Heather Wolpert-Gawron

Carmageddon: The 405 Closure and Education

By on July 14, 2011

Just a few thoughts before all hell breaks loose over here in Los Angeles. First of all, I woke up this morning wondering if the closure of the 405 freeway was going to be like the staged Anthrax scare in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (one of my favorite movies of all time, by the way). If you don’t remember that, it was the government’s massive over-up to clear out the area in which the aliens were set to rendezvous. They spray-painted the sides of trucks, they threw a couple of dead cows along the road, they killed a canary. The conspiracy ran deep.

Anyway, back in reality, in this case, everyone from Los Angeles to New York has been told to clear off the streets of LA for an entire weekend. This one closure, this apparent vein to civilization, will also affect the final shuttle launch, as well as any Wildebeest exodus across East Africa. Perhaps in the future, depending on one all important highway, one system alone, would be considered imprudent.

Which got me thinking about education.

Online education, homeschooling, private schools, charter schools, unschooling: are these all mere sidestreets to public school’s grand thoroughfare; or are they true and viable alternatives for our country that can serve instead of the brick-and-mortar public schools? After all, if there’s anything we can learn from the 405 closure, it’s that we can’t rely on one pathway through schooling alone.

To further that topic: as teachers, we also need sidestreets through the profession of teaching itself. Our current 405 is to get our credential, plow through 30 years of teaching or more, and retire. But as anyone knows who has driven the 405 over the over, you must find ways around it sometimes, even under the best of circumstances, or you’ll never want to get into your car again. It’s enough to drive you crazy. In other words, we need options through our profession. We need to be able to use our expertise as teachers in different ways. The 405 and the 30-year teacher still exist, but not in the way that it did 10, 15, 20 years ago. The teacher credential graduate will most likely not remain in the classroom that long, so how do we retain this institutional knowledge?

We create sidestreets that permit them to travel along the profession’s path and avoid the burn-out that comes with sitting in the car all day long for days and years on end.

Anyway, will this weekend end up as “Stormwatch, ’11?” (As anyone in LA knows, a weatherman-branded “stormwatch” generally ends up as a mere drizzle promoted to hurricane proportions). Or, will it truly be the end of the world as we know it? It’s hard to say, but in the promotional, getting-the-word-out battle of “things to be concerned about,” it is truly tragic that carmageddon has beaten education, hands down.

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