Larry Cuban: A Reformer’s Nightmare
In a recent post, Larry Cuban imagines a school reformer caught in a terrible nightmare.
I am in a classroom. The doors are locked. The windows have wooden blinds and slats are pulled shut. There are close to 50 adults sitting in bolted-down desks arranged in eight rows of arm-chair desks facing a teacher and whiteboard. I am sitting at a graffiti-rich desk at the end of the third row. The teacher looks like Miss Bowler, my eighth grade English teacher who had required each of us to recite “Abou Ben Adhem” publicly. In my dream, the Miss Bowler look-alike is berating us for not listening to the report that each adult is giving. She wants us to fold our hands on our scarred desks and give each “student” our fullest attention or, she says, we will not be able to leave the room….ever.
Miss Bowler begins by calling upon the first adult sitting in the first row next to the door who had reported yesterday–yes, in this nightmare we have been locked in this classroom for two days. After the first report, she will call upon the second person in the same row, and then the third. Ordinarily, I would have been able to figure out how long it would take before she would call upon me to walk to the front of the room except the teacher had said that the report could be as long as each of us wanted it to be. Yesterday, only three “students” gave their reports; it took 24 hours for them to finish. We were not allowed to go to the bathroom or eat meals.
And what were these reports about? Miss Bowler required us to report on school reforms that would solve the problems of U.S. education in a competitive global economy. When we were all finished, she would unlock the door and we could leave the room.