‘Building’ Teachers

“Every thing that tends to insulate the individual, –to surround him with barriers of natural respect, so that each man shall feel the world is his, and man shall treat with man as a sovereign state with a sovereign state;–tends to true union as well as greatness.” R.W. Emerson, American Scholar

One of the by-products of industrialization was standardization. Advent of technology empowered business, following standardization, focused on ‘product’ as unit of their affairs. Soon, evaluation of human beings as human resources brought them down to same inanimate level of products.

In all other avenues, it is the research, technology and finance that matters. People working there are merely support functionaries. It is in health and education that they truly turn into products. Naturally, you would like to enhance the quality of  toaster, car, teacher and doctor. So, you bring in reforms, ever so often, to keep pace with fashion.

The Urban Condition

No time to stand and stare...

With health reform, there is infrastructure, multiple industries so nurses and doctors are pushed to fringe. In case of education reform, with publication syndicates representing industry, full thrust is upon the human part – the teacher. Early on, several disciplines (psychology and then management) provided the much needed ingress to a rock solid academia. Soon a new discipline of Education started spanning its wings. It did help, so long its genuine understanding of the activity appealed to contributors to provide teachers with ample material. Over the time, losing objectivity, the suggestions stemmed out with burden of its own pedagogy.

It did not matter to ask whether education would enlighten mind, brighten spirits through a particular course of action. So, long as it served as a tool to narrow the focus of young minds in desired direction, it was enough. With the change in premise, it was easy to design the delivery system to a T. The reform deliberates either the area of focus or the manner of delivery.

The present reform in U.S. ponders over what kind of coaching system should be enforced to get the desired end-product. So the National Center on Education and the Economy, a think tank funded mostly by large corporations and their affiliated foundations observes that the country is no longer able to ‘build’ better teachers. With their study of teaching practices in countries like Finland, China and Canada — where educators devote greater time in preparing and have  significant autonomy in how to teach – the likely policy would be to import coaching of that time.

Random_michael comments on an article by Kevin Drum:

I’m a college professor and my wife is a grade-school teacher, so I am painfully familiar with the abysmal state of education in the U.S. Unfortunately, one of the main culprits is the system of teacher training. Simply put, schools of ed suck. Almost universally.
The reasons are complex, but a big one is, ironically, the concept of teacher training itself. Schools of ed are staffed by faculty who get tenure by publishing research. So there is a powerful incentive to generate what is ultimately specious evidence for this or that pedagogical method. This is how you get published, attract funding, get raises and promotions, etc. But it has nothing to do with turning out better teachers. Just the reverse: inculcating each crop of students with the latest breakthrough in teaching multiplication only harms classroom instruction. No wonder some of the worst teachers are those who teach teachers, as my wife can attest.
Things have gotten so bad that we no longer know what counts as a good education or effective instruction. Hence the proliferation of tests that serve to kick this basic problem down the road by marshaling “experts” who devise measurements of narrowly defined “facts” and “skills.” Meanwhile, we worship at the altar of “freedom” and “self-esteem” while in fact depriving kids of genuine foundations for both.

It leads to an examination of our starting premises. In a democracy, the end is Man. Questions, Thoreau, “Can there not be a government in which the majorities do not virtually decide right and wrong, but conscience?” This ‘conscience’ which is prime currency of democratic ideal, does it find any representation in course of modern human existence? It is only in young, untainted minds that seeds of conscience strengthen the stem of purposeful existence. Only when inquiry is goaded and guided by it, that result would benefit individual and the world alike.  It needs a person who may without ambiguity seem to be an embodiment of truth to teach the truth:

He who gives himself entirely to his fellow men appears to them useless and selfish; but he who gives himself partially to them is pronounced a benefactor and philanthropist. Thoreau

It is not that we lacked any resources to point us in the right direction; we prefer to look elsewhere than in our own hearts – where the answer lies.  The renaissance of  this continent began with the warning: to stop looking elsewhere and rely on what we have. Building a teacher can never be the aim; nurturing future citizens could be. Individuals build their community, society, nation. Let them be individuals who are conscientious, responsible, honest and giving: you will have a strong nation.  Bernard Shaw might appear to be elitist, but he pointed merely the direct relationship between  treatment and growth:

the difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she’s treated. Pygmalion

Make the profession of teaching as that of builders ( not of human beings but of society and life-view) where a teacher feels responsible, is allowed to act conscionably, unburdened to give freely and you will have such a society.

