Sunday, February 17, 2008

Why Teach?

Lots of talk lately about hope. From the political campaigns, to the economy, to the future of public education. All education is public, isn't it? Obama talks about the audacity of hope; one must be audacious to hope these days. So many have either lost hope or never seen any that they seem to live in a cloud that not only erases their humanity, it limits their vision. They have no hope because they cannot envision the possible. Such a tragic turn from the ambitious days wanting to make a difference. Yet, all hope is not lost. It lives on in those still able to imagine, those who sense the power of the promise, those who know how to act without being asked or forced.
I was reading an excerpt from a book called Why We Teach and, of course, I applied the question to my own motivation. After all the important, but cliche ideas like making a difference, passing on knowledge and curiosity, and modeling learning and the behavior of learners, I was struck with one teacher's concern that by nature, teacher's often hinder or limit the education of those they purport to teach by the way they phrase a question, or by various sins of omission in creating their curriculum. What a contradiction! Seems hopeless; but we can't get caught up in the unavoidable paradox that is educating a human being. We'd never get anywhere.
Why teach? To help people think for themselves, to prepare those who would learn for the excitement and effort, and fear, and anxiety, and drama, and incredulity, and satisfaction, and wonder, and beauty, and despair, and utter fascination that comes with valuing education for its own sake.
Last week I heard from a half dozen of my former students. One heard something on NPR and thought about a class discussion we had 3 years ago, another heard a new CD by a group who recorded some previously unheard Woody Guthrie songs and needed to tell me, (I'm really glad he did) a third, is uncertain about a psychology major and wanted some clarification about what that might entail...others are just interested in what I'm reading or what I think about this film, or that candidate.
That's why I teach.

No comments: