It was Irish author George Bernard Shaw who in his witty and insightful way expressed the sentiments that some feel about teachers: "He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches." Textbook authors Ryan and Cooper have played on the words of Shaw to title their popular introduction to education text, "Those Who Can, Teach." The gently cynical may even be inclined to embellish Shaw's statement by adding that "those who can't teach, administer."
But the issue is not really whether anyone, in the classroom or out, can teach; the issue is that all do teach. Some teach good lessons by design, while others teach the haphazard lessons of unplanned experience. We teach as professional teachers, as administrators, as parents or friends. We teach whether we intend to or not.Not only do we all teach, but we place a premium on formal education by paying more for it in Utah than for any other government service and by investing our own efforts to see that future generations will also be able to draw sweet water from wells that they have not dug and warm themselves by fires for which they did not provide the kindling. Education, then, is a debt due from our generation to future generations, in addition to a way to enrich our lives and work toward our society's definition of success.
This weekly column is designed for parents and educators who teach. It will try to address issues raised by those who agree with ideas such as those of Napoleon, when he said that "public instruction should be the first object of government." It is for those who side with Edmund Burke and believe that "education is cheap defense of nations." It is for those who want their children to feel personal intrinsic worth as life is discovered.
Notice that the goal is to address issues and not necessarily answer questions. The goal is to search for answers and perhaps find some. In educational practice, there may not be absolute answers. It may be like asking a grandmaster, "what is the best chess move?" The answer, no doubt, is that there simply is no best move. The best move depends on the situation of the game and the personality and strategy of the opponent.
When I registered for my first philosophy class from Professor O.C. Tanner at the University of Utah, I was warned by students who went before me that Tanner seemed to ask the same questions each quarter but often changed the answers. I had suspected this of teachers before but really regarded the comment as a joke. The fact was that it was true; the answers did change. The process of looking for the answers also changed as did Tanner's search with the class for truth and beauty.
The answers in education are not often absolute. The fun is in the search, and the goal of this column is to enjoy the search with those who wish to share my questions. I'll appreciate reader questions and promise to address them but not always to provide an answer.
Progress on educational issues will make the lessons we teach in our personal lives planned and purposeful events.
To suggest topics or to ask questions, readers may write to Dr. Baker at Snow College, Ephraim, UT 84627.