Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Almighty Standards

Teachers aren't supposed to argue for ignorance, but I'm beginning to think the wrong kind of information is worse. Yes, I suppose I'm talking about the almighty standards. It's not that I have any truck with trying to measure up to a mark. Expectations are wonderful. As a classic under-achiever I can attest that the most meaningful portion of my education was the direct result of teachers who demanded a great deal more from me than I would ever have sought for myself. I'm eternally grateful to a hand full of brilliant souls who knew who I was and what I might do long before I did.

They had standards and they held me to them before any legislative body prescribed that they should. So, I don't argue that they shouldn't have. However, they understood the difference between holding me to standards and substituting those standards for a curriculum. I'm no expert. I'm just a teacher. In fact, I'm not quite a teacher, not in district terms. I haven't learned enough useless information yet. I have another year to go.

I was an ignorant writer in my former life. I haven't become famous, but I have been very successful in personal terms. I wrote screenplays and novels and stage plays for twenty years believing that one day I would seek an opportunity to teach and, corny as it sounds, maybe even inspire a student or two. All of my adult life I have continued to write and to read and study literature in a pleasant effort to learn all I could from and about authors I admired.

Imagine my surprise when LAUSD informed me that I was totally unqualified to teach English. Neither professional resume nor a masters in literature cut any rarefied LAUSD ice. Or as one helpful advisor put me wise "We don't teach the story. We teach the standard nowadays."

In other words information is obsolete. Content is passe. We don't have to get bogged down in subject matter. We have the standards to teach. It isn't what a student has learned that matters. It's the student's ability to list the things he or she should have learned.

I'm an old dog, I learn slowly, but I learn. I'm being schooled in the ways of the standards and teachers performance expectations too. So never fear that I have been unloosed on students without thorough redress of my ignorance as to why everything I know and believe about reading and writing is extraneous. Experts and coaches are standing by as we speak.

Boy, I'm glad no really great writers have applied with LAUSD. Think how insufferably ignorant a Doestoyevsky or Woolf or Faulkner or Toni Morrison would be. And the next time some ignoramus starts touting Shakespeare I know what I'm going to say: "Oh, yeah, 'to be or not to be' and all that, but what did the guy know about Reading 2.3?"

No comments: