I recently attended a conference for colleges and institutions of higher education that prepare future teachers. So much to write about, but one thing in particular happened that bugged me.
When discussing the use of Value Added Measures for teacher evaluation a presenter said, “Even though many of you, and even I, have serious problems with VAMs. We need to realize that that train has left the station.” I wanted to raise my hand and interrupt (scream), but instead I engaged my own brain and started thinking of similar clichés.
That horse has left the barn.
That boat has already set sail.
That car is out of the garage.
These clichés make me insane. Let’s examine the meaning behind all of these ridiculous sets of words. They have one simple assertion—it’s too late to do anything, or to use another cliché, it’s out of my hands.
But why is it too late to stop the damn train?
Let’s play with this cliché a little bit. A train is traveling on a set of tracks towards a destination. However, it just so happens that this train has an engineer (driver) with a cell phone. Six miles down the track a fisherman looks up and notices the train bridge above him that had been there for years has collapsed. He uses his cell phone and calls 911. 911 takes the report and calls the train company. The train company gets the information and calls the engineer on his cell phone. Upon hearing the news that the bridge has collapsed and understanding that the “train has left the station” he gets on the intercom to tell the passengers that in roughly five minutes they will plunge into a river.
One very annoying passenger asks a simple question, “Why don’t you stop the train before we get to the collapsed bridge?” Annoyed by the annoying passenger the engineer reminds him that “the train has left the station.” At that point the passenger gets it—it is what is is—and takes his seat and prepares for death.
Ridiculous, right? In reality the train engineer would the take the 911 call seriously, assess the situation, listen to the annoying passenger and start the process of stopping the train. In other words the engineer would collect the evidence and determine that even though “the train has left the station” any responsible engineer would stop the train and save the lives of the passengers–even the annoying one.
Look if one annoying passenger on a train “that has already left the station” has the power to stop that train’s destiny with disaster; what’s stopping those of us fighting corporate education reform from:
Bringing the horse back?
Turning the boat around?
Pulling the car back into the garage?
Follow Timothy D. Slekar on Twitter: www.twitter.com/slekar