July 20, 2011

Teachers Have Sick Patients Too

As the American system of education continues to decline, the grumblings of college professors all over the country rise to a rallying cry.  At every level of higher education (the community college, the technical college, and the university), instructors complain that their students are more unprepared, irresponsible, and insipid than ever before.  Those same instructors have developed an entire line of rhetoric surrounding this issue.  Ultimately, they throw up their hands in defeat, hold shorter office hours, and retreat into the safe haven of cynicism and apathy.

Imagine for a moment that you have been suffering for several days with a fever of 105°, coughing, and complaining of chest pains.  You finally muster up the strength to make an appointment to see a doctor and drive yourself to his office.  Once the doctor walks into the examining room to consult with you, he immediately begins to berate you.  "Where are all of these sick people coming from!" he yells, slamming his clipboard onto the counter.  "I didn't go to Medical school and spend all of those years in residency only to be inundated by all of these sick people.  They can't pay me enough to keep doing this!"  And with that, he walks out, storms into his office, and slams the door behind him, leaving you and the nurses silent and bewildered.

Of course, this scenario is absurd.  Doctors don't get angry with their sick patients for being sick, because it's their job to make them well.  Indeed, they went to medical school to find cures for diseases and to improve their patients' quality of life.  In fact, sick patients keep them in business.  There's capital in disease (but that's another discussion).  

So if we (teachers) know this to be a kind of a priori truth about doctors, why then do we consider it an affront to our profession when those blasted high schools keep sending us unprepared, underprepared, and miseducated students?  If the job of the doctor is to heal his patients, then the job of the teacher is to teach her students.  Yes, the raw material sucks sometimes.  But it's easy to teach bright, insightful, intellectually fit students.  However, it is phenomenal to create bright, insightful, intellectually fit students.