A Satirical Post from Clark Kent

Hey Guys,

Sorry I'm late.  I've been busy in the Bahamas.  Then there was this snafu with the franchise and Lois didn't like the actress playing her in the latest movie, so we had to fly back to New York and Lois suggested that riding a plane might make more sense, but when you're the Man of Steel, fresh air and the mist of the clouds is enough to stir up some nostalgic memories of crime-fighting.  No, it wasn't crime I was after.  It was justice.

I think there has been a mix-up.  People keep waiting for me.  Oh, first it was the Flaming Lips song.  I really enjoyed it more when Sam Beam offered it in that low-fi, folksy kind of way.  The answer to the question is, yes it does get heavy to use a crane to crush a fly.

Then, I get this message that I'm supposed to reform education.  Sorry guys, but I'm not interested in your education reform party.  Just isn't my deal.  In fact, if I showed up to most schools clad in tights and red briefs  you might just call the police. Therefore, although I am known for dodging bullets, let me offer some bulleted points on why I am not the man to reform education:
  1. Corporate take-overs don't work:  Look, I was a non-profit figure.  I was self-funded.  I didn't ask for tax-payer money to pay for my ventures.  Instead, I chose to serve the public.  What reformers are proposing is the opposite - let the public pay for private take-overs.  Honestly, that's more of a fascist economic policy than anything of a free market.  But, hey, it might work.  After all, Blackwater has done just as good a job protecting our nation as our own military, right? And, deregulation of the power companies in California worked really well, too.
  2. Crappy Stories: Okay, I can't watch my own movies.  They've changed the stories completely.  They don't include the times I ran into poles or dropped someone mid-air and they changed it from an unmanned railroad car to a huge commuter train.  When the bottom line is profit and expansion, you end up with stories that aren't true.  This goes for the Man of Steel and for KIPP. 
  3. Media: The media tends to fuck things up, like the make-believe weapons of mass destruction in Iraq or the insane amount of time they have devoted to Lady Gaga. Television, as a medium, is a horrible way to tell the truth. 
  4. It's Not Broken: Look, when I was a superhero I used to deliberately break things just to fix them.  Not joking.  I once set a building on fire just to prove I could save the day.  I had to meet my quota.  I had to fulfill the demands of a Data Diva.  Crime rates were down and I didn't seem necessary.  Is it possible this whole education hysteria could also be a manufactured crisis?
  5. Imperialism:  It took me a long time to realize that there was something arrogant in going into the city and "saving the day." I fear that much of the ed reform movement fails to recognize that a top-down approach of "big ideas" often turns out to be a rehash of the imperialism story. I re-lived this story when I created the Super Hero Institute of Training (how's that for an acronym?) and then watched as almost half our student population dropped out to become super-villains.  We had done nothing to contextualize our curriculum to the local, personal, relational needs of students.
  6. Sustainability: Ultimately, solutions have to be sustainable.  My biggest mistake as a superhero was how often I would catch a bad guy, bust out a monologue and then fail to address the bigger needs of what had caused the villain to succeed.  I was an action figure.  We need dialog and reflection and honesty in education.
  7. Bigger Issues: I learned awhile back that the biggest issues are social.  I can stop a super-villain, but I can't solve poverty or genocide or racism.  I can't run into the ghetto with my tights and cape and punch poverty in the face.  
I don't see anything wrong with charter schools if they are thoughtful and transparent.  This isn't about charters or non-charters.  It's about whether or not we should look to the Man of Steel in a post-industrial society.  My answer is, "not so much."

So, with that in mind, I'll go hang out with Lois and try and convince her that I'm not using my x-ray vision to find a younger replacement.  She'll get a little jealous and then she'll trust me and then I'll secretly wonder if maybe I should have spent more of my life as Clark and less of my life trying to fix what wasn't broken. Then I'll have a martini and see if I can find a decent rerun of ALF (really TBS?  Four episodes of Blossom and not a single rerun of ALF?) and then slip off to a John Grisham novel or maybe some light-hearted James Joyce and the education reformers will just have to continue waiting for me.  I won't show up.  I won't save the day. And here's the deal: no other individual will, either.



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For a counter-narrative on Waiting for Superman check out my book Teaching Unmasked   I'm selling it at-cost or you can download it for free as a PDF.

John Spencer

John Spencer is a teacher, author, speaker, and incessant doodler. He is the co-author of Wendell the World's Worst Wizard and the co-founder of Write About. He is passionate about helping students develop into better writers and deeper thinkers.

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  1. As I watched the news this morning (totally dedicated to education reform...) I kept thinking, SURE I can transform my teaching if you throw enough gadgets and doo-dads at me (i.e. MONEY!) too! Sorry, but if you want those fancy pants technologic tools, it's gonna cost and nobody (except the dude who founded facebook) seems to want to pay up.

  2. All this tells me is that you are a modest "superhero" teacher.

  3. Debating in class whether the onset of Horace Mann's Common School in 1913 was an attempt to even the educational playing field, homogenize/control the populace, or both.

    Your post caused me to revisit that class debate. I could probably guess- but was curious if you think socialized education was well intended or more sinister. I go back and forth myself....

  4. I've just bought this in the UK for the Kindle... looking forward to reading this - I thoroughly enjoyed "Teaching UnMasked"; and recommend it to our trainee teachers here in the UK. You deserve every success.

  5. Hello
    My name is Jared Datema, and I am following your blog as part of Dr. John Strange's EDM 310 class at the University of South Alabama. I have really enjoyed reading your posts. My blog is http://datemajarededm310.blogspot.com.

  6. Good piece. Wouldn't it be grand if all we needed was a super hero to fly in and "save" education? Hah. I wish, for a moment, we could stop talking about education and talk about homes and parenting. When is someone going to take on this issue? That's what I'm waiting for.

  7. Great post. I am so tired of being stuck in the middle...between the union and the district. We just "found out" that our distict "won" a 6.7 million grant! Yeah us! NOT! Can you say performance based pay? It makes me sick. And I really want to meet Arne fact-to-face and find out what he really wants...really, really wants (Yes, that one song is playing in my head.) Anyway, it is all so big and so confusing at times I just want to shut my door and teach, but then I would be labeled as someone who does not communicate, learn new things or someone who does not hold her students to high expectations like those who get involved. So I get involved and then what...I get fed up, angry and the system, mad and what I am made to do while Teacher X down the hall is not even teaching WRITING! Why are some teachers not held to the same standards? Why does the union protect the bad teachers? Where is the union's standard? Protect all? Wrong.

    I rant. I am sorry.

    I will keep reading your blog. It inspires me. (No pressure on you.)

    I tell others about your blog. So they too can be inspired. (No pressure.)

    What are you doing in 2 years? Secretary of Education?


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