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« How to get an IWB in our district | Main | Vote early and often »
Wednesday
Mar142007

The illusion of change

Once again a strange e-mail (with a bit of a sulphuric smell) appeared in my inbox. The district’s filter seems curiously ineffective against this domain. These are sent to me now  and then. I find them interesting, if disturbing, and think others might ponder them as well. - Doug



From: "Screwdisk" <sdisk666@inferno.org> 

To: "Wormwood" <wormie@terrafirma.edu> 

Subject: Change? No need to panic.

Date: Thur March 15, 2007 :10:19 -0500 

X-Mailer: Microsoft Outlook 7.734 

Importance: Tepid

Wormie, Wormie, Wormie, when will you learn not to press the PANIC and SEND buttons at the same time? Why in the blessed name of Beelzebub you imps were ever given e-mail addresses, I will never understand.

Change is not, I repeat, not imminent in the schools in your area. Wide-scale improvements, especially originating from within the schools themselves, I guarantee are impossible. Despite the wishful thinking in teacher and administrative preperation programs, professional journals, and educational conferences; despite the amount of money pumped into teacher training; and despite the seeming unhappiness of  politicians and the public, your schools will remain unchanged into the foreseeable future (and I can see a very long way) with any differences being cosmetic only.

How do I know this, Wormie? How can I strut my confidence with tail held so high?  A human named Machiavelli discovered the reason 500 years ago. He wrote in the bible of political power and basic textbook on human nature, The Prince:  

"... it ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new."

Stop and think, Wormster, what impetus is there for innovation if the one in charge of change has done quite well under the current system? They don’t  pull superintendents, principals or classroom teachers from the ranks of those whom the current education system failed! (Well, maybe a few tech directors, but they are different case.) College professors are the total masters the educational system –having risen to pinnacle of academia simply by being very, very good at “school.” And you expect them to change this perfect system that rewards the best - they themselves? Please.

Devil_at_Computer.jpgThe reason these  “leaders” have the ability, the position, the power to make change is that they have all have succeeded in some fashion in a traditional education model. And subliminal questions run through every decision they make - "Is this change going to screw up the system that has made it possible for me to hold my position?" "Why do that which might shake me from my current branch?"

They will therefore only initiate those changes that don't really change anything very much, that won't threaten their standing in their school or community. Risks are for fools, especially when taken for anyone outside their own  genetic make up or social class. Both Zorro and the Scarlet Pimpernel were, after all, quite fictional.

You also need to remember, what passes for educational “reform” is either window-dressing or a diversion from a genuine goal. And this art needs to be encouraged, Wormwood! The illusion of movement is better than no movement at all for those of us who must defeat effective school change.

Has technology changed anything in schools? Hah! So what if the teacher sends an email home instead of a paper note or delivers a dull lecture with dull slides instead of overhead transparencies. Reforms like privatizing education “to make it competitive” are a smoke screen by the rich to simply cut their own taxes and avoid paying for an adequate education for the poor. Our boss is saving a special place for the genius who started calling vouchers, scholarships. Genius! Evil genius, to be sure, but genius!

The nature of schooling is not to foment revolution, and you should know this, you little devil. It was in your seminar last year. Did you only memorize this for the test? The mission of the school is to help maintain the current social order – keep those who are in power, in power, and those who are out, out. Do you dishonestly believe that either businesses or bureaucrats want creative, problem-solving, status climbing employees? Educated workers who may demand higher salaries? Employees who wish to use their minds as well as their backs? Do you know how hard it is to manage those unpredicatable people - and to keep them from trying to take one’s own job? Nothing personal, Wormwood, but I hired you because you work cheap, are reliable and are not the brightest ember in the brimstone. You are my kinda’ minion.

Study, my little demon, the works of Machiavelli and Menken and Aristophanes and Twain – those who saw unchanging human nature as it is, not as humans wish it were. Know humans as they are and use their own foibles to plan and manipulate. Keep the humans rearranging the deck chairs on their sinking ships. It makes them fun to watch.

Pardon the expression, but CHILL, Wormwood. Dinosaurs liked themselves just fine – right up until the time the asteroid hit. I remember. I was there. Our Boss fears effective education more than all the holy water on the planet. But effective education has little chance of coming to pass – at least in this millennium.

Insincerely,

Screwdisk

With apologies (as always) to C.S. Lewis


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Reader Comments (4)

The pity, Doug, is that this sadly venomous person actually has some very good points to make. Unfortunately, his venom leads him to end up adding 2 and 2 and getting something that is definitely not 4!

Making friends and influencing people is obviously not on his agenda.
March 15, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Connell
Hi John,

I hope all readers feel the same way you do.

Thanks for writing in.

Doug
March 15, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson
I am sure you did this research... but I found this...

http://www.rupri.org/editorial/default.asp?edID=109&ACTION=READ

This web woven and the web that weaves itself is fascinating!
March 15, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterMarcie T. Hull
Hi Marcie,

Always fun to read others who use Lewis's conceit from the Screwtape Letters to "play the devil's advocate." Thanks for pointing this one out.

I understand Lewis's heirs don't look kindly on other writers using the device.

Doug
March 16, 2007 | Unregistered CommenterDoug Johnson

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