Sunday, March 31, 2013

The "ick!" Factor

I stopped watching Louisville-Duke when the guy broke his leg. It grossed me out. Every player landing on their one foot has me expecting a snap and collapse. I know it's unlikely to happen again, but emotion trumps logic on this one. Ick!

My wife said, and yet you were fine when our daughter's friend broke her arm in front of you.

Sure, I said. I had things to do. There wasn't room to be creeped out.

Most people, she said, would see it the other way around. The TV break would just be a thing that sort of happened, while the thing in front of them would freak them out completely.

My wife is right about most everything, but not this.

Things are creepy on television because we only see the ickiness. When things happen in our own lives we see all the other stuff that's going on.

So when our daughter's friend broke her arm, I saw clearly, but I also saw her shocked, pale face. I saw my daughter scared over what had happened. I knew that no one, not even the girl who had fallen, understood what was going on as I did. In the moment I knew she had to get to a hospital, that we needed her mother, that I would carry her to the parking lot, and so on. I could see that the girl needed someone to talk to her and that my daughter had to be comforted. When the mother and a two other women arrived, I had to walk her through it and keep the other women from upsetting the girl or her mother.

On television, the girl's arm would have been the whole focus. The "ick" factor would have to be established.  That's just how storytelling works.

So it is too with storytelling in the news. One example is that the American educational system is worse than it has ever been. Just look at the test scores!

It's a convincing story that if kids can't score well, the schools are failing and we need better teachers, more rigorous lessons, and a shitload more testing.


So the story leads us to believe.

There's a larger picture involving poverty, bad funding systems, an emphasis on "work" instead of learning, over-crowded classrooms, wholesale lay-offs, and the death of morale in schools. That big picture is interesting and one that we could work on. The narrow view put out by Arne Duncan, Michelle Rhee, Bill Gates and others is icky and revolting. We want it changed right now! But that's what gets us in trouble. It carries us over the edge and plunges us into the deep end.

It helps to see the whole situation. That's what I'm trying to do with schooling.

When that Louisville kid's leg broke, trainers went right to work. They weren't stuck on the ick that I felt watching on television. They were there and had things to do. They also weren't watching TV or taking someone else's word for it.

Next time you hear about how bad your kid's school is and that there is an easy fix or someone to blame, take a breath, make some time, go into the building and see what's going on. You'll know what to do then.

I work in schools every day of the school year. It has given me a whole host of ideas. Only one of which is, with regard to schools and a new way forward, to write on.