Friday, November 29, 2013

The Seven Blind Mice of Education Reform: A Field Guide

Perhaps you know the ancient parable from the Indian subcontinent, The Blind Men and the Elephant. The story has been told and adapted many times. If you don’t know it you can find a video adaptation here. In a picture book retelling of the story, Ed Young, the Caldecott Medal winning author, recasts the men as mice for The Seven Blind Mice. If you don’t know that story you can find it read aloud here.

The story is the tale of blind men (or mice) who upon encountering an elephant disagree as to what the creature might be based on their own limited experience gained from touching one part of the mysterious creature. In the mousey version, a seventh hero mouse runs all over the whole creature and determines what it truly is – an elephant.

I got to thinking; lots of people are telling educators today what they should be doing. They have identified the problem with their narrow vision and they are ready to tell us how to fix it. To me they are like the blind mice of the tale above, looking at one part of the whole and claiming understanding.  And so I present a new tale intended as a field guide for those who may be invaded by these vermin. I identify each species by its Latin name. A description is followed by recommended reading for further understanding of the type.

Education Reforming Mice, A Field Guide

1. No Excusem Charterus – easily identifiable for his mating call “KIPP, KIPP.” Known to favor harsh climates. Responds only to rigid, ritualistic behavior commands. When one member of this group fails to follow rituals, s/he is shunned by the group and placed in exile in a land called Onthebench. Known to push disruptive or special needs members of the species out of the nest.
            Recommended reading: “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson.

2. Commonus Corpus Colemanus – A close examination of the Colemanus shows a species that was
kicked out of the nest at an early age. Still compensating for early childhood disappointments. Seeks to make sure that all young mice have a similarly joyless youth through slavish adherence to narrowed learning experiences and numerous yearly standardized mazes to run through. When young mice complain of mistreatment replies harshly, “Nobody gives a s**t how you feel.”

            Recommended reading: Are You My Mother?, by P.D. Eastman

3. Scabus for Americanus (SFA) – Bright and enthusiastic, the Scabus for Americanus will dive into the most difficult project with minimal training. Often found inhabiting ivy covered walls. Willing to invade the turf of more experienced members of the species for a warm nest and a small cheese allowance. Known to abandon their habitat after a short tenure for more cozy confines in the hedge or on the ladder.

            Recommended Reading: Teach for Us, Gary Rubinstein's blog

4. Tyranus Rheemus – mutant strain of Scabus for Americanus, this species has over developed ego
and underdeveloped empathic response. Known to sprinkle every communication with trademark call, “I…I…I….” Favors public humiliation of underlings, but abandons post at first signs of distress. Silences critics with masking tape. Approach with caution.

            Recommended Reading – The Prince, Maciavelli

5. Secretarius Duncanus – tallest of the species. Athletic with striking gray coat, but a clumsy communicator. Often seen foraging in public with his foot in his mouth. When cornered will blame any convenient target. Unwelcome in suburban homes and at tea parties. Always ready for a game, he is known to offer bribes to get others to play ball.
            Recommended Reading: The Peter Principle, Lawrence Peter


6. Plutochrus Uberallus – enjoys sticking his nose in areas where he has no expertise. Uses obscene riches
to unduly influence other education reform mice and political mice. Likes to talk about accountability, but accepts none for own actions. Talks about the need for “churn” in the teaching profession. When asked what will happen with teacher mice who lose their jobs says, “Let’m eat cheese.”

            Recommended Reading: Plutocrats at Work, Joanne Barkan

7. Ravitchus Heroicus – The hero of the story. Uses deep understanding of educational issues to see the
whole picture. Battles back at reform mice with books and blogs. Recognizes that ill-advised educational policies cannot overcome the poverty that many mice face daily. Champions teachers, while calling for improvements in curriculum and instruction. Borrows her battle cry from another famous mouse, “Here I come to save the day!”
            Recommended Reading: Reign of Error, by Diane Ravitch

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