Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Screw The American Dream (and the Common Core)

I just finished mowing the lawn. I have tried and failed to learn to enjoy the job. It reminds me that I don't own my house, my house owns me. I don't like to mow the lawn, yet I own a lawn to mow.. Why? I would just as soon have sand or rocks instead. Yet, there's my lawn and there's me mowing it.

Isn't this the American dream? Get a job, buy a house, have a family. That's what people do. That's success. That's what we want, right? Maybe not.

I found a link to a cartoon version of something Bill Watterson wrote about quitting the crap job and throwing expectations. It's just not worth it to work a life away when instead there is so much play available to us. I like that idea. My job doesn't make me happy, surrounds me with bosses I don't respect, and leaves me feeling empty.

Since my job is teaching, I got thinking about the Common Core/education reform nonsense. All kids, pre-kindergarten through college, are to be made "college and career ready." It's a slogan that sells but is empty. My job as a teacher is not to make kids college and career ready, it's to help them live good lives.

Bill Gates is a big proponent of this education reform stuff and he is held up as an example of what we want from schools. Look at him, he's an innovator, a creator, a man who makes the world better.


Bill Gates is less a creator than a consumer and mostly a magnificent negotiator. He made his fortune when he bought Q-DOS and then leased individual copies of it rebranded as MS-DOS to IBM. Microsoft Word was created by an employee Gates hired after he had already created the predecessor to Word called BRAVO. On and on the list goes of what Gates bought in order to make Microsoft and the brilliance of his business negotiations.  He is a top businessman, no question, but he is in no model for the kinds of things kids should do. Just because he is rich does not give him any moral high ground.

Rather than model our schools on Bill Gates and an American Dream that saddles us with lawns to mow, rather than sell kids the idea that a Lexus is the pinnacle of achievement, why don't we look elsewhere for models.

I want my girls to be artists, dancers, poets, and novelists. I want them to live in small houses preferably without lawns. I want them to drive inexpensive cars that last for decades. I want them not to care about buying the newest thing or tuning into the latest reality show.

I want the same things for my students. So their models should be poets and dancers, artists and ultra-marathoners, mountain climbers and organic farmers. Instead of training them to read machine instruction manuals and corporate policy documents, they should learn to paint landscapes.

If making money is the goal, a lot of my kids have that down. They use and sell drugs making as much money as I make. One former student is a stripper in Florida. She makes way more money than I make. Each of those is at least as moral as Wall Street investing or Congressional politics. I'll take a kid selling pot over a K-Street lobbyist. The former may steal my phone while the latter is likely to take my whole neighborhood.

I reject the Common Core and the attendant American Dream. You know what I believe in? That there is nothing more worthwhile than continuing to write on.