Introductory Essay on the “Expert’s Page”

Essayist: Dana Barbour
Nominal area of expertise: Teaching

Classroom Education

Teaching concepts range from the political “conservatives” prescription to “get back to basics” to the “liberal’s” that teachers also must be “social workers, sex educators, and crime fighters.”
Those on both sides and in between beg the formative question the answer to which applies to those within our classrooms. Yet, these moral relativists entrap within their self-interested word-concepts even while they’d stultify both our teachers and students through their at-best-amoral examples and word-analogous prescriptions.
Teachers and students are among those they’d entrap, and even the unenfranchisable among students otherwise must access their latent capacities for thoughtful awarenesses freely as practiced within those classrooms. It's the student’s independent development of the capacity for thought which prescriptively the teacher must prioritize within his/her practice. Only then can the “basics” of reading, writing and arithmetic skill develop as also appropriate to “the subject matter.” Only then can the student and the teacher firstly become more-complete human beings.
The teacher there and then would “practice what he preaches” where and when the only thing she/he does “preach” is the commonly-human need for that practice. To that end, he/she descriptively must measure and communicate the rational facts which subordinately but include the prescriptions of others—even those of the so-called “experts” and “authorities” whose otherwise-imposed beliefs would usurp this very practice.
The teacher’s own authority would prove no exception within an orderly classroom. The disciplinary rules therein would mirror those within the moral social contract—hopefully of that formatively evidenced in society at large, but that’s another question.
Teachers wouldn’t prescribe that student’s believe even in the word-formatives of the moral social contract itself. In short, the teacher rationally must be value-neutral by presenting the rational facts—even those of our human irrationalities and immoral beliefs. Only then could she or he also lead individually by moral example as problematically with the morally-warranted custodial authority we’d politically delegate to him or her through a moral social contract.
This also would apply to “grading” where and when those performance-measurements we call “tests” would be open-ended—both orally and of the essay and short-answer types. They’d not be of the so-called “objectively-standardized” type if some so-called “authority’s” subject standardizably did prescribe the “correct” answers.
The formatively-dedicated teacher necessarily uses his own subject. Yet her or his subjectivity must form disinterestedly in order to evaluate the inferred thoughts of his students as truly where and when they’d be of and from each of them. Each must not plagiarize another’s “answers” either as “word for word” or as preconditioned by another’s analogues which commonly construct from even varying words.
Training and testing “by rote” ironically is “plagiarism” in and of rational fact, and it only warrants under two conditions. First, the subject matter must standardize truly to be descriptive in and of itself and, second, it must precondition the student’s furthering his/her knowledge within an area of expertise.
Yet even where and when “drills—” such as to learn the multiplication tables—and their related tests so do justify, the teacher’s overriding focus still will prove most effective, even as measured on a “practical,”performance level. At the very least, the student likely will respond more positively to the task if first he or she feels involved and important as an individual.
The “relevance” of the assignment also will become clearer, especially because teachers also would allow students to bring their outside experiences into the classroom. Descriptively those experiences already are within it—in it because they’re also within the commonly-human self which first forms to be each attending individual. Thusly to encourage each student to connect them to and with the subject-matter not only yields a more-motivated student but improves the chances they’ll also motivate to break new ground and contribute positively to us all as a progressive society as well.
If in this process we'd also describe the teacher as a “cop, social worker, or sex educator,”so be it. Formatively, the teacher is all the above and more. There is no ultimate distinction between the “real world” and the classroom, though most students now know otherwise and motivate only to “play the game” as they find it at best. Yes, teachers and the rest of us must “get back to basics,” but that also means we must nurture as well as celebrate what makes us fully human in the first formative instance.


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