It should have occurred to me when I wrote “we may be excused on occasion for believing the pabulum we learned from our teachers” that my wife, a recently retired educator, would read my post. She began her justifiable complaint with a comment about juxtaposition, the defense of teachers here and my apparent criticism here. Good point. So, Mr. Blogger, how do you reconcile the two?
My first defense is that I had in mind high school teachers, those who may get around to introducing their students to history and civics, to which I was exposed as a teenager, though I don’t know if there’s room in the curriculum these days, given the obsession with testing and data-collection. My wife taught elementary school, so she’s excused from my offhanded remark.
Second, the pabulum I had in mind comes from my own experience. It takes the form of America being described by these alleged virtues:
- the best system of governance
- that good people win and bad people lose (justice, you know)
- that everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed
- that all our wars are virtuous
I could go on, but the short list approximates my recollection of what I learned in (high) school back in the early 60s. We did not learn about widespread racism, overt in the South. We did not learn that our involvement in Southeast Asia was based on a falsehood. We did not learn that industrial activities were polluting the water we drink and the air we breathe. We did not learn that there was more to politics than simply casting a ballot. We did not learn that we do not always elect “the finest men”; that many are corrupt and corruptible.
Of course, it is entirely wrong to accuse all high school teachers, back in my day or at present. Besides, few are able or willing to step outside the straitjacket imposed by “the institutional press,” the administrators, school boards, and state governments that strive to keep young minds within a constricted intellectual box. Most educators have every right to be scared for their jobs, given the wholesale attacks on teachers and their unions.
And one more thing. My wife pointed out what should have been obvious to me: teachers spend only a fraction of the day with children. They have no control over the child’s home, parents, or neighborhood.