I sincerely hope I never appeared in any way to be like the teacher in the video of Pink Floyd’s rock opera The Wall. That teacher represents everything wrong about education and everything that looms over us as a coming darkness if the conservative privatization movement continues to move forward with their evil sausage-factory plans.
In the video you see the teacher making fun of a student for writing poetry instead of participating in the rote recitation about math that the class is engaged in. The school is portrayed as a factory that puts masks on the students, makes them march in a line, and eventually pitch forward, face first into the sausage grinder.
The song was written by Pink Floyd’s bassist, Roger Waters. It was written in the long ago 70’s as a protest against rigid education systems in general, and British boarding schools in particular. But old problems can come back to haunt us.
Here’s the evil being protested. Schools should never be used to suppress creative thinking and enforce conformity. While it is true corporate America is hot for education that treats educating students like baking bricks, with attention to precise shapes and uniform size and color, that is not how kids learn. They have to be treasured for what they are, unique individuals, no two alike, and all possessed of varied strengths, skills, and talents. The idea of education is to help them add to what they are born with, use what they are born with, and fit into the jigsaw puzzle of working with and getting along with others. We cannot teach them by pressing them into molds with standardized high-stakes tests, or taking their individual faces away by always trudging through the same low level thinking skills year after year just because a textbook written in conservative Texas says so. Learning in the classroom needs to be through guided discussions, activities, and interactions. Not through filling in all the blanks on a worksheet.
My own children, for the most part, have been cheated by the public education system in Texas. They are bright kids, but have humongous school troubles stalking them like monsters, boredom, disengagement, and feeling like the young poet betrayed by the teacher in the video. While I always, in my teaching, fought to creatively present learning opportunities, I found good teaching to be a rare thing in Texas. It was sometimes actively discouraged. And it is getting rarer. The people who think teaching English means diagramming sentences and circling the adverbs are winning the battle for young minds. I am left at a point of futility where the only thing I can do about the brick-making is write rants like this one about it.
Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos should be pleased with themselves. The sausage factories in our schools are turning out sausages. Sausages don’t think for themselves. Sausages are easy to control. And when the time comes, some corporate fat cat will eat them and become fatter (hopefully only in the metaphorical sense). And I am guessing here, but I’ll bet sausages make up most of the Republican voting public.