Monday, July 22, 2013

What Education Needs




            I can’t keep quiet anymore. Normally I remain fair, balanced and objective on most issues. I like to think that I come from a place of understanding, or at least from a place of striving to understand; knowing that I do not know all the nuances, circumstances, facts or information.  I just can’t keep quiet anymore, because I believe there is a lot at stake.  We seem to have come to a place in our society where some (too many, in my opinion) of our ‘educators’ have difficulty holding on to two or more ideas at the same time.
            While this would be troubling in any profession, it is more troubling when you’re dealing with a profession that has such a major influence on the development of individuals and really, when we think about it, our collective society.  As I have said many times, everyone is entitled to their opinions and beliefs. This is not about whether we are or aren’t entitled to our beliefs.  This is about not being able to explore and hold on to competing ideas that both have merit.  An easy example of this are those who disagree with anything a Republican, Democrat, (add in any label) does or says simply by virtue of the fact that they happen to be affiliated with that party, organization, etc.  
I am sure we can all think of organizations or groups that promote hate, violence and/or intolerance and would condemn anyone belonging to them. This is fair and probably a good thing, but what about the idea that many of them stand behind the idea of freedom of speech and expression?  Can we hold on to the separate ideas of not agreeing with what’s being said but supporting the idea of freedom of speech even when it gets messy?  I would like to think we could but am less encouraged by what I see and hear from some educators, especially those with obtuse political views or religious beliefs.
This is evident in various social media platforms with a plethora of education groups and forums.  Sadly, some ‘educators,’ or those who claim to care about education, post ludicrous, biased, discriminatory, fictitious accounts or opinions in these groups and forums.  While it is true that we all have the right to post whatever we want (freedom of speech), it’s the fact that these folks want to post what they do, and that they so vehemently believe in what they post, to the exclusion of reason and justice, that is the real issue.
            What’s more concerning still is the fact that many will change their opinion or endorsement of an idea depending on which party or organization is putting it out there.  So it’s not the idea; it’s who’s saying it... It doesn’t seem to matter whether they agree in principle or not. 
            Some may argue that as long as beliefs, etc., do not trickle down into the classroom or into instruction or guidance that it is a nonissue.  I would tend to agree with that if it were the case.  The problem is that we are talking about a mindset, and ‘education’ is not only about what is said or acted upon but what isn’t.  It’s also about creating safe places for debate and exploration of ideas that usually are complex and nuanced, and providing an example of fair, honest, just consideration of ideas based on facts, or at least the best facts available at the time.
            For example, this presents a problem when you have educators who lament that immigration is the biggest problem our country faces while eating the fruit which was most likely picked by an ‘illegal immigrant’ or migrant worker, the whole time ignoring immigration data.  Some might say that this is an opinion and wouldn’t be an issue, and that may indeed be true.  However, this mindset is dangerous, especially when it manifests in providing different experiences and access to experiences to children who are considered illegal immigrants by some. 
In a previous post, I wrote about the abandon of reason and how ignoring basis scientific principles, such as the displacement of water, somehow becomes a matter for debate when it suits a certain ideology.  There is nothing wrong with healthy debate, but do we really want educators to spend time disputing proven scientific principles that have stood the test of time and are apparent to any layperson over the age of five? Do we really want educators to spend time debating the merits of such ideas as human rights, decency, tolerance, justice, equity and democracy?
What we need in education are people who come into the profession with an understanding of basic scientific principles and a fundamental belief in at least human rights, justice and equity.  Maybe what we need are ways to identify whether teacher candidates possess these attributes or not.  No certification will ever you tell you that and probably shouldn’t, since at the moment they are designed to assess mostly content knowledge.
At the very least -- and I do mean very least -- we need educators who guide everyone with the same passion, vigor, dedication and forthcoming.  There should be no difference in how they go about their craft, whether a Republican, Democrat, ‘Illegal Immigrant’, Catholic, Jewish person, or whatever silly label our society clings to is a part of the group they are asked to guide.
            What we need now are educators who take their profession seriously enough to realize they can be an important piece of a societal shift that includes freedom, justice, democracy, equity and a fair chance for everyone to live in a way that makes sense for them.  We need educators who realize that this shift will only come about when we consider ideas based on merit, evidence, justice, trial and equity. 
What we need are educators who point the way forward and do not turn back into the myriad frays based on labels and the antiquated notion of one way for everyone.  We need educators who recognize how our society and media shapes hatred and intolerance based on fear.  And finally, we need to educators who will explore these notions within themselves so that they might see past the blinders inherent within any society. 

1 comment:

  1. I commented before and am doing so again, because clearly, I need to understand the ins and outs of computers a bit better. ha.
    anyway, this reminds me of my dissertation, which was on epistemology of teachers, specifically ones doing relatively cutting edge stuff -- community service learning. success as a teacher can be defined many ways and I believe some definitions are mutually exclusive. that is because schools perform so many functions in our society.

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