0172: The Sullied Good We Do: Teachers as Cogs in the Machine
By the very nature of our position as teachers we have the ability to do many wonderful things. We equally have the power to do great harm, with or without intention. Our system of compulsory education is at the very least imposing, beyond that it serves to colonialize and massify every soul that passes through its machinery.
These statements and ideas are bothersome as they serve to split me, the teacher and human, in half. They indict me of some unconscious atrocity committed at whim my own hands. Further, by making such statements I run the risk of alienating myself from anyone who finds them as offensive as I do, and guarantee that I will be misunderstood on some level. But, I believe the duality of our profession holds truths well worth bearing witness to. To not notice the dual nature of what we do would be negligent. By understanding it better and our role within it, we are better able to disrupt what needs disrupting and bring forth our more valuable attributes.
My intent is not to expose some conspiracy by some powerful few; rather, I want to understand my role in a system that functions beyond the intention of the pieces that work within it. It’s a system that is both benevolent and useful, and equally harmful. There are aspects that enlighten and liberate, and suppress and colonialize. Unfortunately, as the tiniest pieces of this machine, teachers, it is not always possible to decide how our duties will be carried out, besides outright rebellion.
I debate whether I should provide a laundry list of specific characteristics of the machine, its cogs, and their functions. I think this would be trite, as we all have our own understandings that hopefully are perpetually changing. The truth I put forth is simply that, my understanding of the truth. I challenge you as a teacher, human, thinker to examine your understanding of your role within the system. Be honest in seeking the good you do, and the atrocities, no matter how small, you commit. Honest reflection is a means purging and pruning anything unnecessary or ill.
I will make one solid indictment of the system, its teachers, and consequently myself: all children are not served equally; some experience great gains, others have experiences that are detrimental to the educational, personal, and public lives.
As we are cogs in a machine, so is the education system. Blame and intention are too minute to tease from the grand playground. Disrupt what you can, and be conscious.
0064: #Teaching, #Doublethink, and the Learning Wasteland
There is a required cognitive dissonance that must accompany the teaching profession. Conscious teachers are forced to hold two contrasting thoughts at once often having brutal and erratic side effects. On the one hand, teachers must hold true to the belief that they are helping, that they are somehow bettering society by teaching a group to be better thinkers, maybe even enabling them to be more free. On the other hand, there is the constant nagging, perhaps of the conscience, that what I am doing is, in fact, of no use other than to provide a place for students to occupy their time with boredom and repetitive tasks that are harmful. Buried within the intention of public education is not to create a free human being, but the goal to create a compliant citizen who will never cause too much trouble because the will to do so will have been educated out of him or her.
So, what is the truth? Where is the mean of these two ideas? Are they each correct, simultaneously? I tend to think that the latter idea is more true even though it is enshrouded in the first, more hopeful idea. We are better able to swallow the two if we hold fast to the better ideal. We do good overtly, we provide hope and a “future”, while providing little more than rhetoric and training.
What can be done? Am I missing something? Please correct me where I falter. I have somehow misunderstood, surely?