Should teachers advocate for particular views?

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My grandmother was a singer. She suffered from nerves and had a way of coping with this fear that she shared with me whenever I was involved in a school performance. “I sang for the mayor,” she would explain, “and I told myself that he’s only a man in a pair of trousers.”

This is the key insight of adulthood. Adam and Eve didn’t grow up because they became aware of their nakedness, they grew up because they became aware of their own, and everyone else’s, flaws. As children, we idolise our parents. As teenagers, we see their imperfections. This is why we like movies with heroes in them. They send us back to childhood. 

Teachers live in this twilight. Students are inclined to believe us. Why? Well, the past generations of children who accepted an adult’s assertion that putting their hands in the fire was a bad idea are the ones that grew up to have children of their own.

And this provides temptation. Should we shape future minds? Should we ensure that children grow up to be right-thinking?

As a science teacher, I often hit upon existential problems. Personally, I find evolution and the Big Bang far easier to accept than the sheer immensity of the universe, but it is these first two that cause the trouble.

Sure, I have ideas. And I think the world would be a better place if everyone else shared them. I have a wholly eccentric view of quantum mechanics that I think should be more mainstream. But it isn’t. So I could use my position to push these views.

I don’t, of course. That would be wrong. If kids ask me what I think, I’ll tell them. But I’ll also let them know that my opinions aren’t fact and that they should seek a range of views from their parents and the people around them.

You see, everyone I admire has been wrong about something. Newton was an alchemist. Einstein couldn’t accept the uncertainty of quantum physics. Why should I be different? Propagating my own views is a fairly limited aim. Passing on the enabling knowledge to allow students to critique views and form their own opinions is a thing worth pursuing.

If I were a humanities teacher, I wouldn’t impose my politics on students, implicitly or explicitly. If asked, I’d say what I thought but that’s about it. I may, and I do, have strong views and opinions. But the means of preying on a student’s tendency to trust their teacher do not justify the ends of promoting my political goals because I might be wrong.

4 thoughts on “Should teachers advocate for particular views?

    1. Ditto — maybe this “eccentric view of quantum mechanics” is Nobel prize-worthy? Of course, don’t impose this on your captive audience of malleable youngsters. But, do pass it on to your peers or the quantum mechanics community.

      1. It’s just an interpretation and I didn’t make it up. It’s out there. So I’m not keeping something potentially valuable to myself. This is not the forum, however.

      2. Agreed: My comment is off-topic and diversionary. Sorry. After tea/toast/chores this is what I should have said:

        Let’s Look Internationally At The Teacher’s Role

        Greg Ashman from Australia, a frequent blogger, says teachers should not impose their politics or opinions on students — “Passing on the enabling knowledge to allow students to critique views and form their own opinions is a thing worth pursuing.” I agree. Thanks for opening up the topic.

        I am from Canada and look askance at what’s happening in the United States as protests against the Trump election continue. Now, here is an interesting article about the (likely) direct role of the education system in all this disarray. “Today’s street theater is the culmination of decades of radical education revision” — Today’s Riot-Prone Mobs Are A Product of America’s Cult-Like Education System —

        Take a look at the chart, which methodically differentiates between real education and cultish approaches — all the way from advertising to propaganda to indoctrination to thought reform (brainwashing). The author of this article, Stella Moribito, describes some of the 13-years of methods used: 1) withholding basic tools and codes of learning such as phonics in reading and clarity in arithmetic; 2) withholding content knowledge, etc. She suggests that this “mind arson” affects one’s college and later years. An article worth reading.

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