Blagojevich and Education’s Sad Reality

I’m somewhat ashamed to admit this, but I am a Reality TV junkie.  Plain and simple.

As addicted as they come. 

Jersey Shore is my morning chaser, Judge Mathis is my afternoon fix-of-choice, and I’ve been known to spend days on the couch hooked by marathons of Cops and The Real World.

Heck, my wife almost divorced me when she found out that I was watching Cheaters with my infant daughter during our 3 AM feedings!  Something about inappropriate content for a minor.

So it should come as no surprise to you that I spent two hours soaking in a bit of Celebrity Apprentice last night, right?

This season—Trump’s ninth as a talent-spotter in the board room—has a cast like you’ve never seen before, all competing for charities of their choice.  Cyndi Lauper makes me laugh every week with mindless babbling that Sharon Osbourne barely tolerates.

The men are anchored by their own music superstar—Brett Michaels from Poison (the greatest band of all time, by the way)—and the one-time world’s fastest man, Michael Johnson.

My favorite celebrity of Season 9, however, has to be the disgraced former governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich.  I mean, how can you not like a guy whose hair is horrible but not half as bad as his decision-making?

Faced with the very real possibility of jail time, Blogo’s turn to the reality world is a cheap attempt to win sympathies with potential jurors—-not all that hard to do when you’re playing to win $20K for Pediatric Cancer patients!

Being an educator interested in the role that technology should play in teaching and learning, Blogo’s performance in this week’s episode was equal parts instructive and frightening.

Blogo was asked by Michael Johnson—his project manager—to visit the Norton Antivirus website to collect information about  different forms of identity theft for an advertising campaign they were responsible for designing.

While Johnson wanted nothing more than a simple list created in a Word file, Blogo was completely stumped.

First, he couldn’t figure out how to turn the team-provided laptop on.  Then, he wasn’t sure how to get on the Internet or to navigate to Norton’s website.  Finally, he turned out to be the worst two-finger, hunt-and-pecker known to man, churning out just under one paragraph in 30+ minutes of work.

Think about THAT for a minute:  A man who was once the leader of one of the most influential states in the nation—a policymaker above all other policymakers—couldn’t figure out how to turn a laptop on or find a website on the Internet. 

When prompted to explain his digital incompetence, Blogo’s reply caught me by surprise.  “Come on,” he said.  “I was a governor of an entire state and a Congressman before that.  I didn’t need to do any work on the computer.  I had employees who would do that for me.

“I guess technology has just passed me by.”

Sure, Blogo:  technology HAS passed a lot of people by.  My grandmother can’t get on the Internet either.  Never owned a computer.  But she’s not voting on legislation that is going to impact the education of children, either.  She just plays bridge a few times a week and enjoys her grandchildren!

Shouldn’t a guy who has had huge influence over the direction that schools are heading in his state and in our country have SOME basic knowledge about the role technology can play in an individual’s life?  Is it really possible to vote on policies and to offer guidance around what is happening in classrooms without even knowing how to get to the Internet?

And then to explain it away as, “I was a Congressman.  What do you expect?” is classic.

Just classic!

Now, had it not been for earlier experiences with incompetent
policymakers
—I was once introduced to a legislator widely acclaimed as
the most knowledgeable Congressman on education issues in the nation
who had never heard of the National Board for Professional Teaching
Standards—I would have been slack-jawed.

But I learned long ago that policymakers aren’t the intellectual superheroes that we expect them to be.

Instead, most of the time, they’re just Average Joes—and some of the time, they’re way, way below Average Joes who just happened to say the right things to get elected.  While it’s likely that they know a little something about a little something, they rarely know enough about everything to make good decisions about anything.

(Does that make sense?)

What I’m trying to say is that we just can’t expect policymakers to get it right very often, and yet they’ve got HUGE influence over what is happening in our nation’s classrooms.

Drawing from the limited experience that they had as students just this side of forever ago—or the 20 minutes a year they spend reading Oh the Places You’ll Go to a kindergarten class on Dr. Seuss’s birthday in order to get some quick publicity—they’re crafting policies that will impact schools for decades.

(Or at least until the next under-informed charismatic clown with big hair and a cheap smile rides a populous wave and gets himself elected instead!)

I’m being a pessimist again, aren’t I? 

Of COURSE I am.  Blogo couldn’t even find the ON BUTTON, y’all!  That’s reason enough for a bit of righteous, justified, self-inflicted pessimism, don’t you think?

Pessimism OR for a sea of teachers to start raising their voices.

You see, our only hope of ever seeing education rescued in this country is for intelligent policies start trickling through the morass that is “the legislature,” whether that’s at the local, state or national level—-and the only chance of that happening is if well-intentioned policymakers start listening to intelligent people.

Read:  Teachers who are actually working in classrooms on a daily basis.  Who know what it means to try to reach children living in poverty.  Who understand the role that changing technologies can play in instruction.  Who assess and evaluate students every single day of their lives.

Feeling disempowered?  Wondering what you can do to make a difference?  Want to have some influence?

Adopt a legislator, already!  Show up at his office every day.  Invite him to your classroom.  Show him how to turn on his computer and then send him links to articles about teaching and learning from that newfangled World Wide Web thingy.

Earn his confidence.  Change his mind.  Influence his vote. Become a political animal.  Break out of your cage.  Reclaim your place at the table.  Own your profession.

Rise up, gather ’round, rock this place to the ground!

(Sorry, couldn’t resist the Def Leppard reference.  I’m a child of the 80s, after all, and I’m on a roll here.)

Or, better yet, leave Rod in charge.  Maybe he’ll hire Kirstie Alley, Dr. Drew and the dudes from Ice Road Truckers, the Deadliest Catch and Ax Men to take over that school in Rhode Island for awhile.

(That’s a reality show I’m dying to watch.)

2 thoughts on “Blagojevich and Education’s Sad Reality

  1. Joanne Lockwood White

    Great idea…..adopting a legislator. I’ve thought of it but never had the time. Now that you’ve reinforced it I’ll make the time. I teach in Irvington, NJ (which is actually INSIDE Newark and has more troubles than even Newark because all the gangs came here from Newark.) I teach 6th grade science like you. I keep thinking about doing a blog but again ….no time. If you’re interested in looking at my kids/setting, go to jlockwoodwhite.blogspot.com

  2. Dan

    bill – well put. when did it become fashionably humorous to be techno-ignorant? when will not knowing basic computer skills be a more an embarrassment, not a badge of honor or sign of institutional importance? thanks for the post.

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