What does it mean to be a teacher in the democratic society that we live in today? According to the Webster’s dictionary a teacher is defined as "one that teaches" or "one whose occupation is to teach"

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I am thrilled with this paper because it truly does synthesize the material covered in the course and it shows thought that will lead to sensitivities that should greatly benefit the students and you, as a teacher, as a person, as a citizen. It is a little bit in need of some technical adjustments, really minor, but there. There are moments when the connections made are simply brilliant. You might want to pick some of those out and use them as starting point for future exploration and writing. Thanks of sharing your thoughts.

Final Paper

What does it mean to be a teacher in the democratic society that we live in today? According to the Webster’s dictionary a teacher is defined as “one that teaches” or “one whose occupation is to teach”. However, it is important to realize that everyone looks at things differently from different perspectives, which will influence how individuals define a teacher. As Maxine Green (1993) said, “….those present on a common ground has different locations on that ground; and each one sees or hears from a different position.” Everyone sees things differently and the reality of a teacher and the education system is defined as a combination of a variety of viewpoints. For example, a professor of education at Ohio Wesleyan University, when asked what it means to be a teacher, said that teaching is a “way of life and a profession.” She further said that as a teacher you “learn something new every day” and “love learning” (Zitlow, 2005). If you spoke to a CEO of a billion dollar company he or she would might say that a teacher is one that prepares the youth for the business world and the work force. A person that who is highly religious may feel that a teacher is detrimental or oppressive to their religion; or even counterproductive in that they are teaching things that do not align their religious views. The point is that each individual has had experiences throughout out the course of their his or her life which thathas have had an influenced how they he or she views education and teachers. In addition, those that have decided to become educators have also all had life experiences that have influenced their decision to become a teacher. For example, interactions with family, friends, coaches, elementary teachers, secondary teachers, professors, colleagues, politics, religion, and culture have all influenced how individuals view their place in education. Life experiences & interactions, both positive and negative, have helped to mold us into the people that we are today.

We need to consider how we as teachers are going to influence and “mold” our students. What role do we want to play in “molding” future citizens of this democratic society? Do we really want to “mold” them to be who we want them to be? We must consider the type of “molding” that has been so common in our society. There are so many examples of individuals, groups, and entities that have been “molded” to meet specific the needs of a particular group. For example, consider the career of Lee Atwater where he made a living helping shape and mold political figures in order to get them to the top,; sometimes using tactics that were pretty underhanded. Then there is the film by Bill Moyers, “Buying the War,” that discusses how the media is told by particular political groups of the day what they can and cannot report. If they report something different they will be put out of business. As a result, media “molds” the news stories in order to meet the needs of the particular group. The information becomes so distorted that we never know if we are hearing fact or fiction. In addition, let’s considers how Wal-Mart has “molded” the market to keep prices down and make the most money at the expense of it employees and quality of product. Do we really want to help to “mold” students into the next Lee Atwater or Wal-Mart CEO? Things to consider as we embark into the profession of teaching.

Teaching within the education system in today’s society is more than just opening a book and writing a few things on the board. Assigning packets of worksheets are is not going stimulate the minds of students. The lectures by teachers, day in and day out, do not have the kids knocking down the classroom doors with excitement. Students are not “trembling with exhilaration” as they start to copy down their 4th page of notes from the whiteboard. These are examples of the banking concept of education, as described by Paulo Freire (1970), where “people receive the world as passive entities”. In today’s world the banking concept is not motivating students to learn. In fact, according to Uekawa, Borman, and Lee (2007) research has shown that high school students are not “engaged” in the process of learning. Teachers are finding that it is harder and harder to motivate their students. Students are not interested in learning and do not see any point to school. Drop-out rates are on the rise, which has many educators scratching their heads. The truth of the matter is that students need to be engaged and motivated to learn. The process of learning is supposed to be engaging and exciting. Learning is not a passive activity. In order for students to learn they need to be actively engaged. Students are human beings that who have emotions, thoughts, feelings, problems, questions, answers, and knowledge. We are dealing with humans with actual feelings and thoughts. However, it seems that educators often forget that our students are human beings, often because they as educators are often oppressed by the educational system, by the stipulations and control they have experienced via their administrators. The dehumanization of students in our educational system has resulted in “disengaged” and “reluctant” learners, which lack the motivation for the process of learning. The humanization of students and the educational system in general is crucial to a successful democratic society. As educators we must work to connect with our students, as individuals and humans, in order for them to be successful in this democratic society.

