Yesterday, I posed the question: what would education be like without politics? That was a far too general question upon second glance. Education as an institution is an almost entirely political institution. It runs likes a bureaucratic machine— of course, some parts are better oiled than others. I received a response that said education would be worse without the politics. Being that it is so much a political system, I agree. Without politicians, the system would collapse. In my questioning I made a terrible mistake/s. I made the assumption that all politicians are bad, and that all political systems are as well. They are not. Some people/systems have the best intentions and follow those intentions up with committed action. These would be politicians who function as true representatives of the people. My dealings with this group have been generally delightful, but only in the way sharing war stories is delightful. We share frustration with the slow rate of change, and nonsensical impasses to seemingly common sense legislation. As we see, things that need funding often aren’t, and money is often put into things it shouldn’t. When we ask “why can’t these funds be redirected” we’re met with mounds of paperwork, advocacy challenges, and so forth. I have, on the other hand, encountered politicians who are not at all sympathetic to the needs of teachers, students, people in general. They have what they need, so do their children and grandchildren. They share with me insincere condolences and general pats on the back for “all the good work in doing”, but have general disregard for anyone who isn’t allowed to walk in tunnels beneath The Hill. I’ve had ranges of experiences with politicians, politicos, and Pollyannas, but one thing remains the same and will remain the same: bureaucracy so often prevents progress (that’s stating the obvious in the worst way). Additionally, people make decisions as representatives for People who they will never know or understand. Education Systems, Prison Systems, Healthcare Systems, etc. all fall prey to grave inefficiencies, greed, corporate influence, nasty politics, and most important harming and neglecting just as many people as they “help”. Certainly, there is good that comes from all of the above institutions, but huge profits should not be listed in those lists of goods, especially if they’re not functioning in a helpful manner for all. So, I ask another question, hopefully a more focused question (with fewer “what-if’s” and more “how’s”): How can bureaucracy be eliminated or lessened from our institutions? How can services become more equitable? How can people be empowered to better sustain themselves? What will it take to make education more equitable for the children I teach? What will it take for the children of color I teach to be considered just as valuable as the kids across town?
I don’t know of these questions are better phrased, maybe just more honest. What can be done? Who can do it? Is it possible? Historically, Institutions don’t really change too much once they’ve been given life. So, if no change, what?