Works Cited

“EMERSON–“THE AMERICAN SCHOLAR”” Virginia Commonwealth University. Web. 31 May 2011. http://www.vcu.edu/engweb/transcendentalism/authors/emerson/essays/amscholar.html.

“Henry David Thoreau: On the Duty of Civil Disobedience.” Index. Web. 31 May 2011. http://www.constitution.org/civ/civildis.htm.

“George Bernard Shaw: Pygmalion: Act V – Free Online Library.” George Bernard Shaw – Free Online Library. Web. 31 May 2011. http://shaw.thefreelibrary.com/Pygmalion/5-1.

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4 Comments

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4 responses to “‘Building’ Teachers

  1. Shailendra Pandit

    How ironical – Google inserted an ad for Gantt Charts right after this piece 🙂

  2. A K Awasthi

    ‘Training’ somebody is basically anti-man, anti-society and anti-nature; thereby we only make consistent effort to destroy man’s inbuilt ingenuity, his ‘swabhava’ (natural disposition) and ironically hope to get things better after ‘training’. Any skill or quality emerges on its own , that is the law of nature. Man can only modify it a little. to suit to his requirement but he need not impose his shortlived values on natural disposition. The result is always disastrous- all technology is an evidence.
    Teachers are born not made- a natural disposition to acquire, share and distribute for human good and feel content in contributing to nature’s scheme of things.
    Man has been trying to belie nature ever since he learnt to think and had the initial illusion of success. Of course, they can be trained (modified) who have the natural disposition for acquiring a particular skill.
    What Bacon said in ‘Youth and Age’ is always relevant that the young have the energy to go in a particular direction, whatever it is, they should be allowed to pursue. The society can help them with caution (through experience – Age). Let them be allowed to build their destiny they want. After all why does the present (peopole) want to perpetuate itself through eternity by way of making , building, planning for the future, when it knows for sure that the present is too short, it is not future- it cannot be- but it has grains to shape itself, which, on the contrary, the present (man) utilises for building the future.
    The present= man, the future= child- how can both match / synchronise.

  3. Akhilesh

    This article and the poem have vividly highlighted the bizarre state of education in this country for which every right thinking person feels concerned but sadly the system is such ( yes I blame system ) that one finds himself/herself almost impotent to do anything worthwhile to set things right. And the moribund system, that has evolved over the years owing to the excessive political and governmental interference, is such that even if someone tries to make amends and set right the flaws,the person is trapped into the notorious home-bred red-tape. As a school principal,I did try to break the mould in many ways but I can’t say with any amount of certainty whether I succeeded even partly.
    Any way I just have no intention to tell you what you have already known and experienced but what really gives me and you and all the well meaning persons a sense of anguish and pain is that despite our concerns and worries,things are not going to change in the near future or if I can say, in our life time. Believe me I am not a pessimist by nature but am a realist and what I foresee is not very promising at all. I know things will have to change as change is fundamental to life but education is related to generations and if things do not change at a better pace, the changes become meaningless as the times will march ahead to push us back again.

  4. Anand Kumar Awasthi

    The dominant value of the AGE is commercial-cum mechanical. Nature’s cycle is moving that way. We can keep struggling against, that is our part of ‘nature’. That , what appears to be, is not what it is. If Socrates, who had professed — ‘It is better to be a Socrates dissatisfied than to be a pig satisfied’, i.e. hunger for knowledge is paramount — were living today, he would say, ” the world is being ruled by pigs and donkeys, man is but a silent spectator, who has put his mind to foolery”. How many (truly intellectual persona who have the ability to interact with others meaningfully) have the power to lead?
    Today the rule is, if you can advertise your being an intellectual, an achiever or performer, then alone are you considered one. The intellectual was held in past to be one who could outreach all that is conventional, traditional; go beyond books and methods; innovate or help evolve possibilities different from all known items/ ways (unmindful of consequences as personal loss/gain). Education involves creating a citizenry, a society which allows the truly adventurous, romantic and experimental to develop alongside staid intellectuality.

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