Essential edPython – Cheese Shop
Here’s my attempt to harvest back something useful from the strange 10 minute gaps in my day. Today s the first in short series on the essential Monty Python sketches about teaching and ed reform.
First up, Cheese Shop.
I can’t hope to speak to the person who’s watching that for the first time. I’ll give you a few years to cackle over Venezuelan Beaver Cheese, the bouzouki and “senseless waste of human life.” Similar to Dead Parrot and others, the Cheese Shop exists at the horribly wonderful extreme where structure has fully subsumed meaning.
But what kills me in faculty meetings, and makes me weep when reading KIPP/MOOC fluff pieces, is Cleese’s challenge to Palin’s description of the shop as “finest in the district.” “Explain the logic underlying that conclusion.” aka, “Show me your metrics!” Maybe Palin’s right! Maybe the other cheese shops are similarly barren but also drowning in filth! If the other options involve a slog through waist deep refuse, then Mr. Wenslydale’s rightfully proud of his clean well lighted place for bouzouki.
This sketchy is my touchstone for a behavior rampant across schools, cities, states or any large organization where the structure treis to produce complex behavior through a small set of levers and metrics. Mr Wenslydale, diligently scrubbing down the inside of his empty cheese case, is optimizing for a tertiary effect. Schools acquiesce to an assessment regime because they’re looking for a more immediate indicator on how their approaching the long goal of enfranchised and competent young people. But once we have a metric, we double down and optimize. Administrations, districts and states devise incentives and penalties around that measured moment, adding real consequences for students and faculty, further warping the their attention horizon.
Across the country, teachers and students spend spring mopping down empty storefronts instead of finding a cow.