Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Stink Was Glorious

Last night I went to a student drama performance. Sitting in the audience waiting for the program to begin, I had the following conversation.

CO-WORKER: Did your wife like the graduation robe? [Earlier in the day I had told her, "When my wife sees me in this thing, say hello to Baby Number Five!"]

A RANDOM STRANGER: Oh yeah. She was like, "Just send the kids and you stay home alone with me!" I said, "Relax, we have it all weekend. There'll be plenty of time to incorporate it into all of your fantasies."

CW: My high school made us buy ours.

ARS: Ours let you rent them from the school because they had unique school colors. [NOTE: My wife has told me I am misremembering this. In my defense, I was never in an actual high school graduation.]

CW: Our school colors were orange and teal, but the robes were black. But you had to buy a new one, you couldn't even reuse a sibling's or a friend's.

ARS: That just sounds like your principal was getting a kick-back from the retailer.

CW: Oh, I don't doubt it. He ended up being arrested for embezzlement. And the dean of my college was, too. And the I.T. guy was embezzling for so long that they couldn't even prosecute him for all his crimes.

ARS: What state are you from?!

CW: Wisconsin.

ARS: What? Wisconsin has a reputation for good government.

CW: Well, we used to. A few governors ago. With Doyle.

ARS: You know, you say that, but which party dominates higher education?

CW: True.

ARS: Corruption knows no party. It's the international language.

CW: But Walker has a new proposal to allow anyone with a bachelor's degree to teach any class in high school.

ARS: I know credentialism is a big problem, but that might be going too far. I think your degree should at least be related to the class you teach.

CW: But this proposal will undermine Wisconsin teaching credentials. Teachers are leaving the state enn massey [NOTE: she meant to say "en masse"] and it makes me seem less qualified.

ARS: I'm not a credentialed teacher. Does that eat you up inside?

CW [clearly flustered]: No. Because you've taught college, so you're qualified to teach high school.

ARS: But when I taught college--

CW: How did you get your first job?

ARS: I was a good student and my professor said, "Do you want to try teaching?" It was a lot like how Chief Wiggum got hired as Springfield's police chief. I had classmates in one class who, a few hours later, I was their professor.

CW: But you had a higher degree than what you were teaching.

ARS: When I first started teaching undergrads, my highest credential was a high school diploma. [NOTE: Upon further reflection, this is untrue; I had an associate's degree. But I was still teaching above my degree.]

CW: I know I feel like my credential is very important. Like, I'm credentialed to teach seventh grade, and I don't feel like I'm qualified to teach sixth grade.

ARS: You're putting too much trust in someone else's opinion. Kids are kids, especially sixth- and seventh-graders. Have more self-confidence. You've got this.

And that was when the program began. The following things in this conversation made me want to share it.

  1. I knew what she was getting at with the "A few governors ago" comment. I could have let it slide. But, as noted elsewhere, I like to stir the [excrement] just to make it stink.
  2. I'm not at all confident in my co-worker's assessment of Scott Walker's proposal. Look that crap up before you go around saying this is true.
  3. I liked the irony of complaining about appearing less qualified while mispronouncing "en masse." As soon as she did that, I thought to myself, "I've got to blog this conversation tomorrow."
  4. Talk about demeanedizing someone! (To demeanedize is defined by Daniel Klein as undermining someone's self-perception or confidence of ability. It is a problem of authority that it makes those overseen value their own judgment less.) The credentialing bureaucracy is so inside her head that she thinks, "I can teach that 12-year-old, but I'm completely unqualified to teach that different type of 12-year-old." All because of what's on a piece of paper issued by a body that cannot know her abilities as well as she knows her own.

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