Teaching in this democratic society is more than just notes on the board or chapters in a book. The “many” faces of our democratic society has influenced the education of our students and our jobs as teachers. According to Dewey it is important to realize that democracy is “truly human way of living. It is a way of life, social and individual”. .” If we are living within this democratic society we have to learn how to live and interact with others. Democracy is not something that magically happens. As teachers it is crucial to teach students how to become active participants in this democratic society. According to Henry Trueba, “conflicts are at the essence of democracy, must include the mechanics for conflict resolution”. .” Conflict is how we understand and transfer information to other cultures. So often in the schools, the students are required to follow strict rules and have no opportunity to share their thoughts, feelings, or even ask questions to further their understanding. If students do not have the opportunity for conflict, how will they understand and transfer information between different cultures? This is very similar to some of the classrooms that Kozol described. For example, students do not have the opportunity to develop the skills to deal with conflict. All they know is how to do is stay silent and listen to the teacher. This is why so many people today “refuse” or even “ignore” societal issues. They do not have the skills to raise questions or conflict, because they are a product of this educational system. They were taught to not question or go against the figures of authority. For example, in “Shame on a Nation”, by Jonathan Kozol he talks about the students of Mr. Endicott’s classroom, where students and teachers move through the classroom as if they were robots. The teacher uses very militaristic hand signals that signal the students that to be silent. Kozol discussed how everything said by the students was prompted in some way by the teacher. The students did not share their thoughts. Students were expected to just repeat what was said like little parrots. It was in essence “parrot language” (Kozol, 2005). Kozol (2005) discussed that the “differences between the children ceased to matter much……..The uniform activities and teacher’s words controlled my own experience perhaps as much as they controlled and muted the expressiveness of the children.” When reading about the dehumanization of the students in Mr. Endicott’s classroom, I found it very disturbing; especially when you think about all the children that experience this type of control and manipulation the classrooms throughout this country. It starts early in the elementary years through college years. Where students do not know how to think for themselves and always expect to be told what to do by the individuals with the “knowledge”; the teacher. How does an educational system hope to provide students with the tools to interact with people in the real world, when students only know how to respond like parrots?

In fact, it makes you wonder if the educational system has been set-up up like this for a reason. S, so that those in power can do as they please and never experience any resistance. For example, in the movie “Buying the War” it discussed how the media is influenced by the political party of the day. They are only reporting what they are being told to report. It was mentioned in the film that if the press went against the wishes of a particular political party, you may be put out of business. The media was in a way being oppressed. According to the film, they did not have the freedom to report what they wanted, especially in regards to the war. As Freire (1970) discussed, “the oppressed, having internalized the image of the oppressor & adopted his guidelines, are fearful of freedom”. The reporters were afraid to “go against the grain” and report a different version of the war story. They did not have the “freedom” to report the other side of the story. This is very similar to what both students and teachers experience in our education system. Several discussions have been brought up in class of how you have to be careful about what you teach because you do not want to get in trouble from your administrators and lose your job. Teachers are told what and how they are going to teach. They “fear” going against the grain and teaching outside the defined or in some cases the scripted curriculum. One example is the current controversies that teachers are faced with when it comes to teaching evolution. Studies have shown that every state is a little different on how teacher can approach this subject. Each state has developed a different approach in how they will teach the topic of evolution. It is hard to keep track of what each state is doing regarding this topic (Slevin 2005). In many cases, states are dictating to teachers what they are going to teach. Teachers are being oppressed. As a result, the teachers that have been oppressed, take on the role of the oppressor, and oppress their students. Students are then expected to engage in “drill & kill” and “regurgitate” the information that they learn. Students do not have the opportunity to question and discover the knowledge that is available to them. They do not have the opportunity to “grapple” with different ideas and find solutions to problems. The teachers have no freedom to expand on topics and help to develop the skills in reasoning to filter through the many different viewpoints of various topics. However we have to consider whether or not these teaching techniques are working. Students are dropping out of school and failing at an alarming rate. So how can we as future educators change these trends seen in our current educational system?

