I went to a training session today for teaching with a widely-known test prep company. While prepping for the class, I couldn't help feeling a little brain-washed with their ideology (e.g. "never villify testmakers"). Granted, this is a busines with a product to sell - a tool for success - but I can't get over the fact that I am teaching not Knowledge but knowledge of a test. We are told never to go off about algebra or science or literature (i.e. content) but to focus on the test, test, test. Which is a good strategy, but it sends chills down my back.
One of the guys in my class (a minority like me) brought up the topic of the bias of standardized tests when they use questions involving assumed knowledge of, say, the Louvre or golf. Unfortunately, he brought this up a little randomly and it was clear we were not going to discuss it. I gave him a ride home and he went off on the discussion. At some point I asked, "Yes, but why bring up the topic at all?" I mean, you are signed up to teach. We are not here to question principles. I just feel that there are shrewder ways to observe and subvert. Obviously our trainers felt it was inappropriate and, actually, so did I. It had really nothing to do with the subject at hand. After going around with him on this several times I gave up...it felt too much like I was talking to a brick wall. He kept accusing me of ignoring the fact that there is an underlying philosophy at work. Well of course there is. I'm all about a hermeneutics of suspicion. But I'm also about logic! What did you come here for? Why are you discussing this? What did you hope to get out of this? Do you seriously think they recruited us to have discussions on race and class marginalization when they are counting on sales?
But after dropping him off I thought, maybe I should stop being so cynical. Maybe he's right to take things at face value - for example, really believing the trainers want us to discuss the principles and not just show we are good trainees and have read the material.
And then I went on a 7 mile run in training for the marathon. The route we used (found online) had the brilliant idea of sending us through a...less than safe neighborhood just south of our town. And I was thinking as I ran through: only a yuppie-esque twit like me would be training for the marathon because we sit on our asses at work all day. If I were a grocery clerk or a server or a factory worker would I be spending my leisure time running, of all things? That (and, well, because I'm a different shade) is why everyone looked at us as if we had sprouted horns. Sigh. I...just don't know.