Teaching and Education

Sat, 10 Feb 1996 10:43:00 CDT

Mike made a good point when he asked <<whaddya mean "too"?>> and it brought to
mind a recent book by Robert Fried -- The PAssionate Teacher -- which was part
of my holiday reading along with Neil Postman's, THe End of Education.

Fried makes two points in his book. 1) Most of the "burn-out" in teachers has
little to do with the process of educatio -- i.e. teaching and learning. Most
of the "burn-out" that we see at all levels of our educational institution comes
from an overload of impossible combinations of institutional structure,
political posturing (school board, community AND faculty), and other incidentals
of the formal organization of our schools. 2) If you "stratch the surface"
(his words on a recent radio talk show) of these frustrated burned-out teachers,
often you will find a person underneath who is passionate about helping students
learn and who is passionate about learning him/herself.

Sure, there are burned-out shells of teachers out there who should have never
gotten into the business -- they don't love learning, they don't love teaching,
and they don't love students. They violate what Neil Postman and Charles
Weingartner set up as a primary requriement of teacher certification -- the
candidate must be able to demonstrate that s/he has had a loving relationship
with another human being that lasted at least 6 months (Teaching as a Subversive
Activity). P&G also pointed out then (it was 1969) that the phenomenon that
Fried writes about in 1995 would occur as a result of the overload of the
students' and teachers' "crap detectors."

So, it isn't just about the money. It's about society's attitude toward
educators. A. Children are our most important resource. B. Educating them well
is a top priority. C. The school taxes are way too high. D. Teachers make too
much money. E. Cut the "frills" from the school curriculum (but don't you dare
elminate interscholastic sports, especially the violent ones).

One thing about teaching in the community college system (compared to the big U
on the hill) is the lack of a sports dynasty -- or at least a lack of an image
of a sports dynasty. Students know that they will get an education here, not a
trip to the NBA or NFL.

Andrew Petto
Editor, National Center for Science Education
c/o Dept. of Anthropology, University of Wisconsin
1180 Observatory Drive, MADISON WI 53706-1393
ajpetto@macc.wisc.edu; 608/262-2866; (f) 5-2615
Madison Area Technical College, 3550 Anderson St., MADISON WI 52704-2559
NSCE: ajp3265@madison.tec.wi.us; 608/259-2926; (f) 608/258-2415