Saturday, November 10, 2012


The other day I was in attendance at an educational workshop where the presenter reacted, as a put-down toward an audience member, with the response, all kids are smart.  And then she proffered that all kids are really smart.  

Ah, such chutzpah and grandiloquence! Ah, such rhetoric!  Too bad the presenter's employer does not acknowledge this titbit of insight, ever unbending in policy to even pretend that all kids are smart.  Loyal servants of public education are constantly reminding teachers of this campy all kids are smart epithet. Such a phrase lacks scholastic value. In fact, such a phrase is pragmatically nonsensical when considered in a school setting. 

As if teachers do not really know that all kids are smart in some regard.  Ironically, edicts from school boards rarely allow for any smarts other than those designated as academic, to be measured on company time.  In almost military fashion, school systems keep dispatching soldiers to march down teacher street and deliver their collectivistic dogma to the masses.  If the notion that all-kids-are-smart were true, teachers would continually be assigning A's for effort on every learning occasion. Teachers are not allowed to do this, just as they are not allowed to flunk everyone on every learning occasion.  

Everyone, including teachers, knows that smarts do exist elsewhere than academia.  Everyone does know that Dick is really street smart and that Jane is really intuitively smart and that Zeke is really mechanically smart.  

Such all-kids-are-smart epithets delivered by school system servants definitely lack sincerity, especially when one considers that schools measure success specifically in only an academic way, the way of percentages.  This system of teacher measurement is scribbled thrice per semester on every student's report card, and is adhered to at year end in a student's grade level placement, which in turn, is determined by percentages.  Any student receive a failing grade in a high school English class, for example, (a grade lower than 50%), must repeat that class. 

Most students pass their classes. But there are some students who do fail.  If school board members and players truly believe that all kids are really smart, then it is also true that we reward really smart students by having them repeat certain classes.   

The fact is we value competition.  We value it in sports (for in every contest there is but one winner), and we value it in the workplace (where only a chosen few become the boss). And we value it in school, where the assigned valedictorians and award recipients have reputations for having passed their classes with high percentages. Perhaps this is a bad thing, perhaps it is not.  Whatever it is, it is what it is. 

Right from the pre-kindergarten get-go until grade twelve graduations, students formally compete with one another. The bluster that all kids are really smart  hypocritically delivered yearly at teacher conventions and workshops does not change anything.  Though teachers are obligated in spirit to adhere to the nature of that particular philosophy (as evidenced in their subjective and student-centered teaching methodologies), they are contractually and contrarily obligated to be totally objective in their specific marking policies.    

Our school systems endeavor in earnest to have teachers travel both roads, the philosophic all- kids-are-smart super paved-with-good-intentions highway, and the pragmatic all-kids-are-not-smart gravelly grid road.

Oh, East is East and West is West, and the twain shall never meet. Despite the parallax, students in our school systems are taught to pursue their dreams of becoming movie stars, medical doctors, professional athletes, and presidents.  Teachers ever encourage children to become these dreams, whilst teaching them to exhibit politeness, respect, and cooperation in the process.  But at the end, all the real life events and challenges, both in and out of school, have a way of tempering such glowing passions into sometimes dim realities.

Alas, adhering to the educational argot, if ever the twains did meet we’d be living in a button-down world of e’er-do-wells, a world where anyone showing up would be a winner, a world in which a a prize or trophy would no longer be considered a valued possession.

And what does all this have to do with busking?  Just as school systems attempt to allow for individualism in an environmentally collective sort of a way, those persons choosing to be buskers display, too, their individual talents in a collective setting.  But buskers are loners.  We strive to strum, toot, or sing, standing alone among the masses. We unwittingly by social design, co-exist among the barons and beggars, performing on that median betwixt the pavement and the gravel.

When the final bell has rung and the last transcript has been delivered, being educated means not letting someone else determine what we cannot become; selfishly, being educated means realizing what we wish to become we can become.

Fellow buskers, we are among the privileged few who recognize that richness and reward can either be money or metaphor; and we are among the privileged few who recognize that the scholastic line between the e’er-do-wells and ne’er- do-wells is a blur, duller than it is bright.  


No comments:

Post a Comment