Our Great American Teachers

Blog #1: July 4, 2009: Our Great American Teachers

Thank God, for teachers! We are the backbone of American culture. We are the front line of every attack and every assault on our system of education. We are there for the children of America. And considering everything we have to put up with – We do one hell of a job! And, we have a long and storied history of serving America and our children. Why? Because teachers are that rare blend of the Arts and Sciences – We couple our knowledge with our humanity and we work with students to develop talents and potential. We are known best for two basics: We give hope in the future and the skills to be successful. One without the other will not suffice. Author, John Steinbeck, said it well…

“I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are other great artists. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.”
– John Steinbeck

I have been a teacher all my life and I am proud of my profession, because like Taylor Mali (www.taylormali.com) says, we make a difference. We hold kids accountable for the standards of life. We develop talent and we make kids recognize their responsibilities to themselves and to society. We make kids understand their part in the story of America, their community, their school, and their family. And, we do it with the deck stacked against us.
We teachers uphold the values of our American Cultural traditions. We perpetuate the ideals of America and we establish the basis of every new generation. Our youth who join the military and serve their country developed their patriotism in schools as well as families. Our youth who become law enforcement officers were molded in our schools as well as our families and churches. Our youth who dedicate their lives to bettering the world through science, technology, and literature developed their moral values and their sense of loyalty to the pursuits of life, liberty, and the happiness formed their insights and loyalties through our schools and the context of schooling. Our system of education may be under constant attack by the press and the public, but let them try to teach! It is one thing to preach, but quite another to teach! Our system of education has always been under attack – so what! What else is new! However, we have always responded with integrity and with dedication. After all, we are teachers. The purpose of education, as Plato said, is to make men good, and we do indeed make men good – And, to improve upon Plato, we also make women good too – just a little poetic license here – its always healthy to poke a bit of fun at those historic old foggies of yesteryear!
Speaking of Plato, he was one of the first to recognize the significance of teachers and who it is we who transmit the culture of a society, inspire the youth toward ideals of their culture, and unify the values of the body politic, religion, and family. He advocated for a government system of education for the perpetuation of a democracy. He predates Thomas Jefferson in stating that the strength of a democracy depends on the education of its citizens. Plato was the one who stated that a democracy called for the best of education for its citizens in order for its survival. However, it wasn’t an education aimed at some narrow and prescriptive set of standards that were academic in nature. Plato and all the Greeks realized that education must provide its citizens with a basic understanding of right and wrong, good and bad, noble and base. Education was necessary for all citizens, not just males. Plato saw the necessity of universal, state run education for the perpetuation of the entire society. And, he fully understood the relationship between the system of education and the cultural context of the society in which it functioned. His biggest fear in a democracy was not the abuse of power, but rather the abuse of liberty. He feared that an uneducated populace would abuse the very rights that made the society great. Unbridled liberty would be the death of a democracy. Rights, he maintained must be tempered by responsibilities. Plato also saw to it that the culture of the people should define the purpose of its government as well as the system of education that supported the government.
Our system of education is perpetuated by the teachers. We make or break the society in which we live. We are the transmitters of culture, and values, and ideals. Without us, our Great American Culture would cease to exist. God Bless our teachers and our schools.
That’s my story and I am sticking to it!

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