What We Saw From the Cheap Seats……and what a view it was

The metaphor – timely. The content, based on interviews I have listened to from Regina Spektor, telling in her life and her parent’s life pre-America.  The ‘cheap seats’ are really where stuff happens and if you are not there, you just don’t really have a grasp for understanding.

The cheap seat view is actually the one which matters – it levels the playing field, so to speak. It is seldom the seat people in U.S. Government or Military use which is why  Ambassador Christopher Stevens stood out, based on what Ambassador Ryan Crocker has said. Christopher, having done Peace Corps, understood what needed to be seen from the cheap seats and this seems to be the very message missed in the castigation of Hilary Clinton by our Congress.

The cheap seats allow us to appreciate immigration reform and why children, who arrived in America as illegal immigrants, should be allowed to become educated and contributing members of our society – in spite of their parentage.  The cheap seats allow us to understand things such as the gross and overwhelming disparity in socioeconomics and educational outcomes (impoverished families have little reading material in the house/home/hovel), why sometimes a little help to get to the bottom rung of the ladder pays immense dividends (Jeffrey Sachs and debt relief in third world) and how those who have little will struggle more to get an education rather than those who already ‘have’ and just wish to express their xenophobia by making life difficult for others less fortunate.  Cheap seats help us understand why the most marginalized people lack  work habits and organization skills, self-regulation, literacy and engagement (Charlotte Danielson) since so much of their life is often in chaos – from poverty, from war, from lack of access to food, sleep, and all the other portions of Maslow’s Hierarchy.

What the cheap seats can not do is help us open our eyes.  We open our eyes based on our experience and willingness to experience that which is substantially different.  The cheap seats are apparently what Abraham Lincoln, Bill Clinton and Barak Obama have sat in – they get it and have an appreciation for how things are done by others who lack the  budgets of largesse.  The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver, fictional as it is, definitely is a wonderous cheap seat view. The very quote, “The things we thought we needed.’ point out the differential of what we wish to believe and what we learned to understand and appreciate.

Every once in a while I have to encourage people to take a view from the cheap seats so the real work which needs to be done can actually be viewed, apart from the perceived work to be done. An example of this is NCLB, where test scores were deemed the solution to an academic crisis, completely missing the piece about some needing to get to the bottom rung of the ladder.  The pendulum is finally swinging back and taking in academic standards which are not ‘lower’ to meet a minimum threshold of test scores.

“Very difficult,” Clinton responds. “We have to ask you, based on our best assessments, what we need to do our jobs.”

It will be a long slog out of the NCLB mind-set, most especially the castigation of teachers by the public. The next few years are going to be both traumatic and dramatic as we shift from test scores ruling out decisions to deeper academics. Our students just are not there. Taking high scoring students and putting them in a different classroom is akin to playing Schrodinger’s Cat. Time will tell. The cheap seats, the ones used when we attempted to cut all corners and raise test scores, may just be the best seats in the house to understand the hurdles we have to overcome in order to get THERE from here.

“We have to do some work. That work requires we stay engaged,” she says. (Clinton)

As the State Department and Secretary of State-Hilary Clinton has stated, “We have learned things” and we will be applying what we learned. Amazingly, we would have never learned a thing if we had not sat in the cheap seats.

Clinton says: “This is my ongoing hope, that we can get it more right than wrong.”

Clinton said her department is acting to implement recommendations made by the review board.  I can only hope the U.S. Board of Ed is acting to implement some better recommendations than NCLB.