Teachers never die

Remember your teachers?

The best ones were understanding, imaginative, strong, courageous, humble and generous. Therefore you felt appreciated and you reciprocated with appreciation for them and their lessons.  You appreciate them even today.  That is why, “Teachers never die” is the first line of The Wonder Years episode entitled, “Goodbye.” It is the finest 20 minutes ever produced for television.

(I used to link to it, here, but I was violating copy write.  It is on Netflix, Season 3, Episode 20.)

I am moved by this episode because I love the beauty of human virtue. This episode is beautiful on many levels.  I explain them at:

Not all teachers are as influential as the fictional Mr. Collins in this episode. Mediocre teachers blend into your school experience, and you remember little about them or their lessons.  They modeled and taught understanding that is unimaginative, strong character that is fearful of truth, and generosity that is proud.

And your worst teachers’ lack of virtue made you feel unappreciated.  You reciprocated with a lack of appreciation for them and their lessons — even today.

The six virtues (definitions here) always have been the mark of the influential teacher. American policy makers and educators haven’t discovered this truth because they are looking in the wrong place. They search the social sciences to improve what is an art — the art of working with young people to answer two philosophical questions:

1. What does it mean to be educated?
2. How can we move toward that ideal?

Although education is rooted in philosophy, public educators and policymakers are aphilosophical about it. They have embarked on an experiment that tries to make it an applied social science.  One reason for this is so research findings can be turned into profit. The internet, for example, is now a marketplace for the sale of all kinds of research-based educational materials and workshops. Public education has become a platform for powerful people to pursue their own interests:

1. Business people and industrialists want a work force prepared for business and industry. (Is there a shallower purpose?)

2. Researchers, scholars, and publishing houses produce books about “best practices,” not because they discovered “best practices,” but because such claims earn scholarly reputations and profits.

3. Politicians claim they need to hold teachers accountable for higher student test scores, not because higher scores are an important purpose, but because it is a purpose for which teachers can be held accountable.

4. And thousands of teachers believe teaching is an applied social science, even though the memorable ones practice it as an art.

Anthony Cody uses different language to make the same points. And more about profit making is explained here.

If you have been in a situation in which the six virtues made things better, please submit a story for consideration in the next book.  Click on Email Casey Hurley. Provide your name and phone number. I will call to record your story. Before anything goes to press, you will have final approval.