Wednesday, July 21, 2010


A wonderful friend and I had a cookout chez moi the other evening.  She is also an educator, although in higher ed, and we began discussing the topic of what it means to be "polished" in the world of education.  Although it may have a positive connotation, it's definitely a backhanded compliment, and definitely that I'm not ready to prescribe to.  Here are some reasons why:

  • Whenever I come across someone who is "polished" in education, I am not sure if I can trust what they're telling me.  My pal and I described it as accepting the "kool aid."  For example, a politician or even an over eager administrator says that this is what we're going to do, without a) having any idea if it's really good or bad for kids, or b)because someone above them has sold them this crap because if they "buy in" then their futures look brighter.  I question people's motives sometimes.  I like to call it critical thinking, something I'm rather a fan of and encourage and teach my students to do.  It's tough because teaching students to be a critical thinker means to question authority at the risk of losing favor, but to also maintain a balance of respect.  Not an easy line for anyone, especially teens with still-forming frontal lobes, to teeter on.
  • Polished people often don't do the research on what the "kool aid" actually is.  Although it's refreshing at first and quenches one's thirst (didn't mean to be a poet, I swear), it's actually filled with tons of garbage.  Take for instance NCLB (No Child Left Behind) or Obama's "Race to the Top." (Looking at the political side of this, you can see that I certainly do not stand on one of side of the political spectrum or the other; I am spiritual, not political.)  Both programs look shiny on the outside, but once you start digging deeper, you see that they are both founded on ideas and principles that squash out what education is really about:  teaching children, who don't all fit into the same size or shaped box.  Anything that is formed by a politician or even one with those aspirations, have totally lost site or have no idea what they are talking about.  The depth of their program is one-sided and does not serve all, as public education is supposed to.   
  • Polished people have sold their "edge" to see things as they really are.  They always have a smile on their face because they aren't facing reality and missing the breath of an entire situation that they are supposed to fix with their product.  If I put my head in the sand when reality hit, I would be smiling too, like most politicians.  Ergo, I am not a fan of governors of education.  They have aspirations that are not about education whatsoever.  Look at Charlie Crist down in Florida, the once Governor of Education...he's now the governor and looking to move to the senate.  Thanks for looking out, Charlie.  As many can see down in Florida, many don't want to send their kids to public schools in that state.  Way to make a difference, but I gotta tell ya, he looks good in his pictures.  This can be seen all over our country, unfortunately.  
Am I a little rough around the edges?  Yes, certainly.  I could probably use a little self editing, I know this.  But at least I'm honest.  I know many who are the same way.  It's tough to be guided by programs that you can't buy or swallow, if you will.  I don't totally buy the polished people.  I'm forced to do my own reading and research whenever I'm being pitched to.  I think that's fair and responsible of me.  I encourage you to do the same.
Becoming "polished" seems to have its benefits:  the leadership position that you always wanted in order to make a difference, the higher up friendships, etc.  I'm blessed to work in a frank atmosphere.  Your heart and credentials seem to matter most of all, but I know that's not the way it is everywhere.  So, I urge you to be careful before buying into something that you don't know much about!

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