Saturday, September 19, 2020

Anecdotes And Analogies And Adverbs

The back and forth bickering between teachers, who're getting jiggy with the whole work from home model and parents, who want a return to school because parents may not enjoy the luxury of "pay without presence" has become [en]trenched warfare. 

Parents want their kids F2F in the classroom and are using many of the tried and true arguments of the great importance of socialization among their cohort and the benefits of communal settings for "collaborative" learning. Parents know that their kids learn best when they're in a classroom with a teacher that "cares about them." There is no more hard data supporting these conclusions now than there ever was so it is only the anecdotal mythology that is being repurposed. DeKalb's parents are pointing to other districts with in-person classes with envy and increasing anger. Perhaps they should have made that comparison before they chose to live in DeKalb.

Teachers, spring's heroes and fall's traitors, were initially blindsided and faced a two-front battle. One was the ongoing "we don't get paid enough for this," with this being online, remote work. When confronted with the possibility that they would be required to get their asses back in the classes, teachers attempted a quick pivot to "hell no! we won't go!" Unfortunately, their new position is undermined by their age old, self-supporting arguments. 

What is missing are hard data, raw data. There is a surplus of opinion, narrative and misleading comparisons. You cannot even discuss the evaluation criteria of LMS-es without it devolving into citations of industry-self-promotional awards rather than quantifiable metrics of various systems under consideration. Those unhappy with the selection are equally at fault with nothing more than personal preference gilded with adverbs, anecdotes and vague references to everyone else. 

Teachers want folks to believe that being in a classroom with the same snot-nosed kids they embraced every year prior puts them in greater risk that Father Damien. They simply cannot put together a coherent argument because in the past their rationalizations were accepted without question. No longer. When they make the comparison that they are at far greater risk, because they are around so many others, than, say a Kroger employee, most folks, especially Kroger shoppers, roll their eyes. They try to trot out studies, which must be cherry-picked as there are as many that undermine as support their position. They undermine international comparisons, where F2F schools are in operation, by suggesting these countries have better leadership. Again, by some untold metrics. 

What it really comes down to is there has been a serious disturbance in the farce. Parents may still think their little precious is the greatest gift to mankind, but teachers are no longer willing to go overboard to support this notion or to leverage it to their own ends--give us more money. The pandemic has cured the Lake Wobegon Effect with parents now firmly convinced that their children are NOT going to the best school on the planet, that they are NOT getting the best education if in fact they are getting an education at all. Because they're not going at all. 

Teachers are angry at the notion they are "free daycare," which only makes sense if you never see your property tax bill. Silence from the parents confirms the daycare assertion but teachers' surprise is laughable. Schools have been touted, and repurposed, to address every societal ill except teaching and learning. In the spring the education industry predicted a tsunami of undetected child abuse because it is the teachers who are the [only] responsible adult in many children's lives and they've taken on the role of social worker. So why NOT daycare as well? Learning fell off the To Do list when teachers shifted from "Sage on the Stage" to "Guide by the Side" and prioritized "fun" over knowledge and skills acquisition.

Teachers feel threatened and put upon. They're pissed and they are doing what they always do, at least in DeKalb: threaten to quit. 

Parents are equally if not more angry. Sure, in the past they deluded themselves into various beliefs that public schools were all good. Social skills. Best education anywhere. Athletics. There was some weird common, almost mass delusion, shared by parents and educators, all singing from the same hymnal, all preaching from a common text, speaking in tongues and spouting reflexive responsorial psalms. Hidden behind all this was a "social contract" that schools would always be there, that schools would care for (and about) their children and that they would be able to "have it all"--career and kids. 

Now teachers are rethinking their careers and parents are rethinking progressive philosophies that underpin public schools. Maybe both are heading in the best direction for all of society.