Thursday, June 08, 2006

Socrates Would Not Be Pleased

Although you're not supposed to, I have several favorite students. They are either very much like me or nothing at all like me -- in between students, while generally nice, are somehow not my favorites. One of my favorite students of 2005-2006 is a young lady to whom I often refer as mini-me because, duh, she reminds me of my tenth grade self. In reality, this chick is way cooler than I was in the tenth grade. For example, yesterday she came to school in a t-shirt that said "stop the genoicide in Sudan." When I complimented her on it, she whipped out an order form and explained that she'd had the t-shirt custom made and that she was selling them to, get this, raise money to donate to an organization working to stop the genoicide in Sudan.

If memory serves, the coolest, most activist things I did in the tenth grade were to A) sign a petition at the Earth Day Festival requiring curbside recycling in Virginia Beach (it worked) and B) plant two trees in honor of Arbor Day, one of which died and the other of which is now almost as tall as my parents' beach house (3 stories!). I also vaguely remember being the cause of a major fight between my parents after my dad, a nuclear submariner with the Navy, found out that my mom had been writing monthly checks to Greenpeace to shut me up about the importance of saving the whales. And, if it counts for anything, I totally fell in love with a guy who had long unkempt hair and really really liked Jane's Addiction. But genoicide wasn't even on my radar.

There's a point to all this.

This favorite student of mine stopped by after school yesterday to talk about what she'd just learned in Algebra class:

  1. Global warming doesn't exist. It's just something politicians made up to get votes.
  2. Social norms are not to be questioned.
  3. Jesus is the only true god, and it is important to live by his laws.
  4. Her generation is ruining the world.
  5. Muslims pretty much just torture people.

That must be the "new" math I keep hearing about.

Here's the thing about teaching: I get to talk about global warming, lying politicians, social norms, Jesus, who's ruining the world and how, Islam, and the Geneva Conventions. I'm a Social Studies teacher and, believe it or not, all that shit is in my curriculum. But I don't get to preach, and I tend to err on the side of caution. Oh sure, today I said that nobody at FOX News even knows how to read and I did once claim to be smarter than our current president, but I said those things to make my kids laugh and not to make them believe what I believe.

I don't even necessarily want my kids to believe what I believe, at least not in the way that this Algebra teacher seems to. What I really want is for my kids to think for themselves after examining all sorts of different viewpoints. If they end up believing what I believe, cool. And if they end up thinking FOX News is quality journalism, obviously they're fucking retarded. Okay really, if they end up thinking FOX News is quality journalism, I'm okay with that as long as they've actually thought it through.

Because thinking is pretty much what education is all about. But forcing your beliefs on other people, especially when you're a grown-up and the other people are 15, is not teaching, it's preaching. And although the two words rhyme, they're completely different in spirit. This Algebra preacher has clearly chosen the wrong profession. School is for challenging one's existing views and expanding one's mind. If you want people to remain exactly where they are knowledge-wise, or worse, to accept everything you tell them without thinking, I'm sure there's a nice church nearby. Failing that, you could always apply at FOX News.


lulu said...

I'm surprised that your student didn't call the algebra teacher out on her comments. I teach English and talk about the Bible and Jesus all the time, because pretty much everything in American Lit references the Bible in some way, and I always have at least one student who raises his/her hand and says "You can't talk to us about religion." And then I have to explain that I wouldn't be doing my job if they didn't understand symbolism.

vikkitikkitavi said...

Growing up in a small town in Indiana, I had more than my fill of religious nut teachers trying to fill my head with the Bible and telling me to keep my godless opinions to myself.

When I got to college, I learned that a lot of what those idiots taught me was a complete load of crap.

For instance, I was taught that Wegner's theory of continental drift was a load of hoakum put forward by communists who wanted to make Americans stop believing in God. I remember the day in college geology when I learned that it had been accepted scientifically for decades. I remember looking around the classroom at all the students nodding their heads like this was all a given and thinking "I've been cheated."

Maybe this is why people who go to college tend to be more liberal. They've had the veil lifted from their eyes.

Brian said...

Well, in all honesty, I've gotta agree with this Algebra preacher on one thing: that generation is pretty much ruining the world.

And when they're done with college they'll be perfectly molded into more know-it-all, high and mighty, Ivory Tower liberals, which will continue to ruin the world.

Megan said...

lulu: Actually, someone did call the teacher out, the teacher got into a shouting match with him, and then kicked the kid out for being disrespectful.

vikkitikkitavi: In a public school?! I was hoping this was more of an isolated incident.

brian: Ah, the large and growly blogger returns. This generation is definitely NOT ruining the world, nor does college turn everyone into know-it-alls. For example, you didn't go to college and yet you still seem to know everything. :)

Brian said...

Yup, sure do. And all you enlightened college folk don't know jack

Grant Miller said...

Sounds like that math teacher is doing word problems this week.

wonderturtle said...

Wow, we have a math teacher who gave a student the finger in class AND has a bumpersticker on her car that says, "Another Pro-Life Family for Bush."

It's official: Math=Evil.

vikkitikkitavi said...

Oh, hell yeah, it was a public school. But we are talking about small-town Indiana. Marion, Indiana, to be exact, site of the last public lynching north of the Mason-Dixon line.

I'm reading a book about the lynching written by a native of my hometown, and it's pretty interesting. The deed was carried by many men apparently, most of whom were town officials, the "high and mighty" of the town you might say, sitting up there in their Ivory Towers thinking that they "know it all" about humanity and justice.

Oddly enough, I don't think any of them went to college.