The Education Boogey-Men

Jose Vilson Education, Jose

Ghost Busters vs. Stay Puff

Over the last few years, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting educational innovators and thought leaders from throughout the country, people who I either admire for their awesomeness or have pushed my thinking in ways I hadn’t thought of. People like the Teacher Leaders Network and my folks on Facebook and Twitter offer conversations I don’t routinely have with anyone in my immediate work circle. I often get material months in advance of anyone else in my district, and I often get dynamic ideas without paying a dime.

Having said that, the general conversations in education scare me. Deeply.

Some of these conversations make even the most seasoned administrators shake in their boots and question their own thought process, the most veteran and professional teachers more apprehensive about their pedagogy than they already are, and the most brilliant and inquisitive students feel like their whole spaces have no true security. The people we often refer to – the collective “they” – serve more as boogeymen than actual leaders of a people. We can name names like Joel Klein, Michael Bloomberg, Michelle Rhee, Arne Duncan, Barack Obama, Al Sharpton, et. al., but the minute they move, someone will eventually fill that position with more of this anti-people rhetoric. Furthermore, while these ladies and gentlemen attach their legacies to this work, there are hundreds of others behind the scenes who supplement these ideas, even unwittingly.

The boogey men use words like “accountability” and “executive decision” to siphon monies to third-party vendors and call the “support” an in-kind trade of thousands of dollars. The boogey men make up a set of neologisms to describe archaic and corporatist ideas in the hopes of pushing ideas that make no sense for the reality of millions of students across the nation. They’ll make unfair comparisons to other countries who’ve limited their educational opportunities to a certain sect of their population and boil their decisions down to “biology.” They’ll move the cursors on their graphs and charts just to make gains look greater than they actually are. just before election time.

What’s more, these boogeymen haven’t addressed education as a whole. After reading the plans, it makes me wonder if they’ve spoken at length and candidly to teachers, and not just to professors who haven’t taught in a long time, or people who’ve barely smelled a classroom or have kids going to school. This sort of work can’t be done while sitting in a little corner cubicle with a little reading light for weeks straight.

Like the ones we see in the movies or, for some of us, under our beds as children, these boogymen never see light. Or the light. That’s why we’re here. To illuminate as much as possible.

Jose, who’s got a flashlight next to his bed just for these types of these conversations …