Tie And Jeans

Archive for the tag “monty python”

Essential EdPython – Being Hit On The Head

I did the VAIS presentation today, thanks in large part to the generous loan of a projector from Claire and Michelle, two fantastic #MakerEd pioneers from Highland School. I know how egregious the venue charges for LCD projectors are, but it’s a real mindwarp to walk in to a room and see an honest to god overhead projector set up. I could have made it work if I had the crank-system installed.

After the presentation, a dozen great conversations that were all pressed for time, and four hours in the car, I don’t have a many specific memories from the day.

But I know I used this classic stolen-from-Alfie Kohn bit of EdPython.

Alfie calls this Better Get Used To It, but the phrase I hear in actual use is They’re Going To Need It. I guess the later formulation allows us to absolve ourselves of any guilt. It’s not just that the world (by which we mean school, which we’re in the process of creating and recreating every day) inflicts this horrible thing on young people, and we’re the early messengers. No, if they’re “going to need it” then the implication is that we’ve performed some daring and far reaching reconnaissance, and discovered a surprising hurdle in everyone’s life where this unpleasant and baffling experience will prove invaluable.

We’re very careful to wash out hands of all responsibility in that sentence. It’s college admission boards! It’s the testing companies! It’s our competitor schools! For any rational actor, there would come a point where the costs associated with a certain path became so onerous that alternatives, even less consistent ones, became viable. Never so in schools, where the entire notion of cost and choice evaporate between the actors, and we’re all left bemoaning what students have to do.

Like the Godin quote that Laura linked to yesterday, these arguments deal with avoiding possible consequences that are possibly negative. These are the “if, if” outcomes of which we fear the fear. Third order effects, indeed.


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.

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