If I said to you that this person’s work ensured that 10 years in the future your community would continue to be a safe place to live and work—that crime rates would continue to be low. You would probably say that person’s job was important.
If I said to you that this person’s work meant that we could continue to enjoy litter-free sidewalks, the beauty of fresh streams to fish in, woodlands in which to camp, hike and hunt, the majestic flight of the bald eagle, clean water to drink and fresh air to breathe, you would probably applaud that person’s work.
If I said to you that this person’s work meant that technological advances to improve the lives of the vulnerable, injured and sick would be possible, that your community could be the birthplace of inventors, scientists, engineers and lawmakers, you would be excited to meet that person and call her “neighbor”.
If I said to you that this person has the job of preparing the conscience of the human race to meet the challenges of the future, you would probably say “Wow, that person has a big job. We better get the best person we can in the position, and support her as much as possible.”
That person is the teacher in your child’s classroom bringing out the best possible in every student he encounters– and teacher who spends her summers studying and taking courses to continue her education so that she models the life-long learning that makes her and her students the best citizens possible.
That person is the paraprofessional who has devoted 30 years—including summers—learning on his own time how to help the student who is struggling or the gifted student who needs extra challenge to develop her talents. That experience cannot be overvalued.
That person is the university researcher who doesn’t get summers off and funds over 50% of her salary through grant writing, spending 70–80 hours a week looking for the needle in the haystack that will enable the kid paralyzed in a car accident to walk again.
That person is the university professor who spends countless hours working with at risk populations so that charitable organizations can understand better how to help.
That person is the college professor who spends an hour on a Saturday night talking to the student in crisis. Or the college professor who notices real brilliance in the student taking her general education course and opens that student’s eyes to possibilities he may have never considered before.
That person is the adjunct professor or lecturer who teaches so that your child can have a person devoted to solely to teaching for the initial courses in college writing, math, science and history.
That person is the part-time instructor teaching welding at the community college—teaching her students to do a job well, so that you can trust that the welds on the airplane wing were done by someone who took pride in his job the next time you take your family on vacation.
Education is not about knowledge for knowledge sake, because the search for knowledge without an ethic of care is a dangerous thing. Education is not about getting the highest salary possible. Education is not about job training (although job training can be education).
Education is about creating a thinking society in which every member has a conscience and can serve as instruments of transformation and inspiration to eliminate injustice, protect our natural world, and promote a universal ethic of care.
This is what education does. This is what teachers, staff members, principals, professors, and instructors do—24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
I know. I used to teach. It’s a noble profession. It deserves our highest respect and support.
©Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.