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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A Comeuppance?

A Comeuppance?

By Dr. Ryan Donlan
Assistant Professor
Department of Educational Leadership
Bayh College of Education
Indiana State University

As our first summer session nears its end, I want to thank my graduate students in School and Community: Collaborating for Effective Schools, EDLR 656 at Indiana State University for their thoughtful critique of my Ed. Leadershop articles over the past few weeks.

Today, I present a question inspired by an intriguing 2 minute, 17 second video on YouTube that we stumbled upon a few weeks ago, entitled Brat, a Tania Simeons (2008) short film from the Vancouver Film School. 

Here it is … please give it a watch.

Following our viewing of Brat, I asked students, “If we were to interpret this video our own way, could it represent the current state of education in America, and if so, who or what is represented by the characters?” 

We had an engaging discussion.  Do you see any parallels?

If I were to describe what I see, here is what comes to mind:

Like many this summer, I am excited at the prospect of moving into the next school year knowing that school leaders have more authority to direct their staffs and the well-being of schools.  I am thankful for the many tools created to assist in quality instructional supervision and evaluation.  And no matter the challenges we face today, this summer’s group of graduate educators offers us hope, as they are emblematic of the quality of leadership necessary to meet tomorrow’s demand for children’s opportunity.

Yet I am also a realist, and I understand that with all that is positive, some negativity exists – such as the loss of much local control in education.  Great educators are also receiving unwarranted criticism for the service they provide, and in many cases, centralized school reform is a one-size-fits-all prescription ill-suited for the pains that confront us.

May I pose that the Brat in this film actually represents those who have brought these prescriptions upon us?  

We, ourselves.”

I concede, of course, that a certain amount of responsibility falls upon parents’ abrogating their responsibilities, as well as society’s running amuck. That has always been the case and always will be.

Yet, a group within our own ranks has worked in plain sight for so many years, shooting us all in the foot, and for that … shame on them.  The folks in our communities, in our businesses, and in our legislatures are tired of their antics. 

For our not policing ourselves …  shame on us. 

Thus, the “We, ourselves.”

Who have we neglected to police?  Who have made the reputation of American education such that it is now fashionable for politicians to campaign (and WIN) on “fixing schools,” when better things are happening than ever before?

The bad apples, of course.

Those refusing to collaborate or engage in professional learning communities; those unwilling to hold themselves accountable for the academic growth of each child; those ambivalent toward the plight of families, and those with the soft bigotry of low expectations … looking failure in the eye and ignoring the wonderful child inside.

Adding to these are those who are “anti-everything-administration,” as well as those who are “anti-everything-union,” those who feel that schools are on the planet for the employment of adults rather than the education of children (my point last week), and those who attend graduate-level coursework or professional development and act as they would never allow their students – disinterested, overindulged, and effortless.

To extend my interpretation of the film, the toy represents those rebuking the bad apples, as they feel that enough is enough!  They will no longer stand for public employees acting unprofessionally, refusing to embrace the demands of 21st century or the needs of families, business, and communities while “on the dime.”

Unfortunately, the rebuke delivered has brought unintentional, collateral damage to the rest of us … the good folks.

“We, ourselves.”

As this summer season passes, have we felt, fully, our comeuppance? 


Simeons, T. (Creator). (2008). Brat [Vancouver Film School Short Film]. Retrieved from


Dr. Ryan Donlan obviously needs to turn that frown upside down.  If you would like to offer him a few “happy thoughts” or rather … drive him further into this dark grey cloud, please call him at (812) 237-8624 or write him at

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