Saturday, April 17, 2010
Who Are We?
Who Are We?
For the last three days, I have been at an international writing and literature seminar for teachers working in a special program on behalf of a prestigious British university. The event was informative, interesting, and fun. I am certain the experience will help me in my quest to promote quality education for the youth of America. Unfortunately, what I learned from many of my American colleagues outside of the seminar arena left an indelible impression upon me – and a negative one. Inevitably, when teachers the United States gather, politics rears its ugly head. This week brought no exception.
By definition, we agree to instruct young minds in the art of thinking. Teachers are given mandates to adhere to curricula designed by states, counties, districts, boards of education, and the like, but are expected to demonstrate to students how to digest information. No power has commissioned educators to infuse our personal views upon the impressionable minds left in our care. Parents do not and should not expect teachers to opine on religious matters, moral values, or politics. Yet, when the topic of politics surfaced at several of our recent brainstorming sessions, I quickly realized what if feels like to be a skunk at a lawn party. Witnessing close-minded allegiance to political ideologies by those sworn to prepare the next generation for the realities of twenty-first century life was downright scary. During one uncomfortable luncheon meeting, the battle lines were drawn and all I could think of was the fact that in the past I unknowingly subjected my own children to group-thinking nonsense hurled at them by their educators.
I have some very strong opinions, but they are mine. It is a travesty to impart a teacher’s personal views upon your kids under the guise of truth. What I witnessed was the promotion of intolerance and hypocrisy. While generalizations are just that, the majority positions of American teachers appeared to follow strict party affiliations. One was either for or against, according to party-line policy. I did not find such antiquated thinking among the international community present at the academic function. They apparently possess the ability to engage in discourse, without drawing lines in the sand. I favor the kind of dialogue where people learn from each other in an atmosphere of mutual respect.
The strength of America has its roots in pluralism. We have traditionally been one from many. Shame on teachers who cannot think freely. I prefer to listen, digest, discuss, and learn. Unless our educators adopt open-mindedness, our children will find themselves governed by the sheepdogs of the planet.