Location: St. Vincent & Grenadines

You were driving home in the dark on one glass-slippered heel, window sliced open and bathing in the snowliquor of the night air. We heard you singing, and couldn't bear to wake you.

17 April 2005

Take the highway, park, and come up and see me.

I got the job I got the job I got the job I got the job I got the job I got the job!

This one's been a long time coming. Last summer, when I was jobhunting, I checked out a place called Sonoma Country Day School about 25 minutes north of where I live. I liked them, they liked me, and if a woman with 20 years of teaching experience hadn't also applied for the job, I coulda been a contender. So I didn't get it. So I got another job instead, at the place I'm at now, and I've spent the last 7.5 months learning a great deal about what I don't want to do with the rest of my career. Now the job at SCDS has reopened, I've taught a demo lesson there, and I just got a call this evening letting me know that if I want the job, I have it.

I want it. I have it.

It means a pay cut. It also means a 66% reduction in class size, up-to-date facilities, freedom from the public school bureaucratic rigmarole, and an atmosphere of intellectual curiosity. It means I get to TEACH again instead of spending all my time being a cop. Many of the kids I teach now are wonderful, and certainly in need of good teachers, but I don't think I have the thick hide it would take to continue teaching effectively while simultaneously running interference with the kids who would rather carve gang graffiti into the desktops than pay attention to anything I have to say.

I'm more convinced now than ever that compulsory education is a mistake. You can't make someone learn. They have to want it. Most kids see school as a kind of minimum-security prison, and they're not far wrong. Unless they've got a lot of motivation to begin with, they're bound to approach the experience of public education as an obligation, rather than an opportunity. School becomes something you survive, setting the stage for an adult life of career survival. The message takes a backseat to the medium; the content of the curricula pales in importance to the context of the school environment, which all too often is a brutish, repressive, fascistic parade of bullshit. Rules and more rules designed to rein in the misbehavior of kids who deeply resent the goosestepping they're expected to do, who have unruly hormones coursing through their bodies, who are beginning to figure out that the only weapon they have at their disposal is the refusal to care.

Education should be made available for free to anyone who wants it. But you have to want it; otherwise you're wasting your time and the teacher's time and the taxpayers' money. My proposal: you get 13 years of free education, courtesy of the government, redeemable anytime you choose. If you want to take a break after sixth grade and play video games for a couple of years, more power to you -- assuming your parents are willing to buy the games. If you go to school and you cause problems for others, you get kicked out. When and if you're ready to behave, you get to come back in on a trial basis. When and if you get a diploma, it actually means something. Something more than just the ability to float through the system like a lazy fool. If you don't -- well, there's no end of crappy menial-labor jobs out there. And if, when you're 35, you finally see the error of your ways and decide to go back to school -- well, if you haven't used up your free 13 yet, you get to finish the process with no penalty; otherwise, you get to pay for the privilege. Just like college. Meanwhile, the teachers will be able to focus on teaching, instead of wasting time playing mommy/daddy to behaviorally challenged nincompoops; the kids who actually want to learn something will be able to actually learn, instead of battling the juvenile delinquent payasos who would rather swallow rat poison than take the educational process seriously; and the public school system will produce graduates who have something of real value to offer the world besides a warm body able to man the gears of another spiritless corporate machine.

Anyway. I got the job. I'm happy.


Blogger jo(e) said...


Your ideas about education are thought-provoking. I think you might be on to something.

8:07 PM  
Blogger Felix Helix said...

Thanks. Entrenched bureaucracies frustrate me.

3:45 PM  
Anonymous Myke said...

The thing is, the hierarchy of goals in compulsory public education goes something like this:
1. train warm cogs for the corporate machine.
2. a kind of collective-neurotic-society pre-punishment. Probably this is tied up with weird ideas about original sin and the Puritan work ethic.
3. and a distant third at that, sometimes the educators manage to slip in a little wonder about the world around us and a little germ of how to start to think, in amongst the mandatory testing and daily grind and petty affronts.

Anyway, congratulations on the new job.

1:45 PM  

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