A few nights ago I was riding home on the motorcycle and I had a nice long hour and-a-half ride to think about things. It was completely freeway miles, so I got comfy in my alligator seat, crossed my arms and let my mind wander a bit…while paying attention to the road of course. I started thinking about something that may be common sense and it may even be too obvious a thing to waste a blog post on, but Garth’s last post relates to what I was thinking.
A lot is being said these days about education and “how we educate”. When I began in this profession three’ish years ago, I always called myself a teacher. Somewhere along the way I started to call myself an educator. I do not think that this was a conscious choice; rather the system assimilating me. If I became an educator, then that means I am part of the “problem of education”. It may seem like semantics, but I really started to think about how important the words we choose to define ourselves are.
Teaching is as old as the human race. Men taught their sons how to hunt; watch me, and then you do it. Women taught their daughters how to sow a field; watch me, and then you do it. Children taught each other games, man taught each other government and religion, so on and so forth. Education though, is a relatively new event if you look at human history as a linear thing. So I started thinking about if the two are the same thing or not; is a teacher the same as an educator?
I decided that they are two different ideas. Education, from its inception and arguable through the present day, has been controlled by the rich and powerful. The children of elite received an education to help their families remain elite. Those that received education through religious institutions were taught to control (and remain controlled) by the institution in charge of the education. It is the same today. Ideas like No Child Left Behind, school funding, state standardized testing, etc all seem to favor those schools in more affluent areas. In the past, students have escaped the oppression of formal education: Copernicus, Newton, Einstein, Zinn, and while more people are able to emerge as free-thinking spirits, it isn’t enough.
To these ends, I pledge to call myself teacher. I want to teach students to think, to create, and to be independent. One of my favorite poets said, “It isn’t enough to question authority, you have to talk to it too”. Maybe the fix for education is to get rid of formal education, but keep teachers. Teachers used to be a valued position in society; they were revered and often poor. I could live my life a happy man as a teacher, and someday I hope to find a way to teach without the bounds and politics of education.