If You Smelt It, You Probably Dealt It

Jose Vilson Education, Jose

George W. Bush lays a fart in Colin Powell's face

I don’t like telling people the good, honest truth all the time. I prefer a more diplomatic truth where the recipient has some chance of getting better. No, really. One of my friends says that I can be so candid at times, I have to put a cap on it in the form of “I respect that.” Once, I saw a terrible flyer on Facebook for a poet I didn’t necessarily care for either. It looked like a cross between a Wheaties box and an ad for Tinactin, flames and all. I cracked up and I typed in “This is the flyer? Really?” The person commented back, “What’s wrong with the flyer?” Realizing that the poet probably made it himself, I said “Nevermind. Have fun at your party there.”

And honestly, I almost felt bad for doing it. Not that much because I think a little honesty goes a long way, and if we’re calling that “haterism,” then that’s fine by me. But I’m also genuinely reflective, and the times I get it wrong, I’m also genuinely apologetic. I wonder the same about Joel Klein, who fired off a missive this past Monday that cracked me up and made me wonder what he had for breakfast that day for him to be so imprudent. Check the excerpt:

Recognizing the importance of not losing an instructional school day, the parents who wrote us further proposed that our teachers and staff use that Wednesday, September 8, 2010, as a professional development day, and instead use what is known as Brooklyn-Queens day—a professional development day that falls on Thursday, June 9, 2011 as an instructional school day. Both the Mayor and I thought this proposal made sense for all involved and, in fact, would save parents the hassle of finding child-care for a one-day, mid-week holiday in June.

But in order to move forward with this plan, we needed the agreement of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT). Unfortunately, the UFT refused our proposal and therefore we are left with no choice but to keep the calendar unchanged.

We cannot have a chaotic system where different schools start classes on different days, which would require different bus schedules as well as different food schedules. It would be confusing to parents, a further strain on our budget, and disruptive to the overall school calendar. We understand and are sympathetic to the stress some families may feel because of the schedule during the first week of school, and regret that we were unable to make a change we saw as straightforward and fair to all.

But given our inability to reach an agreement with the UFT, we will proceed with starting school on Wednesday, September 8, 2010.

At first, a few people took him at his word. Bad choice. There’s always a back story, like the kid in the class who’s always pointing the finger at everything wrong that happens in the class. If you smell something funky, he points out the student with the acne. If books end up missing, he points out the student who didn’t tuck in their chair. UFT President Michael Mulgrew quickly fired off a statement that basically encapsulates what the rest of this hypothetical class would think after looking at this kid:

“Dude, you farted. It’s not my fault you’re gassy.”

Little do Joel Klein and the rest of the edu-reformers understand that the public can see right through this charade. Sometimes, when you’re wrong, it’s hard to say sorry. Then again, his example of leadership permeates through the school system, and is evident amongst talking heads across the nation.

Like many people, most teachers have an understanding where they work and are willing to make it work if the little things get taken care of. If the windows get fixed, if the expectations are clear, if most of the staff work hard alongside them, and the administration does a fair job of keeping the house in order, then teachers are generally happy. Most teachers that I know agree that the students can be “bad” and the parents can be “unbearable,” but if their fellow staff members and boss are horrible, then it’s not a great place to work. That’s important.

When your boss, on the local or national level, is unresponsive or simply makes everyone smell his flatulence with no regard, then teachers, like my fellow blogger Mildly Melancholy, feel the urge to leave this otherwise rewarding profession. It never strikes me that these men who made critical decisions for an entire set of people reflect any further than their dietary choices or their next soiree.

I don’t have a problem saying it to him or anyone else willing to challenge my thought, but I don’t want to be blamed for the increasingly smelly room. I’ll just walk away for now.

Mr. Vilson, who’s rather enjoying his first long day off.