Built into the teaching profession is the saccharine psychology that teachers love children. Perhaps in a vague sense this is true; however, the sentiment of loving children is essentially maternal and a throw back to the one-room-schoolhouse, and should not be perceived as a prerequisite to good teaching — unless the concept is linked to Socrates’ pejorative of “midwife of ideas.” Socrates cared for ideas when they were his but scorned ideas of others that did not measure up to his own. A maternal or paternal approach to children’s learning spawns security at the outset but anxiety later in the cold war of the world — thus love’s labor lost.
Beyond the fun and games of head start and kindergarten, learning is masochistic as the children must suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous concepts far removed from early perceptions if they are to cope with the realities of an exacting world. Here’s the rub: most prefer to ensconce in early experience and modified by an extension of the playpen and early Saturday television. “Loving” teachers play to this extension. Learning is but a hooker gratifying the hedonist who balks the instant learning becomes painful. Pain is a conditioning — as the Spartans knew — for the hard knocks that ineluctably one must face up to.
All too often learning is considered as an escape from the exigencies of the outer world, rather than as the catalyst to knowledge that shapes the world. There is nothing vicarious in learning; it is confrontation.
What is built in to teaching, then, is not whether there is a love of children but that there ought to be contempt for childishness. The sooner it is effaced — whether stamped out or gingerly weaned away — the sooner the teaching profession can move on to its objectives of requiring the young to do what humankind has thus found difficult to achieve — integrity in problem-solving, and in the end a love of learning.
Copyright © 2004 Richard R. Kennedy All rights reserved. Revised: January 7, 2004.