Thursday, November 19, 2009

Teaching Is A Calling

What the teachers (professors) have to decide is whether they want to be regarded as "professionals," or assembly line automatons -- who need a labor union to speak for all of them and negotiate the working conditions for all of them. If university professors cannot do that for themselves, then what good is this education they have to "teach," as though they were mindless, assembly line workers incapable of speaking for themselves. What then do they have to teach?

And then if they decide they really are professionals, training, planning and preparations are necessary adjuncts to support of the time they actually get paid for -- which is the actual instruction time, and not as an inconvenience to their career advancement days and programs.

The doctor or lawyer can only charge you for actual time devoted to your specific concerns and not just amortize the cost of whatever is required to qualify them to do their job.

That's what the teachers or any professionals have to decide -- and what makes them professionals or just brute labor.

That's the difference between a professional association and a labor union: in the first, every individual regards their service as unique, rather than identical to every other practitioner in that field, and so, the only thing that makes a difference, is number of years of doing that same thing.

But we know these days, that one's year's of experience is likely to be inversely related to how current one is to the state-of-the-art knowledge being developed right now -- since they are likely to be heavily invested in the knowledge of the past. That's why in seeking out a professional, the last thing one wants to know, is their seniority of doing things the old ways -- and that is true for any profession, which implies being on the leading edge of information, and not at its lagging end of being well-worn wives tales. That -- you can get from the most hardened, unquestioning fool that is all too willing to volunteer what they know at every opportunity.

This is particularly true of times like these when there is a paradigm shift in which what used to be valued, becomes a liability. Thus we see financial and real estate empires come crashing down because the cost of carrying them become disrupted by the flow of reliable income based on projections of them always going up.

Those are the big-ticket items, but what is more subtle and pervasive, is how the old computers and communication devices become worthless and should be discarded rather than allowed to increase one's clutter. It doesn't matter how long one holds onto the present obsolete electronic devices, they will not increase in valuable. Even knowledge has become that kind of accumulation, and what has real value, is the same ability to learn the new -- but that skill is not taught as the primary skill, but instead, all the old learning, as an accumulation of knowledge, as in a previous time, when memory, storage and accessibility were not so universal.

That changes the game for everybody but the real masters of their art -- in science, medicine, law, journalism, research, and especially teaching, which is actually this ability to learn the new -- and no longer be just a storehouse of the past accumulated knowledge. But master teachers have always been mindful of this difference -- and it is only those teachers, who make a great difference.


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