As Reich (2007) said, “genuine reform will occur only if and when citizens demand it”. .” If we as future educators want to see change in the system we have to “change the rules of the game”. Reich explained that “it is illogical to criticize companies for playing by the current rules of the game; if we want them to play differently; we have to change the rules of the game”. The same goes for the educational system. We need to think about the educational system a business conglomerate, like those discussed in the Reich’s book. Reich discusses that one of the most effective things that we can do in this world of supercapitalism is “enhance the voices of the citizens”. Therefore, it starts with the education of our students. They have to realize that they have voices that need to be heard. This starts in the classrooms when we have class discussions and learn about the topics. Students should have the opportunity to express their thoughts and concerns. They need to be encouraged to ask questions and think for themselves, so that they will be able to make educated decisions. We as teachers have to take a proactive role in developing instructional materials that are useful and effective. There is more out there than what is printed in a textbook. Just because “McGraw-Hill” put it in a textbook, does not mean that you cannot step outside of the box and gather additional materials to support the teaching of a particular topic. We need to give the students the skills to “change the rules of the game”. Students have to be aware and cognizant of the fact that there are different views and perspectives on different topics. As Henry Trueba said, “Americans ability to respect people with opposite views allows them to reach a critical balance of forces; it permits developments of cultural movements and cultural discourse in opposite”. There will not be cultural transmission if all students are taught to do is “passively” absorb the material presented in their classrooms.

We have to imagine for a moment how it feels to be one of these students in the classrooms discussed in Kozol’s book. Some of us may know how it feels to be a part of the extreme cases discussed in his book, because we are products of this educational system. Although some of the cases in Kozol’s book are extreme and it is as if the students are caged animals that must be “harnessed and trained”. It goes back to the oppression, as these students are being dehumanized. It is in a way false charity, the way that the students of inner cities are treated in their classrooms. For example it could be said that the strict rules and procedures in Mr. Endicott’s classroom are necessary and for the good of the students….false charity. However, the fact is that these students have no identity. They only see themselves as their oppressors do. As a result many of the students do not realize the opportunities available to them because have no knowledge of those opportunities (Howe, 1992). Many of these students in these inner city schools have never known anything different, so they assume that what they experience is normal. They are not given the opportunity to see that there is more out there. As Freire (1970) said when discussing the oppressed that “their perceptions of themselves is impaired by their submersion in the reality of oppression.” One example that is reflective of this statement is when Kozol (2005) asked the students about what they learned and they would only repeat the militaristic terms that had been attached to different activities in the class. They only spoke in terms that had been “drilled & killed” and tattooed in their minds.

In a way it is very similar to what Hanna experienced in the “The Reader”. .” She was in a way oppressed by the fact that she was illiterate and by those that she worked for in the concentration camps. She did not have the opportunity to realize and recognize that there was something better for her because she did not have “knowledge of those opportunities”. She saw that there was nothing better than what she was doing. She had been dehumanized by her illiteracy and “passively absorbed” life. She feared an “authentic experience” and showed limited feelings, for the majority of the book. The statement in Freire (1970) reminds me of Hanna: “one of the gravest obstacles to the achievement of liberation is that oppressive reality absorbs those within in it and thereby acts to submerge human beings consciousness.” The story of Hanna makes one think about the students in our classrooms that struggle in our classrooms to read, interact, and pass tests. If the schools do not provide them with the resources that they need to succeed, they will continue to be oppressed and will not have the knowledge or the desire to recognize the opportunities that are available to them, as Hanna did toward the end of the story. Through the process of becoming literate, Hanna experienced “rebirth” and began to on the road to becoming fully human. She took on a “new form of existence” (Freire, 1970). She reflected on the what had taken place over the course of her life, which lead to the action of be liberated from her illiteracy and things that she had done during the course of her life. Her “rebirth” put her back on the road of humanization. One must consider what it will take to put our educational system back onto the road of humanization.

