Education Policy Courtesy of the OSS

On my internet rambles the other day, I saw someone quote extensively from what was purported to be an OSS manual on sabotage. The manual in question is quoted in and linked to from Wikipedia, and hosted on Project Gutenberg, so it looks legit enough. And the content certainly seems appropriate, but what shook me was I read it and had a totally different context come to mind:

(11)General Interference with Organisations [sic] and
(a)  Organizations and Conferences
(1)Insist on doing everything through “channels.” Never permit short-cuts to be taken in order to expedite decisions.
(2)  Make “speeches.” Talk as frequently as possible and at great length. Illustrate your “points” by long anecdotes and accounts of personal experiences. Never hesitate to make a few appropriate “patriotic” comments.
(3)  When possible, refer all matters to committees, for “further study and consideration.” Attempt to make the committees as large as possible—never less than five.
(4)  Bring up irrelevant issues as frequently as possible.
(5)  Haggle over precise wordings of communications, minutes, resolutions.
(6)  Refer back to matters decided upon at the last meeting and attempt to re-open the question of the advisability of that decision.
(7)  Advocate “caution.” Be “reasonable” and urge your fellow conferees to be “reasonable” and avoid haste which might result in embarrassments or difficulties later on.
(8)  Be worried about the propriety of any decision—raise the question of whether such action as is contemplated lies within the juris­diction of the group or whether it might conflict with the policy of some higher echelon.

. . .

(b) Managers and Supervisors

. . .

(11.) Hold conferences when there is more critical work to be done.

(12)  Multiply paperwork in plausible ways. Start duplicate files.
(13)  Multiply the procedures and clearances involved in issuing instructions, paychecks, and so on. See that three people have to approve everything where one would do.

I don’t know if it’s possible to read that, as a teacher, and not get a little chill down your back. For my money, this is a pretty perfect description of the “education reform” movement of the last half-decade or so.

Early in my career I used to hear that education was cyclical; the fads of today would emerge, warmed over, in another decade or so. But after a couple of decades, maybe I have the perspective to say it’s not all cyclical—that this seems to be a special and unique time in the history of public education. We live in bizarro backward land, where teachers are vilified and most respondents to a recent survey say they’re overpaid, where teachers are graded by the performance of students they don’t teach, and where the way to fix an “underperforming” school is to reduce its funding until it gets better. I think this era is different because corporate-types have figured out that there’s gold in them thar hills—there’s money to be made in “fixing” education, but only if you break it enough to generate the demand, first.

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One Response to Education Policy Courtesy of the OSS

  1. Jonathon says:

    I really don’t get the reasoning behind thinking teachers are terrible and also thinking that they should be paid less. I find that you generally get what you pay for. If you’re not willing to pay enough to attract good people, you’re going to get a lot of bad people. Sure, you’ll still get some teachers who do it because they love it, but it seems like you’re just asking for worse teachers overall.

    The idea that you need to remove economic incentives so that only people who do it because they love it will teach is especially mind-boggling. Isn’t that, like, the complete opposite of free-market economics? Why do some people think teachers live in a bizarro land where incentives attract worse talent?

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