David Kirp says that teaching isn’t a business—and that makes a lot of people really mad…
EduShyster: Let me try to break this to you gently. Your recent New York Times piece,Teaching Is Not a Business, didn’t win you a lot of friends on Twitter. In fact, one of your detractors referred to your entire oeuvre as*fatuous pablum.*
David Kirp: Wow—I seem to have provoked, not just outrage, but a mixed metaphor. Pablum, which is actually spelled pabulum, is something you eat.
EduShyster: Perhaps the point was that if one consumes too much pablum, one grows fatuous…
EduShyster: The title of your piece is Teaching Is Not a Business, and one of the ironies of this whole conversation is that the business models being imposed on schools have largely been rejected by businesses themselves.
Kirp: I actually think there are important lessons for school folks in looking at a business model that works, hence my shout out to Ed Deming. But that model isn’t creative decimation. If you look at businesses that have been successful over time, you’ll find there’s much less emphasis on booting out the bad guys then there is retraining. Proctor and Gamble hasn’t remained a very successful company because it keeps tossing out its leadership every three months.
EduShyster: A lot of this seems to come back to the question of how you drive change. You seem to think that trust is a more effective driver than, say, a boot to the neck.
Kirp: If you peel back the nature of this disagreement, it has to do with people’s fundamental views about human nature. If you believe that everyone is by nature a slacker and needs to be whipped into shape, then you come out on one side of the conversation. If you believe that, by and large people want to do the right thing and should be supported in doing that, then you come out on the other side. That’s a very old debate.