As if teachers don’t get enough blame heaped on them, I’m going to heap some more. Being a teacher myself, I deserve a share of the criticism. It seems that we teachers are completely oblivious to the hypocrisy of our “do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do” approach to education. We also have a tremendous knack for criticizing our students for not learning things we never teach them, namely causality, critical thinking, and self-reliance. Some mention should be made that whatever negative impact we desperate teachers could be having on today’s youth, it pales in comparison to the “shock and awe” society-at-large, which includes our government, corporate capitalism and its lackey media, and the resulting deterioration of family life. However, it is my contention that teachers have a unique opportunity to provide hope for future generations by standing up to manufactured political “controversies” and discuss head-on the issues that pervade a student’s mind. We must demonstrate a willingness to confront society’s hypocrisies, social injustice, and global crises instead of perpetuating
“Shock” is exactly how I felt when I heard the news that at my high school several kids premeditated an attack of another kid in order to capture it on their cell phone video cameras. The goal was to upload it onto the Internet. The attacked kid went into convulsions and was hospitalized. “Shock” rules the day in an increasingly irreverent and impulsive society. However, the responses and reactions I heard teachers making were equally dismaying. Here is where the hypocrisy of educators begins.
We act shocked and surprised that our youth are acting out and impulsive yet my fellow teachers vapor locked when I asked them to look at the society of “shock and awe,” right down to the language chosen by our leaders to carry out a murderous rampage on innocent lives. Our act in
Enter the teacher. We have an opportunity to teach accountability by modeling it before we demand it from our students. If I was in a student’s shoes, I’d wonder what the fuck kind of hypocrite my teacher was for asking me to act more responsibly and to hold myself accountable when all around me I see the adults in society failing to hold their government accountable for crimes against humanity, and human rights violations. As a student I’d be outraged that a teacher demanded from me accountability when in textbook Orwellian fashion I perpetuated obvious lies for the sake of ideology. A psychological study needs to be done on teens in this country that aimed at assessing the anger festering in our youth on a latent/subconscious level as they must clearly know they are being handed off a much more fucked up world environmentally and geopolitically than we were given.
A common complaint among my colleagues is that “kids today don’t get causality.” As if irony knew no limits, these teachers don’t know why! Just to be snarky and smug, I sometimes ask them why they think that is. Sad to say the usual responses deflect blame from our dear old profession. So I say again, “modeling for students what we expect them to learn might yield fruit.” Besides that we can do a revolutionary thing: we can teach it! That’s right, we can teach causality. I’m pretty sure the kids get that straightforward concepts of causality they learned in science class, but they rarely see it applied by their teachers, let alone the rest of society.
In fact, I asked my students why it was we (our media, educators, government, et. al.) don’t ever seem to discuss the causes of a massive immigration problem, but instead deliberately choose to study and cover the effects down to the very last detail. I am proud to say one of my students was quick to reply, “because we won’t like what we see when we look in the mirror!”
Even if we think kids aren’t listening they are. It’s just they are good at tuning out the bullshit. When a teacher decides to be honest and stop presenting the world as a clean, linear, desexed Elysian paradise for the disciplined few, and instead models how a committed individual should be denouncing hypocrisy, social injustices, and resisting illegitimate authority without utopian illusions, that is when students may start to truly listen. However, for many school is already a lost cause and surviving it is a major struggle. Needless to say, teachers are in a unique position to model accountability beyond faux democratic processes such as voting. Teachers could get their asses organized and pressure the institutions that undervalue education, rather than modeling excuse-making. It’s no wonder students feel powerless and hopeless. Where in society do they see it modeled?