Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Why I want to teach in the Failure Program

The school I teach for now, like all the schools I've taught for, has a boatload of "Student Success Programs." Clever pedagogical experiments designed to prepare students to succeed, to lead, to excel.

I wish them luck, but I don't want to work for them.

I want to teach in the Failure Program. I want to look students in the eye, and say, listen, competitive systems, they have losers. I'm glad that you are all planning on being winners, I am, but you do realize there is a good chance that, well, that won't work out for all of you? Statistics, you know...

I've tried compassion. I've tried saying, well yes, but what about those losers, over there, shouldn't we be nice to them? Compassion doesn't work. The other always deserves what she gets.

I tiptoe around my relatively moderate anti-property authors. I preface everything with, "well, this author says." I suggest, mildly, that maybe there might be some trade off between community good and individual riches. They shake their heads. They look confused. I am not preparing them to succeed. Haven't I heard? They are all going to be rich. Why trade that for some lousy public good? Don't I know? "Public," means "crappy," like "public school," "public housing," or "public park." Why mingle with the riffraff?

I want to shake them. I want to shout, "Listen!!!!!" and then whisper, "you're dying." We all lose to death in the end, children, compassion is self interest. What you would visit on the least among you will be visited upon you, soon enough.


kelly said...

Similarly, I'm tired of churches called "The First Church of (place name)". I want to go to a church that sees themselves as dead last. I want to find a church that realizes that the meek shall inherit the earth and that americans aren't meek. I want to spend my time in a place that acknowledges that "Hey, we're really not that important so maybe we should stop talking about us so much and think about God or maybe starving people instead."

But this is merely a dream.

Andy said...

Who was it who said that thing about the first being last and last being first?

Seriously, I'm basically an Atheist at this point, but I would join the "Least and Last Church of (Place Name)"

Dr. E said...

I posted a relevant column from the Chronicle this week on just this subject. See my FB page.

Also, I often think of Mina Shaughnessy's "Error and Expectations." It's a pedagogy book that demands we embrace failure and track it, call it what it is, and work, usually slowly, to reverse it if we can...she's had many critics, but she focused on failure, among the first to breathe the word in English teaching.

kelly said...

Andy, that would be Jesus that said that. Did you sleep through all your confirmation classes? :D

Our society, in its focus on individualism, places far too much emphasis on success and winning instead of keeping your head down and doing what you're supposed to do.