Life Coach Magazine

Good Enough for Government Work

By Stevemiranda

When I was a kid, I used to enjoy hanging out with my dad as we did fix-it projects around the house. Sometimes as we were putting the finishing touches on a project, my dad would hammer in the last nail, step back to examine the final product and say, “Good enough for government work.”

* * *

I looked up the meaning of this phrase online and found this: “Originated in World War II. When something was ‘good enough for government work’ it meant it could pass the most rigorous of standards. Over the years it took on an ironic meaning that is now the primary sense, referring to poorly executed work.” (I’m not sure if my father’s declaration was a boast or a self-effacing acknowledgement of his talent as a craftsman.)

The phrase “government work,” in the post-Reagan era, conjures images of bloated contracts, wasteful spending, and paralyzing bureaucracy that prevents things from getting done. This is not without some truth, and I witnessed this attitude in the public schools throughout my 10-year teaching career. It’s not that teachers were lazy. In fact, the overwhelming majority of my teaching colleagues were incredibly dedicated, passionate people who worked evenings and weekends not because they got paid extra—they didn’t get paid extra—but because they really cared about kids. They took pride in their work.

But still, there existed a “good enough for government work” attitude that permeated the school environment.

For example, during a staff meeting a teacher has to choose between actively engaging in a conversation that includes more than 80 fellow teachers, or using that time make a dent in the 150 essays exams she has to grade. So she learns to sort of pay attention to the meeting, in between essays.

Or, a teacher is asked to donate his time after school to a committee that’s proposing a structural change in the way the school operates. But he knows that a few veteran teachers will challenge the proposal as a violation of the union contract. So he chooses to pass on the invitation. “Maybe some of the younger teachers might be interested,” he says.

Get a few years of experience teaching in schools and teachers quickly learn when to dedicate themselves with energy and enthusiasm, and when to say, “It’s good enough for government work.” Trying to enact institutional change from the inside is really hard. Schools are too big, the bureaucracy is too paralyzing. So teachers tend to focus their passion for kids in their own classroom, a micro-environment in which they can see the effects of their hard work.

The institutional change, then, gets ignored. Teachers are left to work furiously in unfavorable conditions, and end up having less of an impact than they should. Some get frustrated. “Good enough for government work” starts entering their classroom practice.

This is one way that we lose talented teachers. It’s going to keep happening until we can figure out a way to either change the institution or, more realistically, build new ones to replace the old one.

(Join the discussion at www.facebook.com/reeducate. Get updates at www.twitter.com/reeducate.)


You Might Also Like :

Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

These articles might interest you :

  • Video: SalomonTV Takes Us on a Dream Trip to Nepal

    Video: SalomonTV Takes Dream Trip Nepal

    If you could go on a dream trip, where would it be? For trail runner Tyler Courville, it would be a visit to Nepal to go running with National Geographic... Read more

    The 23 May 2017 by   Kungfujedi
    OUTDOORS
  • 5 Ice Cream Shops Keeping Chicago Cool This Summer

    Cream Shops Keeping Chicago Cool This Summer

    There’s no better sweet treat during summertime than ice cream. When the sun is out and temperatures climb higher, warm desserts just can’t compete. Read more

    The 23 May 2017 by   Urbanmatter Chicago
    TRAVEL
  • Coqui Coqui Residences

    Coqui Residences

    The chill and laid back subtle bohemian modern rustic elegance of the Coqui Coqui residences is undoubtedly the best way to drift away on a hectic Tuesday... Read more

    The 23 May 2017 by   Myparadissi
    HOME, INTERIOR DESIGN
  • First Look: Christian Actress Meagan Good In Election Night Romance

    First Look: Christian Actress Meagan Good Election Night Romance

    ChristianNews We have the first look pics of Christian actress Meagan Good in an election night romance drama starring opposite Omari Hardwick. Read more

    The 23 May 2017 by   Firstladyb
    SPIRITUALITY
  • Sedo Weekly Sales Led by Leem.com

    Sedo released their weekly sales and Leem.com was the top sale at $30,000. OnlyYou.com sold for $27,000. Songs and movies have both been titled Only You, so thi... Read more

    The 23 May 2017 by   Worldwide
    BUSINESS, TECH
  • Combining Posts

    Combining Posts

    Due to illness (not mine) it's been a while since I've been out either on the patch or further afield, today I finally made it out for a morning stroll around... Read more

    The 23 May 2017 by   Ashley Crombet-Beolens
    ENVIRONMENT
  • Sir Roger Moore – Always Living in the Fast Lane…

    Roger Moore Always Living Fast Lane…

    Today at the age of 89 years, the film actor and former "James Bond", Sir Roger Moore passed away, after a short battle with cancer. He was the longest serving... Read more

    The 23 May 2017 by   Solarisastro
    BODY, MIND, SPIRIT, SPIRITUALITY