Education Opinion

New Rules

By Nancy Flanagan — February 05, 2010 2 min read
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My favorite part of Bill Maher’s Real Time (when I can stay awake) is New Rules--Maher’s sardonic take on things that have become part of the landscape, but ought to cease and/or desist.

My personal New Rules, for education:

  • No more stories about Michelle Rhee. Yes, she looked adorable with that broom, but all that spunk and moxie are wearing thin. Besides, people in flyover country (where there are even more schools than inside the Beltway) don’t know who she is, or assume that she must have more than a couple of years experience in education. You know, a defensible track record of educational leadership or scholarship. There are plenty of knowledgeable experts who can serve as policy spokespersons--choose one of them.

  • Stop promoting mayoral control as solution to fixing troubled urban schools. Mayors are no more likely to have good ideas about fixing schools than superintendents, and they have to think about city governance (and getting re-elected). Does anyone think that Kwame Kilpatrick (before his conviction, or course) could have provided innovative and effective leadership for the troubled Detroit schools?

  • Quit ascribing magical powers to fresh-faced young graduates of prestigious colleges who want to “give back.” They may have knocked the GRE out of the park, or turned down an express ticket to Ivy Law, but that does not mean they are temperamentally or intellectually suited to teaching special education in rural Alabama. In fact, their schooling experiences at St. Alban’s or Sarah Lawrence can make it difficult for them to relate to families in generational poverty. Sometimes, the best people to do a tough job are the people who care enough to live nearby, on a permanent basis.

  • Let’s give up educational nostalgia, too. A friend sent me a video link--“Take Me Back to the Sixties”--the usual compendium of black and white photos, the low price of stamps and milk, plus Beatles music. Suddenly, on the screen: “Our SATs were a lot higher. We had to diagram sentences. Unlike the diluted and politically correct courses of today, we actually learned math, science and geography.” Excuse me? Here’s another new rule: don’t send me any more inane links. Merely explaining what’s wrong with that assumption about SAT scores would tax the math skills of your modal link-sender. And I grew up in the 60s. I know better.

  • Don’t feel compelled to give every educational concept a dynamic, uplifting name. Children are often left behind. Some data-driven decisions turn out to be wrong. The principal is not always the lead learner--sometimes he’s the person who makes the buses run on time. And we’re not racing to the top--we’re just trying to get some money.

OK. Your turn.

The opinions expressed in Teacher in a Strange Land are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.