District Leader Calls for Inhumanities

Rhino Falls, Wisconsin—Citing a global trend toward ruthless school and workplace practices, Superintendent Mark Sequor called on for a steep increase in the inhumanities throughout the K–12 grades. “It’s time we not only caught up with Singapore and China, but showed them who’s who,” he told an assembly of 10,000. “Our kids think they have lots of meaningless tests? They should see the tests the kids in Korea take. Our kids think they have too much homework? Compared to other kids, they’re on permanent vacation.”

To catch up with the rest of the world, says Sequor, the schools need an inhumanities emphasis even more than a STEM emphasis. “STEM might still give you a few stargazers,” he explained; “whereas a course in inhumanities will keep every child on task.”

The inhumanities, Sequor continued, are at the heart of the Race to the Top competition, which awards funding to districts that race into flawed reforms without really thinking them through. “The whole point here is to get ahead, not to succumb to lazy thoughts,” he explained, “and so, by embracing the inhumanities, we’re really going the extra mile—faster than anyone else, I’ll add.”

Telos Elementary, a model school in Rhino City, allows visitors to witness its inhumanities curriculum in action. The day is filled with rapid and strictly timed activities, where students from kindergarten on up must turn and talk, repeat, rotate, move to the next station, repeat, summarize, and get in line. “We can’t let them get dreamy,” said Holly Vide, the school’s inhumanities coach. “We need to have everyone engaged. Also, in the workplace, they’ll be switched from task to task or even fired, so we need to prepare them for that reality.”

By second grade, students are already learning to cheer over their data. “You’ve got to get into their heads that the statistics are what count, so to speak,” Vide said. “The biggest thing in their world should be that graph at the front of the room, showing their rise or fall in scores. This mindset will prepare them well for high school, where they have to spend months preparing for the SAT. They learn to live for the score. That’s called achievement.”

In middle school, students refine their social ostracism skills. “Group work helps everyone spot the non-team-players,” said Sequor. “For this reason, it’s important to have group work in every class. Once you’ve spotted the non-team-players, you can exclude them and get on with your project.” The excluded students will receive low grades for classroom collaboration. “This is an important red flag for colleges and employers,” he said, “and it allows us to boost our credibility. If our team players are doing well, and we’re doing due diligence in classifying our non-team-players, then we’ll keep our good ratings.”

Once students enter high school, they are expected to do everything, he said. “Every high school student, in order to have a fighting chance in life, must have top grades, top test scores, leadership credentials, an array of extracurriculars, athletic prizes, community service hours, and at least ten things that go above and beyond what everyone else is doing. Can you be a person of integrity and character and do all of this?” he asked with a rhetorical flourish. “Of course not. That’s part of the point. Integrity and character are relics of medievalism. I think it was the medieval writer Flannery O’Connor who said something about how integrity lies in what one cannot do. We live in a ‘can-do’ era. A ‘can’t-do’ attitude is simply out of bounds.”

According to some critics, it’s the “can’t-do attitude” that makes room for thiings like reading, pondering, or playing an instrument. “No one who does anything substantial or interesting can do everything,” said Brian Emerson, a professor of English and an opponent of the inhumanities movement. “There must be areas of ‘no’ and failure.”

“That’s a quaint idea,” responded Sequor, “but it amounts to a bunch of fluff. Substantial and interesting things? Those are subjective terms. We have to take a hard look at the era and go where it goes.”

The era was not available for comment, but one of its representatives repeated its recent press statement that “following is leading.” We would have mulled over the words, but a whistle blew, and everyone scurried on to the next task.

 

Note: I made a few edits to this piece after posting it.

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5 Comments

  1. Ron from Reformland

     /  March 21, 2014

    Dear Dr. Sequor,

    First, let me say how happy and impressed I am to be writing someone who insists on being called Doctor, and not some run-of-the-mill teacher!

    Here’s my problem, and I hope you can help: I’m a bold, can-do, transformational, data-driven, give110%, No Excuses miracle teacher (at least until I decide go on to Better Things in the next year or so).

    Because it’s really all about the kids, isn’t it?

    I crush the tests, Teach Like a Champion, and make my kids SLANT until Pavlov’s dogs come home. Unlike most teachers, I believe in Excellence and am proud to be one of the Best and Brightest.

    But then, why do I have have this nagging feeling that there’s more to the Inhumanities than I’ve been able to sweat out of my kids?

    I feel them accepting the tedium. I see their dead eyes. I hear their flat, dispirited voices. And I ask, “Can’t I do more?”

    Please help me extract a little more of the joy out of learning, and be all the Inhumanity I can be.

    Signed,

    Ron from Reformland

    Reply
    • Mark Sequor

       /  March 24, 2014

      Dear Ron from Reformland,

      You are mistaken. I don’t go by Doctor. I am an ordinary guy. What sets me apart from you is my salary, which clearly marks me as superior. Therefore, I reply that your day is not done until you have made at least as much money as I. I won’t let that happen, but you should try and try.

      What does that mean for the kids? They, too, should be thinking about money. If we all think about money at once, we can get down to business, which happens to be on my terms. Thank you for your time-dime. Please work on moving up.

      Best,

      Mark Sequor

      Reply
  1. Diana Senechal: Time to Teach the Inhumanities | Diane Ravitch's blog
  2. Diana Senechal: Time to Teach the Inhumanities | Educational Policy Information

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