Their cages and their schemes to replace cucumbers with grapes too.

Educators everywhere should be throwing back the cucumbers, but we also need to stop gathering and returning their stones, and we need the few who get the grape to refuse that also.

Educators need to form a solidarity of fairness that refuses to allow our caging and the austerity of cucumbers.

1 comment:

  1. On the animal/insect front, I would add: "When Hollywood makes a move, the American Humane Association watches out for animals and insects that appear in the film. Even maggots. In the movie LA Confidential, when a detective discovered a reeking corpse under a house, an observer from the American Humane Association was on hand to make sure the maggots were not mistreated.

    Compared to kindergartners, apes life a life of luxury. According to the specific rules regarding the treatment of apes making movie appearances, if an ape works for more than three days in a row, then 'a play area, empty room or private park where the ape may exercise and relax must be provided." Obviously, what America's schoolchildren need is a Childhood Humane Association. . . .'--What Happened to Recess and Why Our Are Children Struggling in Kindergarten