Before we can makes the changes we have to have an understanding of where what the issues are and what students have experienced, as we did as we followed the story of Hanna. More specifically what is dehumanization and how do we change it. ? According to Freire (1970) “dehumanization which marks not only those who humanity has been stole, but also those who have stolen it”. To dehumanize is to “deprive of human qualities, personality, or spirit” (Websters). It takes away the ability to be human and there is a distorted view of reality as a result of the oppression being experienced. Very often the oppressed take on the view of the oppressor, “self depreciation is another characteristic of the oppressed, which derives from the internalization of the opinion that the oppressors hold of them”. The oppressed hear the views of their oppressor so often that they start to believe it. One must consider examples of how our educational system has contributed to the dehumanization of our students. As was mentioned in class, we were all at some point after 9/11 felt very strongly about our country and our patriotic duties. However, we were so oppressed and drawn in by the media that we missed the real story behind the war? . For example, Kozol discusses the classes he visited where students were labeled as Level 1, 2, 3, 4. He talked about how the children would actually refer to each other as levels. Kozol (2005) describes this is as the “overinflated formal designations for their activities seep into their vocabularies”. The students were taking on the vocabulary of the oppressed. This is Similar similar to what Hitchens discussed in regards to different religions. It was argued that people believe things that they really do not really understand or can explain. They take on the thinking and vocabulary they have learned via their religious teachings, without out question or concern for humanity. They “parrot” what they have learned. Another example from Kozol (2005) is where the principal of the a schools makes the students of different levels raise their hands for applause. However, Level Ones were not asked to raise their hands for applause like all the other groups. They were at the bottom and the whole school knew it. This was extremely dehumanizing and do not deserve to be treated this way. Reminds me of the Maxine Green (2003) article that mentions, “absences & silences” which are the voices of those that are ignored in our multicultural setting. When students are dehumanized and degraded they are lost to education and it is hard to bring them back.

Another dehumanizing aspect of schools is that fact that students are expected to swallow everything that they hear. They are supposed to believe it and not question. In addition, schools tend to censor out things that may be a cause for controversy or discussion. Very similar to what takes places in the media, where they tell us only what they want us to hear. They are depositing the information into our lives, whether we like it or not. Very similar to the concept of banking education, where “education become an act of depositing, in which the students are the depositories and the teacher are depositor” (Freire, 1970). No wonder, students don’t want to be at school. They are like file cabinets and the teachers are filing information in their brains. Sounds exciting! They do not get the opportunity to think, question, problem solve, or collaborate. It is always assumed that the teacher knows everything and students know nothing. However, our students have knowledge that is useful to share with others. They have all had experiences, may it be cultural or religious, that have influenced their lives. However, they are not seen as important. This is the point at which we are losing our students. They are not being taught things that are relevant to their lives. Studies have shown that students are only going to tune in and learn something, if it is relevant and important to real life. According to Carl Rodger’s Theory, a teacher must consider that “significant learning takes place when the subject matter is perceived by the student as having relevance for his own purpose” (Sanfeliz & Stalzer, 2003). It has to be “pertinent” to their lives. According to Dewey, students need “practical experience in learning”. When it comes to a multicultural classroom it is important to consider “culture and interest as motivational tools” (Sanfeliz & Stalzer, 2003).

