joshwriting: (Default)
The following was written from a writing prompt of my own, as part of an offer I made on Jan 17, 2014. This story is for Melissa Bilash.

School of Thought

He sat in the waiting room, running through both his responses to likely questions and his own questions for the interviewer or interviewers. The key, he was sure, was his understanding the school’s philosophy. That was the problem. He had read the school philosophy and mission statement and found himself with more questions than answers.

What is the philosophy of this school?

That was what the school’s philosophy page said. The mission statement was ever so much more helpful: “To help us to develop an answer to the question posed in our philosophy section.
It was almost enough to make him wonder why he’d come for the interview, but he found it intriguing in ways that schools had not been for him in many years, if ever. Hence his presence and his thoughts. Sample lesson? Maybe. Personal philosophy of education? Almost certainly. Preferred subjects? Perhaps, but that was covered on his resume. Why was he looking to change jobs? Seemed likely.

Determining the right questions to ask felt harder. Payroll and benefits questions were out, even if he wanted to ask them, which he generally didn’t. How much prep time per classroom hour seemed fair. Chances for collaboration with other teachers seemed both fair and desirable. Bringing the inside out and the outside in! One of his strengths and a good thing to raise if they don’t. And something about their philosophy and mission seemed called for, but damned if he could figure out how to phrase it.

A woman opened the door. “Hi Michael, I’m Thea. Thank you for coming. Let me introduce you to the others.” She went around the table, giving their names, but each of them also had a tented paper in front with their name on it. She handed Michael another of the tented papers and a few colored markers and invited him to do the same. “Granted, we are likelier to remember your name, since we each have a copy of your resume in front of us, but fair is fair! And we figured to not make this a contest to see how many names you can remember after an initial introduction. Though I did know a school psychologist once who thought that was a valid way of gaining information about the intelligence of candidates.” That last was said with a broad, welcoming smile.

Petra spoke up. “This is not going to be a standard interview, Michael. I’m not even sure most folks would call it an interview at all. We’d like to have a conversation with you, rather than just a Q & A session.” She paused for a moment to let that sink in. “In your cover letter, you introduced the concept of bringing the outside in and taking the inside out. We banged on that a bit in our applicant review process and decided we really needed your input to make sure we understood what you meant by it, as we presumed you were going beyond guest speakers and field trips, but we knew that a cover letter would not really give you the space you needed to present the idea thoroughly.”

Even as Michael engaged the topic and shared some of his ideas, he thought to himself, “Oh. I think I’m beginning to get it.”
joshwriting: (Default)

Today is the 55th anniversary of the United States Supreme Court's declaration that 'separate but equal' is not a viable approach to education - that it was never, in fact, equal even if the communities involved wished to claim otherwise.

The above link goes into some of the underlying issues then, since, and now far more thoroughly than I would have thought to. It included bits I'd not known, including a Virginia county's response to totally shut down their public schools rather than permit them to be integrated!

It has a couple of quotes from a later decision in which SCOTUS observed that education is not a (US) constitutionally protected right:

Justice Lewis Powell agreed. “Though education is one of the most important services performed by the state, it is not within the limited category of rights recognized by this Court as guaranteed by the Constitution.” If it were, Powell conceded, “virtually every State will not pass muster.

Justice Thurgood Marshall, who had won Brown v. Board of Education as an attorney, responded in his dissent:

The Court concludes that public education is not constitutionally guaranteed,” he wrote, even though “no other state function is so uniformly recognized as an essential element of our society’s well being.

"Separate but equal" is the education system mandated by our funding mechanisms and by our economic structures. It is no more equal, no more appropriate today than it ever was.

Perhaps it is time that education be given status as a right. Perhaps it is time for another Constitutional amendment.
joshwriting: (Default)
[ profile] siderea has a habit of posting thought-provoking notions and articles. Recently, she posted a snippet from
on the role negative advertising plays and how negative impressions, once formed, are harder to eliminate than positives are.

This is not exactly new, conceptually. The aphorisms about people's reputations abound. Tearing down has always been easier than building up. A snippet from the article:

The most recent study on the effects of negative opinions appears in the August issue of Political Psychology. It shows that you can create negative attitudes so subtly that people dont even realize theyve been manipulated, and that once the attitude is established, it seems to inoculate the person against changing his or her mind. In a series of experiments, psychologists George Bizer and Richard Petty presented people with fake newspaper articles about two opposing candidates. Once participants indicated their preferences, the researchers asked half of each candidates supporters to rate how strongly they supported their candidate, and asked the other half to rate how strongly they opposed the other candidate, thus leading half the subjects to conceptualize their support negatively. Then Bizer and Petty gave everyone the second half of the articles, which presented damning facts about their preferred candidate.

Overwhelmingly, people whose attitudes had been negatively framed adhered to their support for their candidate much more than did the people whose attitudes had been positively framed. Thus negative framing seems to enhance a voters loyalty to his or her preferred candidate.

I was initially struck by this in the context in which it was written. The political implications were harsh and scary.

But while that still fascinates me, I am more moved yet by the following to implications:

Teachings of prejudice, whether structured or accidental, seem much the same to me. There are lasting images of stereotypes that are nigh unto impossible to shake. Ethnic humor is expressly included in that.

As important is our self-image. How easily to we absorb that negative self-image and how difficult is it, then to shake that off?

I find myself wondering what happens (or would happen, I suppose) if the people being poked at were told a) before; b) during; and/or c) after the experiment about this effect on their thoughts. Could they then successfully get past the negative to either a place of balanced neutrality or positive view?

To me, this all ties back to both the issue of "PC" vs. sensitivity and the issue of how we raise and teach children.


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