Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Feel-Good Speakers

An Anonymous commenter said:
What's INSANITY to me is that my program will, on the one hand, promote the Sir Ken video about how schools are based on the factory model and that kills divergent thinking and we need to differentiate, and then, on the other hand, they'll slobber all over how awesome WBT is.

How can they NOT see that WBT is THE MOST factory model based education system ever?? And that it is the least likely to encourage divergent thinking? I'm baffled.
Anonymous, I've had similar experiences.  I remember the time I mentioned Alfie Kohn to the former principal at our local public elementary school, Fragrant Hills.  To my amazement, she said "oh, Alfie Kohn, isn't he wonderful!  You know, we had him here for a talk."  I was momentarily struck dumb.  I thought, if she likes Alfie Kohn, why is she defending tedious homework assignments for first graders?  Why is she protecting the fifth-grade math teacher who is bullying my child into major depression?

The only explanation I can come up with is that teachers and administrators view people like Alfie Kohn and Sir Ken Robinson as inspirational speakers, and they do find them inspiring, in a transitory, feel-good sort of way.  Listening to speakers like this allows teachers to feel that what they do is noble work.  They don't confront the vast gap between the theory presented by these speakers and the actual day-to-day life of the school. 

It's like listening to a popular, charismatic preacher who gives a terrific sermon on the glories of heaven on Sunday.  Then you've got the rest of the week to go right back to your lustful, gluttonous, dishonest ways.

I've seen teachers complain that "Alfie Kohn sounds good, but he doesn't give practical tips", but now I'm starting to think that's really the key to his popularity.  If he had a practical plan, somebody might have to carry it out.  They like him better as the pie-in-the-sky visionary he is, who presents no real threat to business as usual.

1 comment:

  1. PsychMom says:

    And they would have to take responsibility for being professionals and stop falling back on blaming the principal or the board and saying they have no control over what they can do...