Excerpt from Chapter 3 (p. 73)
BY THE BOOK. To master anything means to make it automatic for you to handle anything related to it. Since it is securely under your control, purview and jurisdiction, that which you master is your personal, real, (es)tate. In this vein, this mastered talent or skill may also be a measure of your personal worth as a human being. If you are a master plumber, electrician, locksmith, or expert in any of the building trades, you not only have skills, you have honed them and turned them into a salary and job security. You made choices that resulted in your being a member of a specialized union or trade group. Membership in the special group means higher income, status, social perks and other rewards, in addition to the personal satisfaction masterful attainment always brings.
Some masters shy away from being members of special groups. They do what they do very well, and have clients or customers who patronize them faithfully. Their need for unions or professional associations is minimal, because their reputation does the work of protecting them in the public sphere. They do their work by the book, and people respect that they abide by a professional code of ethics or standard of conduct.
Master teachers may be an exception to this generalization. In public school districts they are beloved by students, but school leaders underappreciate them. The principle of Praise, and wholesale reverence for education and those who edify, is not the cultural norm. The Industrial Age commitment to preparing line workers for the benefit of advancing society is now viewed as an upper class, paternalistic position. The teaching-to-the-test movement is often cited as the reason for poor public education outcomes that thwart U.S. math and science proficiency.
In response to this struggle, master teachers invariably choose to be modest. They often choose not to protest because to do so will invite promotion to elevate their status, which would take them out of the classroom. Promotion to management is viewed as a reward for their tenacity and brilliance, as if the same is not best displayed and served by teaching in the classroom.
In their interaction with parents and the community, these teachers share that they have to stay under the radar while delivering the test scores and mentoring the orphans. Discerning parents, interested in their children developing literacy and subject mastery, are increasingly deciding to home-school their children or send them to private schools. Society’s refusal to master public education reflects the interplay between the political, media, community, policy and staffing levers that seem designed to forestall social change.
The spiritual tragedy is master teachers are not charged with developing the attitude of loving living in their students. They know they have to teach to raise test scores and are successful at it. Still, these teachers are examples of loving living because they love their work and demonstrate alignment with their life purpose. The master teacher’s real purpose, to prepare young people for lifelong learning as envisioned by Mary MacLeod Bethune, Mortimer Adler and others, is viewed by some as bourgeois. This academic ideal evolved from the original premise of public education to prepare children with enough literacy to serve the industrial economy. Mastery for everyone was not the intention of Industrial Age public schooling, which is why some students were tracked to attend vocational schools, bypassing the liberal education altogether.
In complete renunciation of the Master principle, grade-school education has been diminished to such an extent that colleges now have to teach students how to write, study and compute at what used to be the high school level. This dumbing-down is also evident in the way pre-K, kindergartens and middle schools offer cap-and-gown graduations, in sad anticipation that these events may be the only graduation experiences for many students. Mastery of personal attributes or subject matter is nowhere in sight. (….continues)