What’s wrong with the teachers at T.C. Williams High School?
Last September, we moved into a new $98 million building in Alexandria, one of the most expensive high schools ever built. Natural light floods the classrooms, and each one is equipped with a ceiling-mounted LCD projector, which transfers anything I can put on my laptop computer — from poetry readings at the Library of Congress to YouTube interviews with Toni Morrison and other writers — onto a large screen at the front of the room. Students’ behavior seems much improved: A cafeteria that looks like something out of an upscale mall has had a curiously pacifying effect on them, as has the presence of 126 security cameras.
So you’d think T.C. teachers would be ecstatic. But it’s just the opposite — faculty morale is the lowest and cynicism the highest I’ve seen in years. The problem? What a former Alexandria school superintendent calls “technolust” — a disorder affecting publicity-obsessed school administrators nationwide that manifests itself in an insatiable need to acquire the latest, fastest, most exotic computer gadgets, whether teachers and students need them or want them. Technolust is in its advanced stages at T.C., where our administrators have made such a fetish of technology that some of my colleagues are referring to us as “Gizmo High.”