In my restless search for humor about school reforms as they affect students, teachers, parents, and the nation, I have posted cartoons on testing, technology and children, charters, accountability, and the inescapable blame that accompanies reform over the past five months. I have discovered the following:
*Humor is in the head of the beholder.
*Cartoonists’ portrayal of schools relies heavily upon traditional ideas of what schools and classrooms are like.
*Caricatures, for that is what cartoons are, both tickle and pinch viewers in their revealing truths of what happens in schools and the purposes that schools serve in a democracy. Such “truths” seldom get discussed in policy forums.
This batch of cartoons are about the age-graded school. I wrote about this hardy institution that was a mid-19th century reform in organizing schooling. Since then, it has spread like kudzu to be all-dominant in the early 21st century. Since every organization has plans for its inhabitants, the age-graded school has shaped notions of who is “normal” in going through the grades and what is “normal” in how children learn, what teachers teach, and how they teach. It is also the one experience that all children and youth have in common outside the family making it the grist for cartoonists to get us to chuckle and nod our heads at the revealed truths.
Then there is the self-contained classroom where one teacher works with groups of 25 or more children whose interests, abilities, and performance vary. What goes on in classrooms once that door closes has provided grist for cartoonists’ pens for years. Many of these cartoonists, of course, draw from their memories of being a student or nightmares when they were the teachers.
That’s All, Folks!