Education My Ass, and Saint Exupéry

31 August 2014

Today I talked with a friend about her first week of her first year as a teacher in a public school. She already sounds quite discouraged. She went in the first day with enthusiasm about teaching kids geology, math, and Colorado history. She tried… but it sounds like sticking to “curriculum” (preparation for standardised testing) and the reality that most kids are so hyper-stimulated by screens/devices/media that they aren’t even present has already won out (let’s not even go into the part about the absence of parents and role models, morals, and discipline.)

She tried to impart some of her love of rocks, and other old things, but was confronted by a reality that she had constantly tried to deny all through her training.  I could hear the disappointment and resignation in her voice, and also the bargaining that was going on inside- “I know I won’t do this forever; it’s just one year; I can always apply for jobs in private schools.” She really wants to do good; she has exciting ideas for imparting knowledge. But there seems to be no place for it in her public school where some of her ten year old charges can do algebra, some cannot add, and all must be prepared for the next standardised test. And a standardised life?

And then, from Saint  Exupéry’s Wind, Sand, and Stars, perspective:

“I looked about me. Luminous points glowed in the darkness. Cigarettes punctuated the humble meditations of worn old clerks…. I heard them talking to one another in murmurs and whispers. They talked about illness, money, shabby domestic cares. Their talk painted the walls of the dismal prison in which these men had locked themselves up. And suddenly I had a vision of the face of destiny.

Old bureaucrat, my comrade, it is not you who are to blame. No one ever helped you to escape. You, like a termite, built your peace by blocking up with cement every chink and cranny through which the light might pierce. You rolled yourself up into a ball in your genteel security, in routine, in the stifling conventions of provincial life, raising a modest rampart against the winds and the tides and the stars. You have chosen not to be perturbed by great problems, having trouble enough to forget your own fate as a man. You are not the dweller upon an errant planet and do not ask yourself questions to which there are no answers…. Nobody grasped you by the shoulder while there was still time. Now the clay of which you were shaped has dried and hardened, and naught in you will ever awaken the sleeping musician, the poet, the astronomer that possibly inhabited you in the beginning.”



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