Search this site
Other stuff

All banner artwork by Brady Johnson, college student and (semi-) starving artist.

My latest books:


        Available now

       Available Now

Available now 

My book Machines are the easy part; people are the hard part is now available as a free download at Lulu.

 The Blue Skunk Page on Facebook


EdTech Update




« Being techno-frugal | Main | E-textbook vs print textbook costs »

BFTP: Illusion of change

A weekend Blue Skunk "feature" will be a revision of an old post. I'm calling this BFTP: Blast from the Past. Original post, March 14, 2007.  This is one of my very favorite posts and probably the most cynical thing I've ever written. And I seem to be the only one who likes it since it remains on my list of writings that have been roundly rejected by print publishers...


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" <> 

To: "Wormwood" <> 

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 upper most 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 great unwashed. 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. 



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

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (4)

Wormwood, the mission of print publishers is to help maintain the current social order – keep those who are in power, in power, and those who are out, out - so do not think that rejection of this blog entry for publication is because of those editors' opinions of this entry; perhaps it is because of the threatening truths that seem obvious in 2012 but were quite prescient in 2007.The rich "reformers" have really been doing the Boss's work well these past five years. They are almost finished with their work.

January 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSusan Polos

You had me at cynical. That's pretty much it for education, politics, economics, etc. Those in control will NEVER relinquish it by promoting divergent thinking that threatens the very system that spawned their success. D'uh.

January 28, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJ.

Cynical or not, thanks for reposting.
Change is hard. Sometimes we need a reminder of where we aren't headed.

But let's keep trying.

January 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSara Carter

I have not read The Screwtape Letters since highschool. I could not help but smile as I read. Thanks

February 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRS

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>