Thursday, February 10, 2011

No One Man Should Have All That Power

Who's sick of talking about Cathie Black? Me, that's who. I'm solidly convinced that the woman has, at least for now, no business being schools chancellor. We're all in agreement, so I'm officially over the topic for the moment.

Let's switch. Click with caution, the link below is NSFW (although, since it's YouTube, it won't work on DOE computers anyway):

This is maybe a bit of a Jose Vilson-style blog, so I hope that Jose will forgive me in advance for taking a stylistic page from his book (blog). If you don't read Jose, boy, you are missing out. There are few teacher bloggers whose work is more compelling and productively, provocatively, intellectually controversial than Jose's. I rarely comment at his blog because I don't often feel like I have anything to add, and I hope he doesn't think that means I'm not reading, becauise I am.

Anyway, I've been listening to the tune in the music video above, Kanye West's "Power," quite a bit lately. There are some good reasons to think Kanye is a bit of an ass, but one of the many levels on which this song works is Kanye poking fun at Kanye. The verses are riffs on the materialistic success West has enjoyed, but spit with such sarcasm and cut with the caustic refrain, "No one man should have all that power." Not all of the lyrics are appropriate for a family blog, but here's an example:

My furs is Mongolian, my ice brought the goalies in
Now I embody every characteristic of the egotistic(...)
I just needed time alone with my own thoughts
Got treasures in my mind, but couldn't open up my own vault
My childlike creativity, purity, and honesty
Is honestly being prodded by these grown thoughts
Reality is catchin' up with me
Takin' my inner child, I'm fighting for it, custody
With these responsibilities that they entrusted me
As I look down at my diamond-encrusted piece, thinking
No one man should have all that power

Now of course some of us (like, um, me, for starters) hear that line and think about Mayor Bloomberg and the like, shaking our head at how the rich and influential among us have lost their collective ways. And that's one way to look at it.

But it also makes me think of the tendency of this job to stifle our own creativity and love for our subjects that we naturally possess as teachers. We do, after all, have a great deal of power. We don't pursue it in the way that kings and tyrants, media sycophants and business moguls do. But, like it or not, we have a great deal of power to influence the young people with whom we work. And just as West's refrain, backed by a wordless and slightly eerie Greek chorus, ends up sounding like the stuff of nightmares, this job can keep us up nights, can make us think that we don't want this particular cup, that no one man (or woman) should have all this power.

I don't have an answer. If one of my students handed in this blog post for a grade, I'd probably take a lot of points off because it doesn't have a thesis statement. Maybe it's just a reminder that there are two kinds of power (at least), and we have a kind that Mayor Bloomberg and Cathie Black can never dream of having. And that can be a burden or a gift, depending on the hour of the day (or night).
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