Monday, October 24, 2011

Teach truth, joy follows

Because sometimes I forget...this one's from August, 2010--I needed to see it again.

So what do you do?

What do you do when major sources of information provided to children come from corrupt human sources?

What do you do when the adults around them believe whatever lights up their amygdalas the most?

What do you say when the actions of those in power, those with money, those that command the messages, no longer work in the best interests of our children, all of our children?

I work for the government. I get that.
I also work for your children, and others get that.
The two interests are becoming less and less compatible.


I overstated that.

I work for the people of Bloomfield--they pay most of my salary, and if I could remove the yoke of Arne and the Governor by rejecting the small percent of my salary covered by New Jersey and D.C., I would.

I would be a better teacher for it, I would have more class hours dedicated to sharing science with my charges, and my students would be better prepared to care for their children when the time comes.

Maybe my lambs won't act like the sheep who are training them, and will act in the best interests of their children when tough decisions are made.

Maybe they will refuse to proctor exams that ultimately harm their charges instead of just grumbling in the teacher's lounge or on Twitter.


What am I going to do?

I am going to teach science.

I trust the natural world, I trust my senses, I trust logic, and I trust the intelligence of my lambs. I let them know these things.

I do not hope (nor would want) to influence their "beliefs," whatever they may be. I do not proselytize, which would be near impossible anyway, since I know nothing. I do not take sides in many of the silly "science" either/or debates raging in the media, because there are no sides to take.

I want my children to think. I want my children to see. I want my children to trust themselves when they know "two and two is four," even when others scream it's "FIVE!"

The ones I reach, and I reach a few, will see the world differently when they leave in June. I leave them with power, they leave me with hope.


The natural world exceeds our imaginations, but our imagination exceeds its limits. Our cultural inability to grasp this leads to hubris, to dreams of infinite growth, ultimately to annihilation.

I am not going to tell children an economy dependent on ever-increasing consumption cannot be sustained for more than a few generations. I will talk about primary productivity and limits imposed by the finite sunlight that bathes the Earth.

I am not going to tell them that a lot of what they believe to be true is bunk. I will drop a huge textbook and a paper clip from the ceiling and let them see which one hits the floor first. It surprises me every time I do it.

I am not going to tell them that school is important because they're competing with the Chinese or Indians or Icelanders for the same jobs and America needs an educated work force to keep our economy strong. I will share my love of life, of the local, of the edges of knowledge we can never truly grasp. We'll study bugs and daphnia and radishes.

We occasionally have moments of joy, even in a classroom.


Here's the secret--once a child trusts her senses, trusts the joy she feels when exploring a world that is as much hers as Bill Gates' or Rupert Murdoch's or any of tens of thousands of strangers who want to shape her life, she becomes her own master.

She becomes autonomous in a world of automation.

She might even dance to her own tune in a culture of technique, a culture that worships men like those pictured above. See their smiles? Trust them?

I don't either.

The Bill Gates photo is from the UK Telegraph here;
the Rupert Murdoch photo is from What's Nextt: Innovations in Newspapers website.


Simply Shelley said...

Good words to live and teach by! Makes me even more excited to be a science teacher!

doyle said...

Dear Simply Shelley,

Teaching science is a wonderful way to live--few places make me happier than my cluttered, living biology classroom.

It's still a wonderful profession--welcome aboard!