Managing Pedagogy [fiction]

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 happening in her workplace, as a new leadership makes itself felt; but there also 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. Fear through a sustained uncertainty and indirectness from management, or those who management defers to in the daily means of making administrative ends meet, has everyone, she says, walking on egg shells.

I always take what others say in their criticism cum grano salis. Yes, I know some of you think the Latin is pretentious; I do not. (You can always stop reading; I do only write for those who agree–I do only write to myself for myself thus always by myself). My taking a grain with everything anyone says about management does not leave me open to supporting management beyond good sense, or to the ways everyone has to dance the dance at the workplace dance.

I have little to no trust of management until it proves it has respect for service and quality–and even then, there is very little I would take to the mental bank. Management today, as it functions of the ledger, by the ledger, and for the ledger, has little use for anything it cannot translate into specific advancement for the mangers. I am not saying that this is precedent in our history, but does seem a shift in reverse from some of the workplace headway we had made in the 20th century, perhaps no too long ago–another side effect of being as ahistorical as we have become. I have also heard from this woman that the new manager of her department has made new appointments based on race and not qualifications or skills. If there were no repercussions to her managers advancement by getting rid of everyone and hiring new people for less salary, he would do it. If keeping her helps the manager look better, then she would be kept.

If student advancement becomes the marker of good or bad program advancement, then the teacher who gets his students to perform at a higher level will be kept. That was not, though, the way at CUNY, where my 70% pass rate on the CUNY WAT then ACT exams over ten years of teaching remedial composition courses was disregarded; in fact, it must have been a problem. My pass rate on the CUNY ACT exam was not quite, but close to double the CUNY-wide passing percentage for those exams. Clearly student advancement was not the prime concern for CUNY English departments. I guess there were too many students who did not need to repeat their remediation; but then, this is why cars are not made to last the way the used to be; not that our consumerism has not taken hegemony in the way we spend our money.

What is the equivalent of consumerism in pedagogy? Managed failure.

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. CUNY had clearly understood that their 37 % was good enough and that anyone with a significantly higher rate of passing was only making everyone else look bad. Since the state did not demand higher pass rates for their freshman comp students at the remedial level, I was expendable; in fact, necessarily so.

This is simply how things are, as counter-intuitive as they were and remain for me.


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