"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Friday, October 31, 2014

Teachers need to join real world of 2014

Image from "Time"
Teachers nationwide are calling for a boycott of Time Magazine. My first response: I didn't know people even bought Time Magazine anymore.
We all know Time Magazine is a dinosaur. It doesn't exist as it once did. It was once a weekly news digest. The need for that has disappeared due to the Internet. You might argue that the need for Time has disappeared completely.
I might argue this about the Morris MN newspaper too. Years ago we might have predicted their demise. However, the same tech that prompted such speculation has enabled print-based products to survive due to reduced overhead. A community newspaper no longer needs a photo "darkroom." A photo darkroom is the most antiquated thing I can imagine, like using horses instead of power equipment in a farm field.
To be more specific, a photo darkroom is the most Rube Goldberg-esque thing I can imagine. It's so bad I'm pained to even write about it. I had to ask myself: "When do you stop spending money and just start taking pictures?" Never, it seemed.
I'm reminded of how Johnny Carson used to joke about backyard barbecuing. No matter how you did it, Johnny said, a visitor would say you're not doing it quite right.
There is a right way and wrong way to do everything. I wish when I was around 20 years old I had gotten a firm, vo tech-type instruction on how to set up a photo department. And even if I had, my knowledge would have had to be updated often, like maybe every three months. The pace of change was too much. It was too unstable and chaotic.
Your common citizens would take photos on a low-quality Kodak Instamatic, or comparable low-end camera, and then "take film to the drugstore" where it would be "sent in," and then you'd wait about a week to get the pix back. Have you noticed how old Instamatic photos don't scan well at all for online purposes? Many of those photos have faces that are "washed out."
How I would love to live my life over again and get the proper instruction in photography. And even then, it wouldn't be easy. The photo instructor I had in college was largely of the "artsy" kind. In other words, next to worthless, or actually destructive of your ambitions. The kind of photo instruction I got in college was in line with a lot of the "deconstructionist" trends we saw in colleges in the 1970s. Let's call it avant garde. It's the kind of thinking that went into designing the University of Minnesota-Morris science auditorium.
You had to survive those classes, not benefit from them. State colleges were probably the worst. The infusion of more private money into colleges has helped solve this. Private money forces people into the real world.
Anyway, I started this post by writing about the teachers' push for a boycott of Time Magazine. Time is pushing for public school teachers in America to become more accountable. We have heard this clarion call for a long time. Teacher unions have become increasingly on the defensive. That's totally understandable.
I was angered in the 1970s at how the teachers unions asserted themselves with so little resistance. Any time I engaged someone on the street in conversation about this, they agreed with me: teachers had too much power and autonomy, and it was corrosive. And yet, the status quo remained for some time.
Then it started crumbling. The Time Magazine cover story is another shot across the bow. Time wouldn't have dared have a cover story about this 30 years ago, or even 20. In a time when change is the norm throughout our institutions across America, caused by the irresistible forces of tech and connectivity, the old norms cannot remain in public education.
Teachers can't be fired. Well, no one among us would cheer for anyone being fired - it's an unsavory and depressing thing. Teachers would say it's a myth that they cannot be fired. They would say due process simply must be followed.
But we all know what happens in the real world. It becomes more trouble and more time-consuming than it's worth for administrators to go through with this process.
Here is the fundamental problem with teachers having job security so far beyond the rest of us: What are the effects on a human being of having such rigid job security? Otherwise good people, people who entered education for the right reasons and with the right motivation, can develop bad traits. They become defensive, lazy, ossified and combative with perceived critics.
People in "normal" jobs, outside of education, have to be accountable even when they have to mutter obscenities under their breath sometimes. They go home sometimes convinced "life's a bitch." Which it indeed can be. We might be inclined to change jobs.
But teachers behave like they think they can operate out of a fortress. And, this is the model that I think Time Magazine is seeking to shoot down. And teachers don't like it. They are behaving in their usual visceral manner, calling for a boycott.
I saw the Morris public school teachers do this back in about 1987 or '88. It was a dark chapter in this community's history. It also seems rather quaint. I don't think it would happen today. Today I think that if the faintest rumor got out that the teachers (and their families and network of friends) were going to boycott someone, the administration would have the tools to intercept and shoot it down. Back in the '70s, we might expect certain administrators to even support the teachers. Today there is more of an appropriate management/worker dichotomy in education - the way it should be, and should have been.
Teachers naturally are calling for a boycott of Time Magazine. I would say that these news reports are doing more for Time Magazine than anything else could. Either way, Time Magazine is vestigial - barely a shadow of what it was, or what it once meant in America.
It's nice to be reminded that Time Magazine even exists. Now I'll go online and research reaction to that piece. But I wouldn't spend a nickel on any magazine.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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