Monday, July 6, 2009

So Long, Schoolhouse!

It's finally gone! That ridiculously cheery but ominous symbol of No Child Left Behind has departed forever!

By coincidence, I had driven by the eyesore the previous day on a tour bus full of students. If we had known that the "Little Red Schoolhouse" that has stood in front of the Department of Education for so long was being torn down while we were only a few blocks away, we certainly would have made a side trip to stand across the street and cheer!

If you're not a teacher, you're probably confused right now. Well, take a look at the late facade of the Department of Education in Washington DC.

Photo credit dchousegrooves on flickr.com

Allow me to indulge in a brief analysis of this symbol of American Public Education.

When viewing the schoolhouse, one's eye is immediately drawn by the garish McDonald's Clown-Nose Red that is slathered across the front like toothpaste on an inquisitive toddler. It's not the proud, worn, dark red of a prairie schoolhouse. Instead, we see a marketing ploy intended to draw the eye away from the looming bureaucracy in the nondescript edifice that is the real Department of Education.

The large, open doors evoke the image not of a schoolhouse, but of a Fischer-Price barn that I owned as a child. Those who enter are not encouraged to be individuals, but rather cattle headed for the feed lot, the milking stand, and, eventually, the slaughterhouse.

Surrounding the schoolhouse is a white picket fence, reminding us of the American Dream (or Wisteria Lane), where daddy has a job, a wife, 2.5 kids, and a house with a yard in the suburbs. Of course, everyone is happy, because their futures have already been determined by the shape of their genitalia and the size of their daddy's wallets. This honorable ideal is more than appropriate for today's Department of Education.

This white picket fence (or a simple chain at the Tulsa Public Schools office) also prevents curmudgeons and realists from accessing the main doors by any other path. Every person who wants to achieve their goals, be they entering the building, getting a job, or going to college, must jump through the hoops walk through the door of whatever current legislation is preventing real education. Alternative education? Charter Schools?? Homeschooling??? May it never be! If it doesn't fit the current administration's narrow goals, it has no place in America!

The sign, resembling a blackboard emblazoned with a childish scrawl, proclaims No Child Left Behind, that overly-hopeful name that leads people to believe that local schools are at fault for all of the nations woes. Like the schoolhouse, this legislation serves as a hopeful facade that hides bureaucracy, red tape, and the most amazing waste of money since the invention of souvenir shops.

If only they had used a wrecking ball...

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