Cultures of Silence
What if teachers were as important as academics, if not more important? What if classroom life, research and practice was at the core of educational policy decisions and not on the habitual fringe?
Why do some teachers call themselves teachers and some educators? Why do we teachers struggle particularly with issues of identity and recognition? Probably because of our low wages, especially when viewed in proportion to the level of education and professional development we invest in ourselves to sustain our integrity and credibility in what we do. Teaching is what I would call a mystified profession is our society. Mystification is a term used by Freire to describe the wool that’s pulled over our eyes to make oppression seem acceptable. These are usually false, or more importantly superficial and naive interpretations of the world that stop us from nurturing a truly critical consciousness.
Let me get back to the teachers. You see, we are told that teaching is not one of the highly paid (or valued) professions because little children don’t compare to the vast economic stakes that bankers contend with or the acute medical diseases that doctors superpower their way through. Teaching is not highly paid because anyone can do it really, because we’ve all been to school. I’m sure you can immediately work your way through your memory of schooling and sift out the teachers who knew how to teach and those who simply didn’t but who surfed their way through system anyway. Teaching doesn’t need to climb up the wage hierarchy because frankly, the world has bigger problems right now. Besides, we will need teachers less and less in the future because where they can be replaced by a computer, they should be. Pure wool. In all sorts of sophisticated colours and textures. The dominant discourse.
If you take every problem in the world, shake off the dirt and dive into its roots, it will lead you to education. From the failures of communist and capitalist regimes to our forgetfulness of the lessons that human history lays before us to the problems of the economy to irresponsible health choices to basic individual happiness, there isn’t one that doesn’t pass the litmus test of more education being the solution to a better future.
So why? Why undervalue our teachers? What is there to be gained from from this battery to the very people who breathe life into education every day? Who shape the minds of our children, our teens and future presidents? Because we live in a culture of silence, colonised by skewed interests on who profits from education and un-education, who should be allowed re-education and what real continuing education should be about. We teachers have internalised the negative self-image society has given us and our sickles struggle with how thick the wool is. We have a status quo that we uphold.
Why undervalue our teachers? Who else will set things right when it’s early enough to set them right?