In his wonderful post from January 2, 2010, “Thoughts on Teaching, 2001,” Dr. Larry Cuban republished a speech he shared nine years ago when he retired from fulltime teaching and research at Stanford. He ended the post with the following paragraph:
Teaching, then, whether in graduate schools or kindergartens–in elite universities or slum schools–binds all of us together. In teaching we display our views of knowledge and learning, we advertise our ideas, how we reason, and how we struggle with moral choices whether we intend to or not. To teach is to enlist in a technical, morally based vocation, not an occupation and certainly not just a job. Technical competence, as important as it is in teaching, is insufficient to make a whole teacher or a complete student. It fails to capture the fundamental moral obligations of teaching the young. Teaching young and old in all of its splendid moral and technical triumphs and disappointments has taught me and I believe many other teachers to approach life and the classroom with humility. Finally, the current search for technical competence as the primary means of improving teacher quality fails to capture a virtue that few reformers even mention….”
Take a few minutes and read the entire post. Larry hits on the head, in this post, critical elements about the essentially MORAL NATURE of teaching and the teaching profession which are absent from the limited vision of our profession advanced today by Bill Gates, Arne Duncan, and many other leaders inside as well as outside government. Earlier in the post / quoted speech, Cuban states:
Who would argue against teaching becoming a full-fledged profession? Certainly, I don’t. Yet, in all honesty, what troubles me is the cramped image of teaching that has emerged from these reforms. The constricted picture is one where the teacher is a technically competent supplier of information and skills. It is an incomplete image of teaching.
It is vital we educate our current crop of leaders, and infiltrate their ranks, with an understanding of education, learning and teaching which incorporates the perspectives Dr. Cuban highlights in this post. Leaders in the United States continue to promulgate lasting damage on the minds of children as well as educators with their myopic focus on high stakes accountability and testing as the purpose for schools.
Perhaps my forthcoming Book Brewer book, “Thoughts on School Reform: 2004 – 2010,” will make a contribution to this vital need in a small way. I hope to finish my edits next week and have the book published by the end of the month.
I yearn for a day when our political leaders will advance a constructive agenda for school reform and educational transformation in our country.
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