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Dude, Turn Away From the Mic

Don’t you hate it when you’re sitting on a dais behind a microphone and you mention that you’d like to cut out some guy’s body parts and two hours later the whole cable-watching world hears you say it? Yeah, that’s a bummer. It was shocking. I can’t believe in 2008 that anyone in public life could be so careless as to think the mic in front of him wasn’t hot, video cameras weren’t running, cell photos weren’t clicking or text pads were not being played like Steinways at a Van Cliburn Competition.

What this, and other events like this, reveals is that in the end, we’re all just human. Let the news cycle of apologies begin. The real you dribbled out of your mouths and all over the images we’ve created of you. Now we know. You were too good to be true. Welcome to the real world.

Many things about teaching children in “real world” style confuse me. Which real world are we getting students ready for? The world that exists when the mic is on, or in the grit of the whispered truth? Do we get them ready for the world we want to think we live in, the world we want them to think we live in or some other place? When faced with this teach-for-the-real-world challenge, you think about it more than most.

Most real world stuff is learned by living. We can teach common language of math facts, making change, driving, writing and decoding the majority language but the fact is, there are many real worlds out there. The five-wives-families out west are clear on what the real world is and we just shake our heads and wonder why they can’t see that they have been duped. Why do we reincarnate flag draped Horatio Alger as we applaud the puller of the bootstraps, but seem to dismiss the fact that some jobs in America are understood as being just too hard, too physical, or not worthy of our undeniable coolness? Do we ready kids for a “if they hit you, hit them back“ world, or do we walk Oakland Avenue looking for a peer mediator with an open sign? What happened to the world in which we turn the other cheek? Isn’t that attainable if you try hard enough, or is it just like the nice, small world Disney has given us for just a few bucks a pop? Should kids be told that some day they, too, could be president of the United States standing tall on a platform of virtue with nothing but a flag pin and National Honor Society membership; or do we tell them the truth?

The real world stuff is more complicated than it sounds. Here’s to the teachers, spending many unpaid hours this summer preparing for a new school year. A year during which they will be out there every day juggling worlds, meeting deadlines, satisfying administrators, keeping records, assessing, reassessing, reporting in triplicate, teaching reading, writing, math, science, social studies, dental hygiene, character education, health, computer skills, problem solving, coping skills, fire safety, history, citizenship, penmanship, spelling, social skills, work skills, study skills, decision making, and communicating in the language of every family they serve…thinking somehow it is all possible. What makes good teachers so inspirational is even though they understand the real world, they keep trying anyway.

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