Tinkering with Candles

I came across a quote today that really struck me because it seems to encompass everything I have been thinking about the future of education.  It was in a comment on Larry Ferlazzo’s blog.  Commentor, Tom King, referred to an aphorism about Thomas Edison, whose author I was unable to identify:

“When he set out to invent the light bulb, Edison was not tinkering with candles.”

Sometimes being a classroom teacher can be frustrating for reasons that have nothing to do with students or parents.  Sometimes having an active PLN, reading blogs, and following news can be disheartening.  We are powerful people in the lives of our students, but impotent in so many of the places where decisions are made. We know that the push for standardization of EVERYTHING in education is counterproductive.  We want desperately to point out that what is wrong with the American public school system is not going to be fixed easily.

It is clear to nearly everyone with classroom experience that today’s reform ideas are nothing but tinkering with candles.  Moreover, any successful change to our education system is going to require the feedback, buy-in, and support of classroom teachers.  Yet, we are the group with the least amount of control over the big issues: curriculum, class size, merit-based pay, etc.

And that is why, no matter how much information I gather about the education debate, and how many opinions I listen to, I still try to focus on my one little classroom.  Because, when push comes to shove, that’s the only place where I have control.

Am I being too (uncharacteristically) jaded?

2 thoughts on “Tinkering with Candles

  1. You know my answer to this, Paul, because I’m almost ALWAYS jaded.

    In my opinion, classroom teachers have NO control over the direction of our schools. Hell, we’re fighting against multi-billionaires and the foundations they’ve created to specifically dismantle public schools brick by brick.

    How do you push back against that?

    What worries me the most is that while you can focus on your classroom now—and take real satisfaction from the change that you’re able to create in the lives of the kids you’re charged with supporting every year—-I see that coming to an end in the near future too.

    When we lose this fight against the private sector slugs who want to destroy public education so they can fill their own pockets with educash, you’ll either be paid so little you’ll be forced to leave the classroom to support your family, or you’ll get so fed up with the super-script that guides your work—and the unfair assessments that are used to evaluate you—that you’ll quit in frustration.

    How’s that for pessimism?

    Rock right on,


    1. No, Bill, I know that this is an issue that boils your blood. Call me naive, though, but I still don’t want to believe in “edumageddon” yet.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s