The use of standardized testing also plays a role in the dehumanization of students, because the schools and the teachers are working to pass those tests and earn those numbers. It is forgotten that students learn in different ways and a test does not necessarily give you the whole picture of your students. Students are often defined as numbers. The fact is that all students learn differently. Some may be bad at taking tests or have difficulties reading. Just because a student cannot take a test does not mean that they are bad students. This goes back to the idea of supercapitalism, which can be transferred into the classroom. It is all about the numbers and the yearly AYP. It is about making the grade, just like the money hungry CEO’s that we discussed. They want profit and they will do anything to get it. Same thing is happening in our schools. For example, there was discussion of schools that eliminated recess, because they needed more test prep time (Kozol, 2005); this reminds me of the Wal-Mart employees that are treated like crap and paid nothing, so the CEO and stockholders can make big profits. According to Kozol (2005) “numbers become everything. Live by rubrics; die by accidental dip in yearly scores. And to the winners goes the extra $15,000” and the “numbers tells us all we need to know about our children”. It sounds like a business deal, but we are dealing with children that are recognized only as a number on that yearly report. The system needs to be changed so that students are much more than numbers. When students become numbers they disappear into the background of schools and eventually they become invisible. Schools are of no use when it is all about passing those standardized. For example, my brother is in high school and has had some difficulty passing the math exit exam. He has always had difficulty taking tests, especially with math. In addition, he has had a series of math teachers that were substitutes that did not know what they were doing, so he did not have a good math foundation. He has had to take the exam at least four times; each time missing a pass within only a few points. Each time becoming discouraged and concerned that he may not graduate. He is overall a good student and decent grades, but he could not pass that test.? Where is the problem? He just recently passed with a lot of help and support, but what about those students that do not have the support to keep trying to pass that test? It is a dehumanizing process. I know of many examples of students that have just dropped out because they cannot pass that test. Again we are dealing with human beings that need to be provided with the skills and tools to deal with life. The standardized testing needs to be reviewed and teachers need to think about whether it is more important to support the positive development of students or earn that number. Teaching to the test is not going to give students the skills necessary to weed through issues of everyday life. In addition, teaching to the test eliminates those subjects that may be motivating and interesting to the students. As teachers we need to find ways to teach students what they need to know and still ignite motivation and excitement for learning.

It is important for teachers to develop the skills and the ability to motivate and engage students in the curriculum. It is a “critical pre-requisite” for teachers to have an understanding of how and why students learn. It will allow teachers to develop effective instructional strategies to address students that are “reluctant” and “disengaged” learners. In fact, before a teacher can have any sort of influence on students they must understand how and why students learn (Turner, 2008). A teacher needs to understand both the cognitive and affective domain. The cognitive domain has to do with “synthesis, recollection, comprehension, evaluation, and analysis.” The affective domain has to do with “values, motivation, attitudes, stereotypes, and feelings” (SERC, 2009, p.1). Studies have shown that the affective domain can “inhibit, enhance, or prevent” student learning. When dealing with motivation, we are dealing with affective domain. In general, teachers need to provide both cognitive and affective support. It is also important to realize that there are different types of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic motivation is the “desire to learn due to interest, self-fulfillment, and enjoy the mastery of a subject”. As a result, a student is then motivated to do something because they are genuinely interested in a topic. Extrinsic motivation involves performing or succeeding to accomplish a specific goal or outcome. The student motivated to do something because they want to earn that grade (Kirk, 2009).

In addition we must consider the importance of inquiry in the classrooms. Paulo Freire (1970) said that to “prevent others from engaging in the process of inquiry is an act of violence”. Inquiry is also related to the way in which scientists relate and interact with the natural world around them. The art of inquiry is learned at a very young age when children are interacting and questioning things taking place within the environment. According to Freire (1970), problem posing education breaks free from the banking of education, where students just passively absorb everything. More importantly, “the teacher is no longer merely one-who-teaches, but one who is himself taught in dialogue with students, who in turn while being taught also teach”. In addition, studies have shown that students will recall and remember more information when they are involved in a hands-on activity verses a demonstration (Poudel, et al., 2005). For example, science has been described as an “active process” that needs to involve “hands-on” activities along with “minds-on” activities, where students have the opportunity to inquire and interact with fellow students and teachers. During inquiry, students ask questions, apply knowledge, research, problem solve, and work in groups. Students need to have the opportunity to exercise their critical thinking skills while participating in the process of inquiry (National Committee, 1996). It is through effective communication, that “authentic thinking” regarding reality will take place. In fact, it is through the power of problem-posing education such as inquiry where “people develop their power to perceive critically the way they exist in the world with which and in which they find themselves” (Freire, 1970). Problem-posing education will assist individuals in becoming adults that can critically analyze and questions the critical issues of the society so that they can make educated decisions as citizens of democracy.

