Philosophy of Education Part III
Today was another non-teaching day. The only assignments that presented themselves were for a couple of hours in the middle of the day, which are impossible for me to accept due to my wife’s work schedule. The day off ended up being fortuitous: I needed to take my car to the mechanic to get the brakes checked out, and it turned out that not only did we need new brake pads, we also needed the lower control bushings replaced. (I honestly have no idea what these are, but my understanding is that they have something to do with the control of the wheels, and, as such, is fairly necessary.)
I also spent the day dealing with financial matters while watching The X-Files. I thought I’d post another section of my education philosophy. Before doing so, I’d like to explain why I am doing this in the first place. Writing up my philosophy of education is a purely personal project. While my original draft is found in my common assessment portfolio and can theoretically be viewed during job interviews, it isn’t ever examined. Instead, this project is for me to better understand my own beliefs about who, what, where, when, why, and how I teach. I will eventually take everything I’ve written during this blog series and put it all together. It will also be subject to considerable editing. I may self-publish the entire thing when I am all done (whenever that may be).
I was recently asked this question: “What do you say to those who argue that education in this country has less to do with the transmission and evaluation of values than with the preparation of a work force?”
My answer is simply that this argument is silly. The reason is also simple: the greatest preparation for entering the work force is to have a first grasp of and ability to live according to the values of our society. A person can be perfectly qualified to enter a particular field, but if he or she is lacking in an understanding of social values, this person will not be fully prepared to enter the workforce. After all, nobody likes working with either jerks or those who are socially-awkward.
All of this transitions quite well into the realm of teaching. As an educator, the best way to teach values to students is by properly modeling these values. Students mimic those around them. I realise that they are only around me for a few hours every day, but I have seen this mimicry in action. One of my favourite experiences while student teaching was when a young boy left school on a Friday recalling a brief mention of something I’d said about the American flag. He came in on Monday morning bursting with excitement about all of the things he had learned over the weekend about the flag. He had heard what I said and wanted to show that he remembered it. The other great memory of my student teaching was my very last day. I made a decision early on that I would wear a dress shirt, tie, and slacks to school every day. This I did, even on the days when I would have much preferred working in jeans and a more comfortable top. I’m glad I did: the students all wore ties on my last day and left me notes telling me how much they’d liked my ties.
And so it is with everything: students mimic those whom they admire. They admire those whom they respect. They respect those who give them a reason to be respected. And the greatest reason to be respected is because you give respect. Yes, it is a cliché, but as I am fond of saying, clichés exist for a reason: they are generally true. So when it comes to deciding whether education should be about preparation for the work force or about the transmission of values, I believe that it is both because each leads to the other.