What is “integrity” and what relevance, if any, does it have to the “killer instinct,” especially among intellectual adversaries in the debates on educational “reform”?
Some people want to listen and want to learn. Other folks are incapable or have no desire to do either. Most people have made up their minds on the issues at least to a relative if not an absolute degree one way or the other. But coinciding with when the pall of NCLB overspread the landscape of education, it seems that all parties are uniformly persuaded that the sky is falling and voices trying to sell the survival of civilization clamor for the earth to open and swallow the education establishment as we know it.
There is a bumper crop of prophets of doom. The milder, slightly more laid-back ones tend to be more flexible and forgiving of those whose opinions clash with their own. It’s not an “ad hominem” thing for them. They don’t attack their philosophical foes; they just want those opponents to stand aside so that they can step in to save the world.
But then there are the demagogues. They are dominant and gathering more steam even as they spout it. They’ll go to boardroom meetings but not attend meetings of the minds. They have a vendetta against those who contradict them. It is merciless and personal.
Those knights of the think tanks, tongue waggers of talk shows, corporate conquistadors, hucksters from tax-shelter-hunting charitable foundations, and blog jockeys, and millions of easily duped village idiots, are self-important deluded missionaries. These laymen see it as their sacred duty to redeem America’s public schools from the nefarious wiles of teacher unions and the professional educators who love them. In their crusade to salvage they go for the jugular.
Unfortunately, some of these folks, especially when they are Ivy League alumni or skilled entertainers, can carry off their bitter argument with such charm that they can throw us off our guard. That can so regale with chapters and verses and trained routines that bearers of decency and common sense don’t realize what hit them until it may be too late to keep their jobs.
Why are these “reformers” so consumed and driven to destroy the ancestral grandeur of the teaching profession? Why do they lustfully thrust daggers through the institutions that nurtured educators?
They chalk it up to “integrity.” Well, bully for them. And I don’t buy it. Do you?
When the “reformers” come gunning for the treasure of our earned mastery and pride, (not to mention our meal tickets), I say they need to be stopped in their tracks. (Historically, partisans in occupied lands knew the feeling.)
And what is their “integrity” anyway?
They do indeed possess (as well as being possessed by) integrity in the sense that these “reformers” are true to their convictions, have evolved their ideas and given their all to enact them. They have done this consistently and without equivocation.
But if we mean it to mean honor and moral integrity, then they are utterly bereft of it. We witness the ruin and waste they have spread and the vile aloofness they show to innocent educators whose tears and disillusionment they provoke. With arrogance and ignorance they view it as collateral damage that goes with the territory.
They get their jollies from the liquidation of dreams. They are traffickers in anarchy. It is a filthy business and the soul of integrity will never be its broker or partner.
Where rests the power to rehabilitate the “reformers”?