It is clear that there are numerous examples of how our education system has and does dehumanize our students. However, for that to change we have to change the rules of the game. We as future teachers have to break the cycle of dehumanization of students and our teachers, and become librated from what has always been the norm. Oppression of students only leads to more problems. People often wonder why students drop out of school and turn to drugs, alcohol, and violence. The rules of the game have changed for them. These students have experienced oppression through the school system and they have broken free. They have not other outlet, so oppressed have taken on the role of the oppressor and turn to violence, drugs, and alcohol. The fact is that students are human beings with real problems. We cannot look passed them, we need to provide with the support and guidance that they need. According to Maxine Green our “inability to tolerate the unexpected relates to our tolerance for multiculturalism”. We cannot be afraid of the unknown or the uncharted waters. Inquiry into the unknown is what helps us to grow and understand others. If we as teacher ignore certain topics or viewpoints, how will we be able to grow to understand our students and people around us? Students are human beings that have thoughts, feelings, and questions. It is crucial to be proactive about using a variety of strategies when are teaching our students. Students need to be aware that there are different viewpoints out there and that people look at situations with different sets of glasses, whether that is religious, moral, spiritual, or cultural glasses. We as teachers have to realize that our students have a variety of backgrounds and each of them comes to class wearing a different pair of glasses in which they use to interpret and view the world. Realize that one size does not fit all and students learn in many different ways. We cannot compartmentalize our students into specific categories. Each student is an individual. They need to be encouraged to ask questions in order to understand and learn about others. They need skills in conflict resolution as that is at the heart of democracy. Most importantly we need to provide students experiences in the classroom that are relevant to the real world. When they are exposed to issues that are relevant to them and their lives they are going to be intrigued and will ask questions. When problems posed to students are of interest to them they are more likely to solve the problem and find a solution. When students and even are teachers are treated like human beings and provided with the opportunities to inquire and discover they will develop the skills that will allow them the critically analyze the issues of this democratic society. We as educators have to prepare our students for the real world and life in this democratic society.


Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Continuum Publishing Company.

Greene, M. (1993). The passions of pluralism, Multiculturalism and the expanding community. Educational Research, 22(1), 13-18. Retrieved from the Academic Search Premier Database.

Hitchens, C. (2007). God is not great. New York: Hachette Book Groups.

Howe, K. (1992). Equal educational opportunity and the challenge of multiculturalism. American Research Journal, 29(3), 455-470.

Kirk, K. (2009). Motivating students. Retrieved November 12, 2009, from Science Education Resource Center (SERC) Website: http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/affective/motivation.html

Kozol, J. (2005). Shame on a nation. New York: Three Rivers Press.

Poudel, D.D., Vincent, M.M, Anzaloe, C. Huner, J., Wollard, D. Clement, T., DeRamus, A. & Blakewood, G. (2005). Hands-on activities and challenge test in agriculture and environmental education. Journal of Environmental Education, 36(4), 10-22. Retrieved from ERIC Database.

Reich, R. B. (2007). Supercapitalism. New York: Vintage Books.

Sanfeliz, M. & Stalzer, M. (2003). Science motivation in the multicultural classroom. The Science Teacher, 64-66. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier Database.

Schlink, B. (2008). The Reader. New York: Vintage International.

Science Education Resource Center (SERC). (2009). The affective domain in teaching. Retrieved November 28, 2009, from SERC Website: http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/affective/index.htm.

Slevin, P. (2005). Battle on teaching evolution sharpens. Retrieved November 6, 2009 from Washington Post website http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A32444-2005Mar13.html.

The Oxford Pocket Dictionary of Current English. (2009). Retrieved October 11, 2009 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O999-frenzy.html

Turner, S. (2008). Using the learning science and knowledge about how people learn to support reluctant and disengaged second school learners. American Secondary Education, 37(1), 4-16. Retrieved from the ERIC Database.

Other resources from class that I did not have source information available:

Realities by Henry Trueba Handout

On Democracy by John Dewey Handout

Lee Atwater Story – DVD

Buying the War – DVD – Bill Moyers


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