Saturday, January 28, 2006

Teaching, or Indoctrinating?

Some who know me would question how I could have such a post title given that my students know my political bent. Granted, some probably think I'm a far-right-wing fanatic when I really a center-right small-l libertarian, but at least they know that John Kerry and I don't share many political beliefs. Anyway...given that they know my political leanings, could it be said that I'm indoctrinating them? To paraphrase John Kerry, "would that it were true." Damn, I can't come up with that line he said that made him sound oh-so-elite and oh-so-snobbish and oh-so-pathetic. If anyone knows what quote I mean and can come up with a citation I would be oh-so-grateful.

No, I don't indoctrinate. I use my views as part of my shtick, part of my rapport with students. Several have told me they've never had a "Republican" teacher before and like knowing that they finally do. Others like to sharpen their liberal fangs on me. Some actually start to question their own beliefs, one way or another, and some comment on this blog. And this all happens in "down" time--it's no excuse not to learn the day's math! So I teach math, discuss politics (often individually with students) and things seem to move along nicely. And lest anyone think that perhaps I subconsciously discriminate against my leftie students, past or present, I'll let their grades speak for themselves. I grade on demonstrated math skills and nothing else.

Does this teacher cross the line into indoctrination? There's a good "yes" argument to be made.

What is the context? Is it merely to educate? How does making people lie down on the floor do that in any way? Slaves were whipped, sold at auction, and even castrated. Should these things also be reenacted? Why? To "teach" students that slavery was wrong?

There's something about making a kid do stuff like that which crosses a certain line, and I'm not sure why. It just strikes me as invasive of the students' personal dignity and going beyond education. It's as if they're deliberately playing with children's emotions...

I agree that slavery and the Holocaust were profound atrocities, but is it really fair to call them Western culture? And if they are moral equivalents, why shouldn't the Holocaust be reenacted too? There's no reason why the dimensions of gas chambers or killing pits couldn't also be taped on the gym floor, with students made to pretend to die like Hitler's victims, but I suspect that the school wouldn't have allowed that. Again, I'm not sure why.
I love the book Eyewitness To History (ISBN 0-380-70895-7). You can read first-hand accounts of all sorts of historical events, including atrocities and tragedies, without being made to feel guilty for them.

1 comment:

Eric said...

Thanks for the link. If only there were more teachers like you!