Thursday, April 5, 2012

Forsooth: Shakespeare Doth Explain School Reform!

The author speaks 
in terms we still might grasp.

I’M A RETIRED TEACHER. Perchance too much idle time doth rest upon my hands.

I’ve been trying to read every Shakespeare play there is. And it doesn’t take long to see the Bard still speaks to us today.

If you haven’t noticed, politicians seem to put forth new plans to fix the public schools almost every day. These plans are stupid, generally, and at least one Republican governor I might name fits this description from England’s beloved poet:

“He hath not so much brain as ear-wax.”

Meanwhile, more and more state lawmakers answer to the beck and call of deep-pocketed, far-right conservatives like Charles and David Koch, and do the bidding of the American Legislative Exchange Council, which the brothers doth graciously fund. As Shakespeare might put it:

“They say if money go before, all ways do lie open.”

Even politicians who slavishly follow the Koch brothers might sound cool if they spoke with the same power as England’s greatest 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.”



WE’VE ALL HEARD A HUNDRED TIMES that business methods and business leaders can bring great improvement to the schools. So, here’s an idea. Why not apply the principles of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) to stores and factories and hedge funds and see what happens?

Here is how it might play out: Starting in 2014 every boss would be responsible for the quality of the work of every worker—just as teachers are now accountable for the work of every student. Businesses would run on the same principles as 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 have to hire him. It would be up to them to turn him or her into a productive member of society.

Secondly—of course—they couldn’t fire anyone. Public schools like businesses; businesses like public schools.

Imagine a future where government woulds’t measure how every company fareth and requireth each company to increaseth yearly production. Productivity woulds’t be measured according to work done by thy employees of all different racial categories and sub groups and failure by any group woulds’t be proof of failure by thy business as a whole, just as schools are ajudged presently. Here’s how the Bard might tell the tale:

Much Ado About School Reform:  Act 1, Scene 1:


Falstaff, a fat government agent, visits Koch Brothers Industries and delivers 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 Brothers hath been deemed “unsatisfactory.” Thou must know that thy workers with learning disabilities are faring poorly. Forsooth, we’re going to have to fire you, sir, and you.
CHARLES KOCH: Hast thou no feeling? What must we do with that girl, Juliet? She doth take drugs all the livelong day, in sooth on Mondays and Fridays most oft. Yesterday didst she driveth yon forklift over yon supervisor’s left foot.

FALSTAFF: Subtle be thy words, sublime thy excuse. We of thy government stand unmoved.
DAVID KOCH: Marry thee, I can’t get that fellow, Claudio, to show up at all. By my troth he hath called in sick 49 times this year! 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 motivated to come to work.

CHARLES: Idle knave! I beseech thee to be realistic. What about that Hamlet fellow? His criminal record is long and deep in breadth. Last week the shift manager tried to tell him to get busy and he didst punch him and cracketh his jaw. Can’t we fire him, at least?
FALSTAFF: Verily, he’s covered under 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: Hamlet?
FALSTAFF: ‘Tis absurd of you to sayeth!

DAVID: I asketh but a fillip of 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, betimes. We tried to tell him how to run the stamping machine and he started talking to some imaginary co-worker, or, perchance, the Ghost of Christmas Past!
FALSTAFF: Thou doth confuse thy famous English authors! Dost thou not know what the law requires? Every worker must be productive by 2014.

CHARLES: Some workers are but lazy sots. You make us take all and we can fire none. How doth you expect us to get that girl, Cressida, to do anything? I but turn my back ten minutes and she doth 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 ‘ist thy 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. We try to tell him what he needs must do; but he utters only grimmest mutters.
FALSTAFF: A creative boss findeth creative solutions. A creative boss knoweth even a second language is no barrier. A creative boss seeth it as a challenge. I’m sorry. We’re going to have to let both of you go.

CHARLES: You whoreson cur!
DAVID: I will beat thee into handsomeness. Your guts are made of puddings!

Exit Falstaff Flying.

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