Life is a buffet and most poor suckers are starving to death!
— Rosalind Russell as Auntie Mame
A few weeks ago, this gringo went to his first Mexican dance. Now for those of you that have never been to a Mexican dance, they go something like this:
From about 100 yards outside of the dance hall, you can hear the music. The music is fifties oldies; songs like “It’s not for Me to Say” or “Love is a Many Splendored Thing,” or “Mac the Knife.” Chubby Checker, Buddy Holly, Bill Haley. They all make appearances at Mexican dances. They may throw in some early sixties songs for the young people in the crowd, but don’t bet on it. The dance hall is an Elk’s Lodge, or a VFW hall, or a Shriner Temple. It was built during the Eisenhower administration and the portraits of the Grand Poobahs of old were last dusted when Nixon was talking to the pictures on the walls of the White House. Wood paneling is on the walls and the curtains are green and haven’t actually covered a window in decades. They are permanently pulled back.
The band plays the music really loudly. And the band has a name like “Danny G. and the Majestics” or “The Mike Garcia Trio (that has five guys in it).” And the band is really old, with maybe one young guy filling in for the really old guy that couldn’t get out of bed today. But the young guy is about 45, and is the son of the guy that couldn’t get out of bed. And they play the music really loudly. And about every third song, they play a romantic Mexican song, like “Maria Bonita” or some long lost Vincente Fernandez ranchera. Oh, and the drummer is blind. And they also will throw in “In the Mood” because, you know, every dance has to have THAT song. That’s the El Paso sound you know, and these guys were playing it before Crosno even thought about putting it on the radio or the DJ of the Fox Jukebox was even born.
The crowd is made up of lots and lots of Hispanic couples. And they are pretty old. They were young when the music was young. And to a person they are having a great time. 60-something couples, 70-something couples, cutting a rug with the same passion (maybe not the same speed) as they did 50 years ago. And they all came from the same high school, or the same barrio, or they all have something in common. Yesterday, they were raising money for a family who lost their daughter. It is community, and it is good.
They bring their own food, and they bring their own booze. One table may have KFC and Bailey’s, another may have tacos and Coke, another chips and beer. It is like an indoor picnic that you got dressed up for. And everyone knows everyone, and if you don’t it’s okay because you are going to meet everyone because someone is going to introduce you. And you can’t hear the name of the person you just met because Danny G. is singing the fifth verse of the three verse song Hound Dog and is mumbling some nonsense words to the tune but no one cares because it has a good beat and you can dance to it. So the music is loud because the dancers can’t hear it, or Danny G. is deaf, or the sound system has only one setting. Either way, no one cares. It is like a family reunion where none of the family is mad at any other members of the family. And the ladies wear their Sunday clothes with flowers, and the men wear really tight jeans and fancy rancher’s shirts, and you better get a $5 raffle ticket because the drawing for the flat panel TV is going to happen “real soon.”
So that is a Mexican dance.
And they are pretty cool. And if you have never seen one, you need to. Because the people that go to these things won’t be around much longer, and they may go the way of the dodo.
So what does a Mexican dance have to do with education technology, you may ask?
You see, the people at these dances are sampling from life’s buffet. They are enjoying something that a lot of people will never enjoy. They know it exists, they know it is cool, and they know that if you would just get in the mood, you would enjoy it too. And if you know someone that goes to these dances, they will invite you to them. They know a secret about life. And they are willing to tell you that secret. If only you would listen…
Kind of like ed tech. Those people that teach it, use it properly with their students, and that know it, all know it is a good thing. They know, down deep, if they could just get anyone else to dance with it, get them in the mood, that the new users would be impressed enough to tell their friends. And the dance would begin and the buffet would be expanded.
But not enough teachers and administrators are willing to sample the education technology buffet or go to the ed tech dance.
“It’s not for me.”
“I could never do that.”
“I don’t have time.”
Kind of like that dance step that the 70-year young couple just did, even though both of them came to the dance barely able to walk. Too complicated, too difficult, too technical. Amazing that some people can do it. I guess you have to be in the mood.
It is really too bad too, because technology is a great dance, and a lot of people actually like doing it, but not the majority. Not by a long shot. In the long run, we hurt the kids who need to learn that dancing with technology means more than just a MySpace account and video games.
We have to be like the dancers at the Mexican dance. We have to be willing to go out and be advocates for technology, and be willing to show others how good it can really be. Parents need to demand that it used in classes, not just by the teachers, but by the students as well. Students need to keep asking teachers to use it. Administrators need to make room in tight budgets to infuse technology into the classroom experience. Teachers need to demand technology not just be used for remediation in classes, but for acceleration, exploration and collaboration.
It is one thing to talk about dancing, it is another thing to actually get out and dance.
So, get out and do the dance.
Sample the buffet. Auntie Mame knew about it.
Education technology is good. I promise.
The dance is worth learning.
Just ask Danny G and the Majestics.
This first appeared in my Intended Consequences Blog—TBH