From John Curry, April 5, 2012
(Click image to enlarge.)
Forsooth: Shakespeare Doth Explain School Reform!
By John J. Viall
I'm a retired teacher. So, it could be too much time doth rest upon my idle hands.
I admit I've been filling my days, of late, by setting out to read every single Shakespeare play. And it doesn't take long to see that the Bard still speaks to us today.
Politicians seem to put up new plans to fix America's public schools almost every week. They are stupid plans, in the main, and I believe at least one governor I might easily name fits perfectly this description from England's beloved poet: "He hath not so much brain as ear-wax."
Meanwhile, evidence builds to show that more and more state executives and legislators answer to the beck and call of deep-pocketed far-right conservatives like David and Charles Koch, and do the bidding of the American Legislative Exchange Council, which the two brothers so generously doth fund. Or, as Shakespeare might put it: "They say if money go before, all ways do lie open."
Even politicians who follow the Koch brothers in slavish fashion, and then turn and lash out at teachers, might sound cooler if they spoke in the cadences like the great playwright. Imagine, for example, Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, saying to teachers of his state:
"Your hearts I’ll stamp out with my horse’s heels
And make a quagmire of your mingled brains."
IN ANY CASE, WE'VE BEEN HEARING how business methods and business leaders can bring great improvements to the schools. So, here's my idea. Why not apply the principles of No Child Left Behind to stores and factories and see what happens?
By 2014, under No Child Left Behind, every child in this country must be proficient in reading and math, or else schools will be declared "failing" and we can turn them over to business types to be made over in the image of unfettered capitalism.
Here is how the model might also apply to American business. Starting next year, every boss would be held responsible for the quality of the work of every worker. Businesses would run like real public schools. First, they would no longer be allowed to ask job-seekers to fill out applications. If a worker entered the factory gate, they would be required to hire him and turn him into a productive member of society.
Secondly--of course--they couldn't fire anyone. Schools like businesses; businesses like schools.
Imagine a better land, in a better future time and future place, where government measures how well Koch Industries is faring, and requires a company to increase production every year, without fail. Productivity will be measured according to work done by members of different racial categories and sub groups among workers and failure by one group will be proof of failure by the company as a whole, just as schools are judged under No Child Left Behind.
Imagine a conversation something like that which follows, if a company isn't meeting every production standard and benchmark:
Much Ado About School Reform: Act 1 Scene 1:
Falstaff, a fat government agent, visits the Koch plant and delivers the bad news to the billionaire brothers.
FALSTAFF: As I'm sure you doth know, after reading this year's standardized reports, production here at Koch Industries has been deemed "unsatisfactory." Thou must see, that workers with learning disabilities are faring poorly. Forsooth, we're going to have to fire thee both.
CHARLES KOCH: I do beseech thee! You have to understand. You're not letting us pick our workers! You dost expect us to insure that that poor autistic fellow can run a drilling press...but he can't do it, much as we'd like him to....
FALSTAFF: To? Don't you mean: "Too bad?" You have to raise production. You have to get the best out of every worker. Or you're failures.
DAVID KOCH: Ay, marry thee, I can't get that fellow, Claudio, to show up at all. He hath called in sick 49 times this year; and under No Worker Left Behind, you won't let me dispossess him of robust employ.
FALSTAFF: Oh sighs! Oh groans! If you had but created a more stimulating environment employees might have been more motivated to come to work.
CHARLES: Misdoubt me not; cans't thou not give us any breaks? What about that new girl, Juliet? She's drugged out half the time. Forsooth, yesterday she didst drive a forklift over the plant supervisor's foot.
FALSTAFF: Subtle as Sphinx, your arguments are. But we do expect improved production, not improved excuse.
CHARLES: Idle knave! I'm not making excuses. I'm trying to tell you that you must be realistic. What about that John of Gaunt fellow? He has a criminal record a mile long and half-a-mile wide. Last week the shift manager tried to tell him to get busy and Gaunt punched him and broke his jaw. Can't we fire him, at least?
FALSTAFF: No, no. No Worker Left Behind. Verily, he's covered by the Workers with Severe Emotional Disabilities Act. Thou art the boss and if the bees doth not gather nectar, and thy factory isn't functioning to capacity, if any worker doth not produce, who doth thou think we ought to blame?
DAVID: Gaunt, perchance?
FALSTAFF: Don't be absurd.
DAVID: I asketh thee thy understanding. What say thee of that poor homeless varlet who wandered in off the street but yesterday? Doubt not, he be touched in the head; schizophrenic he is, betimes. We tried to tell him how to run the stamping machine and he started talking to some imaginary co-worker or perhaps the Ghost of Christmas Past!
FALSTAFF: Odds bodkins! Thou doth confuse your famous English authors, sir! Dost thou not know what the law requires? Every worker must be productive by 2014. Or else you two brothers are going to get the ax.
CHARLES: Some workers are but lazy sots, you must know. You make us take them all and we can't fire them. How do you expect us to get that girl, Cressida, to do anything? I but turn my back ten minutes and she will disappear and we find her on yon factory roof an hour hence, sound asleepeth.
FALSTAFF: I care not for thine hollow wordlings! Thou art the motivator. It was your job to turn that worker round.
DAVID: Sometimes it seemeth the law is setting bosses up for failure. Six months past we had to take on that Moor, Othello, darkly doth he look, a man who speakest not a speck of English. He speaketh only that clicking language no one here has heretofore heard. We try to tell him what he needs to do but he utters naught but clicking noises.
FALSTAFF: A creative boss finds creative solutions. A creative boss knows language is no barrier. A creative boss sees it as a challenge.
CHARLES: Can't you give us another chance?
FALSTAFF: I'm sorry. We're going to have to let you go.
CHARLES: You whoreson cur!
DAVID: Your guts are made of puddings. I will beat thee into handsomeness.
Exit Falstaff Flying