I was at a funeral this week. Funerals tend to be large gatherings of families. One consequence of these events is that people get to talking and catching up about one another’s lives. I was the “in-law” at this particular funeral. My wife and I were particular targets for “catching up” because we live so far away (near 1000 miles) and because of my somewhat bizarre Ph.D. in fine arts (specifically theatre). One of these conversations tended towards education and I’d like to share that here.
“You can’t do anything anymore.” This was the cry of one family member at the funeral. She was mourning the lost ability to simply get things done without being worried, as an instructor, about being suspected of or charged with some form harassment against a student. She described an event where she drove a girl scout to get some lice medication so that she could re-join the group for the fun weekend. Her brother, later, was surprised that she had taken this child, alone, to pick up the medication. Upon reflection she mourned the loss of the “good old days.”
There is a great amount of necessity in these requirements as there have unquestionably been problems in the past. The problem, though, is that these requirements also hinder simple social interactions. These simple interactions can often lead to a greater amount of learning for the student. Since my specific field is theatre I’ll briefly address the loss those programs experience by personal example.
When I was an high school (and even undergraduate) student there was a sense of community which necessarily developed in the theatre circles. This sense developed not only between students but also between students and their teachers. The reason I have pursued this field of study is because a teacher knew me well enough as a person, not just a student, to impress upon me the importance of my talents and my knowledge of that field. That impression would not have been as impactful had I not known the instructor well enough, as a person, to know that what he was saying was what he truly believed.
What are your thoughts on this subject? I realize I’m focusing mainly on high school and college. Perhaps grade school is necessarily different. The impact of these “precautions” has created an environment of fear for educators. I find that somewhat dangerous and counterproductive. Since teachers are arguably underpaid (and, for the record, I think that they are) what incentive does anyone have to teach if not the personal satisfaction of seeing your students succeed. Taking that “personal” component away, or (at least) threatening that component, can only have a damaging effect on the education provided an received. Education, then, becomes mechanical. Perhaps the future is on-line tutorials? I certainly hope not.