Indeed I know and have known throughout my career as an educator many amazing people who teach. I cannot say with any honesty that they constituted a majority, far too many of those I taught and watched being mediocre thinkers in their own right and far too many who were not themselves avidly involved in making sense of the world for themselves by keeping themselves informed and their minds active engaged in the process of reasoning by which truly thoughtful people come to understand what is real and meaningful.
Those who were so engaged, who were the most thoughtful, had a very hard time of it because of what they were ordered to do, to teach to a curriculum too often insipid that could not possibly inspire independent thinking, critical thinking, creativity, inventiveness because the prescribed methods had been created to be foolproof–even a fool could succeed if he or she could follow directions.
I am teaching remedial English courses now and have in my classes students who are much brighter than they know themselves to be, who, if I push them will express thoughts of a level far beyond what they think themselves capable. Almost to a student, they do not participate in the decision making process by which citizens of a democracy govern themselves. I asked them who the governor of the state was and I asked them for their thoughts about current affairs involving the president.
Really! Hardly a one could name the State’s chief executive and but one knew about the crisis surrounding the Nation’s chief executive.
THEY ARE NOT DUMB. THEY ARE NUMB. THEY ARE NOT STUPID BUT BELIEVE THAT THEY ARE. THEY DO NOT PARTICIPATE BECAUSE THEY DO NOT SEE THEMSELVES TO BE QUALIFIED TO DO SO. THEY DO NOT TRY TO UNDERSTAND COMPLEXITY BECAUSE THEY DO NOT THINK THEY CAN AND, SO, DO NOT TRY.
In essense, they have been instructed in complacence. They have come to accept that they are not amongst those smart enough to voice their opinions; they do not believe that they have opinions worth expressing. The play rather than participate. They pass time.
The good thing is that they can be revived. And when they are given the opportunity, when they are encouraged TO THINK FOR THEMSELVES they, in the most wondrous way, COME ALIVE.
They should have been encouraged to do so a very long time ago.
Something has to change and drastically. We need teachers who are thinkers and we need an educational system that exists to encourage and grow thoughtfulness. If teachers need teacher’s manuals to teach, something is wrong. If teachers have to teach according to some manual, something is wrong. If students have to learn what is in the textbook accompanying the teacher’s manual as per how the manual says they must be taught, something is wrong. If they are evaluated on how well they can say again what someone else has said to them, they are being cheated out of their intelligence. If they are not encouraged to challenge their teachers and the texts and the correct answers on the tests, they are being indoctrinated.
The current system is anti-democratic, hostile to individuality and critical thought and it should not be tolerated or excused for being the best we can possibly do because it is destructive.