There used to be a Land of Educational Contentment. Parents moved there because the schools and teachers were outstanding, children loved to go to school and were excited to learn something new every day. Suddenly one day, the sky darkened and a fast moving tornado swept through the town, leaving devastation in its wake. The tornado scooped up teachers and students and carried them to a far away land, dropping them from the sky onto a vast landscape of unknowns.
When the teachers and students woke up from the storm, they found themselves in a field surrounded by a long, winding, yellow brick road, a road that the natives of this foreign land told them would lead to a magical place called the Emerald City, ruled by a Great Leader and 7 Trustees. There they would find the crown jewel of all educational systems, much better than the one they’d left behind in the Land of Educational Contentment. The enthusiastic natives offered them a school bus, the Emerald City’s best bus driver, a tour guide and two assistants, and told them that if they used these expert navigators, they would not get lost. They were told that the journey to the Emerald City would take some time, but not to worry because the path was clear and their destination would be reached. Unbeknownst to them, deception lurked in the fields of promise of a better education.
The prospect of being in a foreign land was daunting, and with no way to get home, and no real choice but to blindly place their trust in the hands of strangers, the teachers and students boarded the bus. The expert navigators followed: the Bus Driver -- a lady, who seemed rather cowardly; the Tour Guide -- a soft spoken man who told the passengers that his primary goal was to make sure all of the children felt good about themselves during the long journey; the First Assistant -- a tall debonair gentleman; and the Second Assistant -- a striking lady who didn’t say much. Once everyone was seated, the Bus Driver started the engine and headed down the yellow brick road.
Almost immediately, she came to a fork in the road. The fork had two directional signs. One said “Main Street” and the other said “Road Less Traveled.” Dazed and confused by her choices, she turned to the Tour Guide and two assistants and asked for the Map to the Emerald City, but they told her they didn’t actually have a physical map. The Tour Guide told her not to worry, however, reminding her that he had actually drawn the original Map, had driven down the yellow brick road before, knew exactly how to get to the Emerald City, and would tell her which directions to take. He then told her to turn onto the “Road Less Traveled” assuring her that it was the “best” way to get there. The Bus Driver shrugged her shoulders, did as she was told and kept driving.
After a few days of driving on a very bumpy and winding road, the bus suddenly slowed to a stop. The teachers and students asked, “Are we there yet?”
The Driver answered, “No. It is time for me to get off the bus. We are not at the Emerald City yet, but I don’t need to get there anymore, since I have just gotten a job driving a bus for a smaller city.” Then, with a big smile on her face, she waved good-bye and hopped off.
The Tour Guide then told the passengers, “Don’t worry, the debonair First Assistant will now be your new driver. Since I know the roads to the Emerald City like the back of my hand, I will give him directions and we will be there in no time.”
Some of the teachers asked the Tour Guide, “Are you sure? Has the First Assistant ever been a driver before? Maybe you should call the Emerald City’s Great Leader and Trustees and make sure the new driver knows the path to take.”
But the Tour Guide said, “That is not necessary. The Great Leader looks to me for guidance and if I say the First Assistant can drive this bus, then trust me, he can drive it and get us to the Emerald City. “
The Tour Guide, also realizing that the passengers were getting restless after days of sitting idly on the moving bus, told them that for the next leg of the long journey, they would get a preview of what awaited them in the Emerald City. As the bus drove on, he and the Second Assistant passed out samples of the curriculum, told the teachers to make the best of the trip and pretend that the bus was one big classroom. The Tour Guide confidently told them that the best thing about the Emerald City was that social justice awaited them there, everyone would learn the same things at the same pace and that all of the students would be better off under this equitable system. So, in an effort to calm the students, the teachers passed out the materials and told the students to dig in.
Days, weeks and months passed, with the school bus continuing down the yellow brick road, the journey taking far longer than the teachers and students ever imagined it would. Whenever the New Driver got to another fork in the yellow brick road, he would consult with the Tour Guide and the Second Assistant about which way to go. Without a physical Map, they spent many hours discussing their options. Many times during the journey, the Tour Guide told the driver to go in a new direction. When the students or teachers occasionally asked if the bus was lost, the Tour Guide reminded them that he didn’t need a paper Map and to be patient. Every time the bus changed course, they were promised that the Emerald City was just around the next bend.
Yet the bus still didn't arrive at the Emerald City. To make things worse, chaos broke out on the bus. Some of the students were bored with the sample materials, others found them to be too difficult. Some students grew emotionally distraught, while others became defiant and said they no longer liked going to school. Trapped on the single bus, the teachers were not sure how to get control of the situation. So one more time, they turned to the Driver and asked for his help.
But rather than help them, the Driver stopped the bus. Everyone looked around and said, “Have we finally reached the Emerald City?” But the Driver said, “No. But it is time for me to get off the bus. We are not at the Emerald City yet, but I don’t need to get there anymore, since I have found a new city I’d rather work in.” And with a smile on his face and a wave of his hand, he hopped off the bus.
The teachers were now very concerned. Would they ever get to the Emerald City? Did it really exist? What would happen to the students? Did the Tour Guide really know what he was doing? Overcome with worry, they said to the Tour Guide and the Striking Assistant, “We really think you are lost. Please call the Great Leader in the Emerald City or the Trustees and ask for better directions.”
The Tour Guide finally agreed to check with the Great Leader and went to make a phone call, but when he returned, with a big smile on his face, he announced, ”I have some great news…” and then mumbled under his breath “for me. . . The Emerald City’s Great Leader has decided to retire early and the Trustees have chosen a new Leader. I have just spoken to him and he has put his complete trust in me and made me the new driver! Don’t worry, now that I am completely in charge of the bus, we’ll make haste and get to the Emerald City in no time at all.” He then revved the bus engine and drove on.
But the road to the Emerald City continued to be endless. Angst and frustration grew amongst the students and teachers. A few weeks after the Tour Guide took over as the Driver, he came to yet another fork in the road. At that moment, he realized that the bus was back at the first fork in the road that led to either “Main Street” or the “Road Less Traveled.” With a big sigh, he turned to the Second Assistant and said, “I think we might be lost. Which way do you think we should go to get to the Emerald City?” But, not surprisingly, she had no answer.
Hearing his question, the teachers and students all started hollering, “What do you mean, you don’t know which way to go. Are we really back where we started? You told us months ago that you drew the original MAP and promised that you knew how to follow the yellow brick road to the Emerald City!”
But the Tour Guide answered, “I never said that. It was the last Great Leader and the first and second drivers who claimed to know the path down the yellow brick road. But they got off the bus or moved away from the Emerald City leaving me and the Second Assistant all alone. Don’t blame us if we are lost now. Now you all have to give us more time to figure out the path to the Emerald City. All we need is more time…”
The teachers and students all looked at each other in horror. They couldn’t believe what they were hearing. So much time had passed since the tornado had carried them away from the Land of Educational Contentment. They were no longer content. They had wasted valuable time on this school bus to nowhere and were either bored out of their minds or felt defeated. They had put their trust in the Tour Guide, accepting all of his promises that he would lead them to the Emerald City and a better education.
They all started wailing, “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. Why can’t we go home? We don’t want to go to the Emerald City anymore! Please just stop the bus and either let us get off or let us call the Great Leader and Trustees and ask them to get us a new driver who actually knows how to get us there.”
But the Tour Guide and the Second Assistant ignored these cries for help. Instead, the two of them stared straight ahead at the long yellow brick road. The Tour Guide started the engine and once again began driving the lone bus down the yellow brick road --- to nowhere…
Our next post will discuss the significance of this story and the sad reality of what took place at the October 27, 2014 board meeting.