Schools as the Societal Ideal

Question: In her video clip, Vianne Timmons states that teachers must be “idealists” as opposed to “realists”. She also asserts that our schools should not be microcosms of our current society, but microcosms of a more just society.

Author L.R. Knost wrote the following about parenting, but I think it is an important sentiment for teachers as well: “It’s not our job to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world. It’s our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless.” This is the same point that Vianne Timmons makes about inclusive education. She makes the point that we can only create a more equitable world if we allow students to become comfortable and adjusted to that kind of world while they are in schools. It would be a mistake, in my opinion, to assume that the current system is inherent in us as people. I do not think that the system has made people certain way; rather, I think that people created the system to be the way that it is. Therefore, people have the ability to change it for the better. I do not like the idea of becoming the kind of teacher, or the kind of person in general, who looks at problems and says “Tough. That’s the way it is. Get used to it.” I certainly do not want to be responsible for future generations developing that opinion. I agree with Knost and Simmons that striving for a kinder and more just world should be our priority, and that the best way to achieve this type of world is to achieve this type of school.

On the other hand, Kumashiro makes an important point in the second chapter of Against Common Sense when he writes: “…I am not suggesting that a better approach to teaching would have been to let [students] behave or analyze literature or produce writing in whichever ways they pleased. Mainstream society often places value on certain kinds of behaviors, knowledge, and skills, and schools would disadvantage students by not teaching what often matters in schools and society” (p. 22). Thus, it is true that teachers should make sure that students develop skills that will help them to succeed into society the way it is, as opposed to the idealistic society many of us wish we were a part of instead. This does not mean, however, that we must help our students develop these skills in order to teach them that the world as we know it cannot change and that they are better off adapting to the current system than imagining a better one. I think the best thing we can do for our students is to help them develop the accepted skills, and to impart in them the idea that utilizing and mastering the skills and knowledge that is valued in our current system is perhaps the best way to introduce change. Once a person knows and understands the way society currently works, they may have a better chance at changing things in the direction of idealism. For instance, Emma Laroque, in writing When the Other is Me: Native Resistance Discourse, said that using English—which, for First Nations people, was a result of colonization—was now the best tool for decolonization. Therefore, this tells me that future generations may be required to understand the skills, knowledge, and values of the world, as it is now—flawed and often unjust—in order to introduce positive change.

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