"Mirror, Mirror"

Mirror MirrorI’m wrong quite regularly.

That’s OK – I’ve learned to live with it. I’m actually getting pretty good at it. Sometimes I throw stuff out there I’m not entirely sold on myself, seeking refutation from which I can learn or to which I can cling. 

Other times I just like to stir the pot a bit and see what comes to the surface. Some learners are more kinetic, others more verbal – I learn best from provocation. It’s a gift. 

I’m blessed to be surrounded by people who disagree with me about any number of important things. Some inform me regularly that I’m full of stuff one does not normally wish to be full of for any length of time. Others enjoy the heated engagement as much as I do. 

It’s nice to have people online agree with me, especially when I’m so often insightful and witty, but it’s equally appreciated when I’m challenged – or even called out on my overconfident snark-flinging. 

Other times, though, I find conflicts springing up not because I disagree with someone, or they with me – rather, it comes because we’re not even operating under the same set of assumptions. My paradigm crashes into their paradigm and awkward frustration ensues. 

Mirror MirrorPerhaps this is my failure to communicate clearly. I can be a bit scattered and make all the wrong assumptions and it's just... yikes.

Often, though, I think it has more to do with entrenched worldviews - paradigms which deserve to be challenged, or at least questioned. If they can't withstand a little examination, they're not very good worldviews, are they?

For example, I’ve long been an advocate for a much wider and looser definition of ‘essential curriculum’. I don’t believe every child needs to focus on the exact same subjects at the exact same point in their lives or reach the exact same cut score to have any chance of being a useful human being. I find state standards – here or most places – to be an unacceptably haphazard, outdated, narrow-minded selection of hit’n’miss priorities yoked with punitive standardized exams. And yet, it is towards this freakish mélange that we devote the largest chunk of school resources, priorities, and evaluations.

I find it inconsistent at best (and grossly hypocritical at most likely) that we hold so sacred and homilize so vigorously standards for EVERY child – HIGHER standards – ESSENTIAL standards – The HIGHEREST HIGH STANDARDS OF ESSENTIAL HIGHNESS, without which all youth are destined to wallow in mediocrity and food stamps – which most of us holding good jobs or enjoying fulfilling careers probably couldn’t pass without substantial preparation. 

Mirror Mirror 2Standards which those making the rules couldn’t pass even with preparation. 

Not because they’re SO HIGH, but because they’re simply not necessary or useful to us on a daily basis. 

Those for whom ‘improved test scores’ acts as a synonym for ‘richer learning’ and an immutable antecedent of ‘good employment and greater personal fulfillment’ read such claims and don’t merely disagree – they shudder in horror and outrage at the very suggestion that math is stupid and unnecessary, no one needs to know science, why should you study history if you’re not going to become a historian, and reading is for pale, sickly nerds who can’t play hockey. 

Except that I haven’t said anything remotely like that – not in my world. 

In theirs, however, it’s quite genuinely the same thing. “It’s inane to hold every last child from every variety of circumstance and with all sorts of different strengths, interests, abilities, and opportunities, to the exact same Algebra II requirement and cut score or they can’t graduate high school” reads 100% the same to them as “When am I ever going to need math?”

This is the same sort of conflation used less innocently by edu-reformers to push their agendas. They open with a statement with which only bad yucky stupid people would disagree – such as “All children can learn!” Everyone in earshot nods vigorously, grunts in assent, and looks around uncomfortably as if expecting any moment to be confronted with a vile defier of child potential.

The Bringers of this New Wisdom then slide quickly into some variation of “So of course we must sit them at these screens for 6-hour periods without looking around, going pee, or reading talking thinking sleeping moving breathing loudly fidgeting or otherwise indicating they are a life form for hours and hours and hours even after they’re done because HIGH STANDARDS ACCOUNTABILITY POTENTIAL GLOBAL MARKET! 

Mirror MirrorIf you question the validity or long-term value of this test, the North Koreans have pretty much already won – all thanks to YOU, the soft bigotry of low expectations outdated edu-relic hippie-who-destroys-the-future labor union drone.

Because it’s the same to them – the test is the potential is the belief in the children is success is what we do. 

I usually leave it to others, then, to explain once more why such thinking is false. Why such assumptions are misguided. Why the efforts built on these perversions are not merely doomed to fail but dooming those consumed by them in the meantime. 

I simply lack the words to make those connections – not for those who disagree with me, but for those occupying an entirely different reality stream. In their worlds, Worf marries Troi, Britta keeps that blue streak in her hair despite the disapproval of Evil Abed, Vampire Willow is eternally “bored now”, and Captain America is irrevocably white. I’m not condemning their paradigm, it’s just that I can’t – 

No, I take that back. I’m totally condemning their paradigm.

Get over it, people. Testing and education are not the same. You cling to this only out of brainwashing or fear you cannot fight it – but you can. Come with me – keep me honest, if you must, but join me in this timeline. We can take Sunnydale back, keep Community on NBC, and let Willow find her own gay in her own way.

As to Worf, I always thought him with Troi was kinda neat. So we’ll keep that. 

Mirror Mirror

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