Letting bureaucrats manage pedagogy is a lot like letting them and lawyers manage health care. But, diatribes herein restrained, I know a woman who is currently in a position teaching ESOL where the new mandates from the state, and the newer administration where she is employed, have the program she works for under fire from bureaucracy. There may only be normal shifts and turns as a new leadership makes itself felt, but there seems to be a disregard, or so she claims, for matters she thinks management should respond to: like years of service, thus experience–everyone looks to his or her seniority as a part of her or his security; or like the rate of student retention, which points to the number of students who finish and perhaps indicates something positive about her teaching; or like higher post-test scores on her students’s exit exams, which the government and management would immediately point to as indicative if they were low and wanted to sack her. I have little to no trust of management until it proves it has respect for service and quality, which often times it does not. There isn’t a new and perhaps inexperienced manager, in my prejudices, who does not imagine that if he fired everybody and hired all new employees it might not be better for him.
None of these fore mentioned qualities, though, seem to matter. Management is arbitrary, she says, and it is governed by resentment–the new management has some mid-level management off the leash, if you will. Vindictive responses to legitimate worker concerns have some of the employees wondering just what form of bigotry is being used to dole out assignments. Fear is the prime motivator for teachers, and policies and rewards are managed by staff governed by petty authoritarian control, a mind-set for those who work from the premise that teachers must defer to the authority irrespective of irrationality and arbitrariness from management. Any concern expressed by teachers that perhaps they are not being respected or that individual skills or qualities are overlooked will be met with accusations from management that these teachers are not team players or that they are putting themselves ahead of the program or above. In this double talk an amazing bi-oral dexterity is developed and both sides of the mouth can speak differently at the same time. Integrity, quality, seniority are all disrespected.
Government-management and state-education-department control over ESOL across the country have delivered to ESOL teachers the kind of protocols that do not necessitate educating or learning (not exactly the same thing, but related enough for both to be achieved without contrary effects), nor do they necessitate quality or experience be present in those who are hired. Teachers are pitted against one another in program after program across America as management reminds teachers that their jobs are not secure. Good-enough will replace good which certainly has replaced great; less-than-good-enough will soon replace good-enough, and there we will have our version of the Orwellian nightmare become our dream.
Environments across America in teacher workplaces are hostile, although all impositions on teacher integrity are always with a smile and semi-polite request, variables in the intensification of fear. The classroom, but the ESOL classroom particularly, has become adjunct to other offices of the state bureaucracy. Of course, we endure and wonder why democracy is waning. We help the state undermine education and question how the power elite has become more monied and the monied elite more powerful. What then must we do? Go along to get along has been the national mantra for as long as we have been able to get half of every set of workers to screw the other half for little more rewards.