Rufus T. Firefly
President: Huxley College

I often explain to graduate students that I don’t play devil’s advocate or any other clever games. Just because I may say something unsaid by others, does not mean that I don’t come to that perspective after careful thought and introspection.

Being an educator is a sacred obligation. Those of us who know better, need to do better and stand between the defenseless children we serve and the madness around us. If a destructive idea needs to be challenged or a right defended, I’ll speak up.

My career allows me to spend time in lots of classrooms around the world and to work with thousands of educators each year. This gives me perspective. I am able to identify patterns, good and bad, often before colleagues become aware of the phenomena. I have been blessed with a some communication skills and avenues for expression. I’ve published hundreds of articles and spoken at even more conferences.

People seem interested in what I have to say and for that I am extremely grateful.

The problem is that I am increasingly called upon to argue against a popular trend. That tends to make me unpopular. In the field of education, where teachers are “nice,” criticism is barely tolerated. Dissent is seen as defect and despite all of my positive contributions to the field, I run the risk of being dismissed as “that negative guy.”

Recently, I have written or been quoted on the following topics:

I’ve also written against homework, NCLB, RTTT, Michelle Rhee, Eli Broad, Joel Klein, standardized testing, Education Nation, Common Core Curriculum Standards, Accelerated Reader, merit pay, Arne Duncan, union-busting, Cory Booker, Teach for America, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, mayoral control, the ISTE NETs, Hooked-on-Phonics, President Obama’s education policies, etc… You get the idea.

The “Jetbow” sandwich at NY’s Carnegie Deli

These are perilous times for educators. When once bad education policy was an amuse-bouche you could easily ignore, it has become a Carnegie Deli-sized shit sandwich. Educators are literally left to pick their own poison, when choice is permitted at all. If I take a stand against a fad or misguided education policy, my intent is to inform and inspire others to think differently or take action.

So why, pray tell am I boring my dear readers with my personal angst? An old friend and colleague just invited me to write a magazine article about the “Flipped Classroom.” Sure, I think the flipped classroom is a preposterous unsustainable trend, masquerading as education reform, in which kids are forced to work a second unpaid shift because adults refuse to edit a morbidly obese curriculum. But….

The question is, “Do I wish to gore yet another sacred cow?” Is speaking truth to power worth the collateral damage done to my career?

In the 1960s, the great Neil Postman urged educators to hone highly-tuned BS and crap detectors. Those detectors need to be set on overdrive today. I’m concerned that I’m the only one being burned.

What to do? What to do?

I don’t know what they have to say
It makes no difference anyway
Whatever it is, I’m against it!
No matter what it is
Or who commenced it
I’m against it!

Your proposition may be good
But let’s have one thing understood
Whatever it is, I’m against it!
And even when you’ve changed it
Or condensed it
I’m against it!

Whatever It Is, I'm Against It
by Harry Ruby & Bert Kalmar 
From the Marx Bros. film "Horse Feathers" (1932)

 

Just in case you didn’t think teachers have enough to contend with after massive budget cuts, layoffs, standardized testing and scores published by teacher in the Los Angeles Times. The President of the United States applauded a school that fired all of its teachers. NBC news is dedicating an unprecedented number of hours to one-sided discussions about education. A film blaming everything but global warming on the sudden catclysmic epidemic of bad teachers and money-hungry unions is coming to a cineplex near you.

Yesterday, Her Royal Highness, Oprah Winfrey piled on by doing an entire show on bad teachers. Her guests were two of the 3 or 4 Americans allowed to discuss education on television, Bill Gates and Michelle Rhee.

I have written quite a bit about Bill Gates’ hostile takeover of public education in GOOD Magazine, The Huffington Post and my own blog.

Oprah Winfrey, for all of the good she has done falls for the same handful of magic education beans over and over again. Bill Gates has been a guest before to provide Oprah with a reason to tell poor children that poverty and race no longer matter if you just do enough homework and learn to take standardized tests.

I wrote about Oprah’s troublesome views on education for District Administration Magazine back in 2007 when she was about to open her private school in South Africa.

Here is an excerpt from Oprah’s Edifice Complex. (June 2007)

Even a casual Oprah watcher can name Ms. Winfrey’s best friend, favorite actors, party planner, beloved authors, mentors, medical expert, personal trainer, hair stylist, home decorator, chef, financial advisor and spiritual guru. Oprah shares her favorite experts, friends and ideas with her audience. That’s her brand. If Oprah thinks it, you might too. If Oprah loves a product, you need to run out and buy one.

I have read and watched everything I could to learn more about Oprah’s school, and yet nagging questions remain. What is the educational philosophy of the school?

What do you think? Please comment below.