My principal pulls me aside on Tuesday afternoon. "Techno-Tommy, we need to talk." I appreciate the subtle warning. Any time the word "need" is used, it means I'm in trouble. Oddly enough, on really difficult days, when I feel the crushing blow of a broken world, I sometimes "need to talk" but I keep it to myself. It might seem that a principal feels the same way, as if "we need to talk" could be a way of saying, "Tom, leadership is painful and lonely and I just need someone to tell me I'm doing okay." But alas, "need to talk" is a code word for, "need to shame you in a subtle way."
"Tom, I don't like the way you talked to the consultant from Pencil Island," he says squinting through his dated monocle.
"The man's a snake oil salesman, not a consultant." I explain.
"Look, I know you don't trust businessmen, but this isn't time to pull a Coxey's Army stunt. Not all business is bad. I don't mind if you're a Populist, but education is a business and we need to recognize it as such."
"It's not a business and I'm not an executive. This is called public education for a reason. I serve, because I care about my students. I am a civil servant representing my community and I don't think my community wants to sell a child's mind to a wolf in professional clothing."
"All curriculum costs money."
"That's not the issue. Yes, books cost money. But this man has a whole system set up designed to teach rote skills and make him a fortune."
"Pencil Island is amazing, Tom. Information is broken down into consumable parts for children."
"Consumable. That's the problem. Children should be thinking, not consuming."
"This is the Age of Industry. We need to prepare future factory workers. Back when we had farmers, well, it made sense to teach holistically. But we can't. We need compliant workers. We're pulling out of an economic panic and we have to educate our way into becoming an industrial nation."
"If that's the case, why bother with school? I hear most factories will hire kids as young as five or six. We won't even need to turn the school into a factory. I think Rockefeller could hook them up with a job. Might as well start them early when their hands are nimble."
"Do you suggest that we give them an archaic education? Set them up to be liberal arts majors. How many jobs these days are asking for philosophy majors?"
"No, the challenge we face is giving kids a classic, holistic education within the context of our industrial age. Setting kids down in isolation to fill out worksheet packets seems like a step in the wrong direction."
I leave the meeting wanting to slam a door, but the principal has taken the door off the hinge in an effort to create an open atmosphere. So, I end up storming off in anger and then I feel horrible about getting so passionate about something I can't control.