Friday, December 17, 2010

Speaking Truth to the Clueless

A couple months ago, a colleague presented at a faculty meeting using, among other things, a brief animated movie with Einstein talking to... someone else. He did it using Xtranormal, whose motto is "If you can type, you can make movies." At the time I thought "well, that's a nice change of pace for delivering content." Little did I know that I was seeing the first contractions in the birth of a new video genre.

Since then, I've seen this medium come into its own, and what's arisen is a new genre with its own conventions. Let me give you a few examples:

This is the first such movie I saw, in which a bridezilla seeks to hire a band for her wedding reception. She wants to pay $500 for 6 musicians for 5 hours of music. Non-stop music. And the requests only get worse from there.

The next one I ran across was a parent talking to a music teacher about her elementary cornet prodigy of a daughter. Then there was the eager young undergrad going to talk to her advisor about pursuing a PhD in the humanities:

And then there's this one, in which a "helicopter" parent meets with her son's teacher (warning: explicit language, may be offensive):

The common thread in all of these is that a person in some particular profession is shown dealing with their worst "customers" such that 1) they are telling this person what they really think but would never say and/or 2) they are showing the ridiculousness of the things they encounter in the course of their job (usually with no comment necessary).

As someone who has made a career at independent schools, I should hasten to add a couple caveats: while this sort of thing does happen (rarely to this level of ridiculousness), the overwhelming majority of parents are wonderful people who are a pleasure to work with as we collaborate on getting the best education for their son or daughter. Most years of teaching, I have not had a single bad experience with a parent.

That said, I'll bet that every teacher with any experience to speak of knows the type, either dealing with such a parent or hearing the horror stories from colleagues. Just as musicians run into unreasonable demands from clients.

I like to think of this emerging genre as "Speaking Truth to the Clueless." And all of us have seen clueless people in action, so we recognize the type, even if we aren't in that particular profession.

Have you seen these videos? What do you think about them? Do you have particular favorites--or ones that really stick in your craw for some reason?

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