Monday, March 06, 2006

Should teachers teach kids to think?

Chron.com - Teacher suspended for Bush remark
Stories like this one really bother me, especially considering the fact that I hope to teach political science and history courses someday. Of course I haven't heard the actual tape recording of what the teacher said, but the excerpts don't sound that unreasonable.

"Sounds a lot like the things that Adolf Hitler used to say," Bennish told students at the suburban high school. "We're the only ones who are right, everyone else is backward, and our job is to conquer the world."
If what Bush said sounded similar to what Hitler said, the teacher has a right, and in my opinion a duty, to say it. The article goes on to say:

The teacher quickly made clear that he wasn't equating the president with Hitler, but the damage was done.
and then adds:

According to the transcript, Bennish concluded by saying: "I'm not implying in any way you should agree with me. ... What I'm trying to do is to get you to ... think about these issues more in depth."
It's possible that this teacher went over the line in what he had to say, but trying to get students to think is an intergral part of a teacher's job. I had a teacher in high school that often played devil's advocate just to make us think about our beliefs.

In my opinion, one of the main reasons to study history is to learn from the mistakes of the past. People did listen to Hitler and he led them down a terrible path, but it seemed reasonable to many of the German people at the time. Heck, eugenics was even popular in the United States at that time too. We, the United States of America, are not immune to falling prey to evil ideas. One of the reasoning for educating the populace is to make them better citizens, one capible of carrying on democracy. We need people who can think for themselves.

I know, from being in the schools, that children can be easily led. I agree that teachers should not try to indoctrinate their students into their own political beliefs or punish them for holding beliefs different from theirs. But teachers have the responsibility to encourage their students to think about things. I think everyone should challenge their own beliefs. Think about the things you believe and why you believe it. Think about the things you do and why you do them. Are they really right? Is there really a good reason to believe it or do it?

Think about the days in the United States when slavery was the common accepted practice for agricultural production. Everybody did it, but it didn't make it right. It was wrong and it took people challenging the norm and rethinking old ideas to finally make it right. Think about it, rethink about it and never stop thinking. That's what I want to teach my kids.

3 comments:

Altoid said...

Do the Arabs not have a case when they scream hypocrisy about our support for anti-Islamic comics? We may not be putting people in jail, but we are costing people their livelihood.

Jan said...

we, as a nation, are hypocrites no doubt!

S said...

Is that a good idea? Have you met some of the education majors on campus. Not to stereotype the group, but I have met a few that I have a problem teaching students how to fingerpaint.