Technocracy and the School Without a Soul
Sadly sometimes is lost to
Checking of boxes
Technocracy: The government or control of society or industry by technical experts. (Oxford English Dictionary)
I was recently at a mandatory, all-day professional development session….Do you feel me?
We were all dreading it and mocking it mercilessly days before it had started. Well, I am here to report that it was outstanding. That’s right. I’ll say it again: It was outstanding.
Now, the question you are asking yourself is, “Good golly, Mr. Teachbad, what on Earth was this about that made it so great?”
I’ll tell you. But first I’ll tell you what the facilitator DID NOT talk about in this professional development session, and in some cases openly ridiculed, that occupies the great majority of meeting and PD time at my school.
She did not discuss:
1. Mission statements. I have four; from the district, from the school, from the small learning practice, and from the department. That’s a lot of mission statements;
2. SMART goals. If you really want to know, click here;
3. Attendance policies and procedures;
4. Parent communication logs;
5. The proper way to write lesson objectives;
6. Objectives calendars;
7. Aligning standards to anything, or vice versa;
8. The ad hoc collection of useless data;
9. Dress code;
10. Protocols, routines, rituals, norms, expectations, etc, etc, etc.
You should notice that the list of ten above, which I could easily extend if I wanted to, doesn’t really have much to do with the physical, emotional and social act of teaching. These are all about the process of preparing to teach, ancillary activities, and what we do after we teach. The greatness and breath of fresh air that this presentation provided was that it focused on how to build literacy in difficult to teach populations by gaining a better understanding of the students as individual, living, breathing human people; making connections between students, teachers and the world through text. It’s not a secret that I don’t like teaching. But if my days could be spent more on this than on the Big Ten above, I might just like it.
I feel like what we do in my school is not as valuable. Part of it is an ideology of urban education that has been around for a long time. No Child Left Behind has put this ideology on steroids, while reducing competing ideologies to something like a prison diet in…I don’t know…let’s say Gambia. The result is a return to a dressed-up factory-style education that will likely boost average test scores for an urban population by x-percent per year in the same way that 100 years ago we figured out that if we built a bunch of schools we could get most people to read at least a little bit.
Such has become the face of success in urban education. We button everybody down enough (teachers and students) so that if we are all ‘on the same page’ we can run more kids through here with a diploma and score a little higher on the test than last year. (Let’s pray that these fucking tests are really good at measuring exactly what we think they measure and the people who told us what we should measure were dead-on goddamn brilliant.) Amen.
This isn’t even a criticism. It’s simply the reality administrators face. People can tell what their organization values. Ask teachers, and they will tell you it’s The Test.
But what does all this tell us about Technocracy and the new Administrative Class in schools? What exactly are these folks good at? I’ll jump to this soon.