In Dilbert cartoons, everything always makes perfect organizational sense to that famously clueless manager with the pointy hair. But the workers in their cubicles know that whatever the manager cooks up, actually will make no sense at all in the workplace.
What makes the cartoon so funny is how confident and how wrong the manager is. Dilbert appeals to us because we have all had the frustrating experience of recognizing the stupidity at ground level of policies directed from on high with such swift certainty. And while most of us value sound support and guidance from above, we all legitimately rail against directives that we must carry out contrary to our better judgment.
The history of American schooling could unfortunately be drawn as a series of very funny (and very sad) Dilbert cartoons, with the cluelessness and power of the pointy-haired man growing ever more dire as we progress toward the present. But the pointy haired man is us. He represents the impulse to create a tidy plan in order to serve our own psychological satisfaction instead of the needs and abilities of those impacted by it. The pointy-haired man is the worst sort of bureaucracy, the off-the-shelf school reform “model” ready to be “implemented.” It is the teacher-proof curriculum, the kid-proof lesson plan, the endless conveyor belt of classroom worksheets, and the endless lists of what children should know, annually produced by state commissions, congressional committees, scholars and school committees. It is the notion that good schools may be “replicated.” It is “professional development” by the consultant who blows in, blows hard, and blows out. And in all these cases, it is the systematic theft of the opportunity to think for those whose thinking, thoughtfully deployed (teachers in the classroom), would powerfully enhance their own learning.
We ought to regularly ask, does this practice or that policy, this curriculum or that school reform model really enhance learning or does it just look nice from afar?
For more on this subject, see, The Practice of School Reform: Lessons from Two Centuries. Go to “Books” right here on my website for more information.