Are People Weirdly Obsessed With Teachers?

I like education research. I think it’s interesting and important. Sometimes, though, there is an obsession with teachers and teaching that I find…strange.  For example, why is this a research paper?

The process of teaching is not selfless, as some suggest. Rather, in its best manifestations it is an ideologically and culturally loaded activity in which teachers and institutions seek to perpetuate a certain integrated view of the world for their own benefit, for that of their learners, and for society more generally. This takes place most effectively when positive teacher–student relationships underpin face-to-face educational exchanges in which teachers engagingly make the case for the existential significance of their subject matter.

That’s from “Teaching as a Cultural and Relationship-Based Activity” in the most recent issue of Mind, Brain, and Education.

I come across studies like this one on a fairly regular basis. What distinguishes them, in my mind, is that they go beyond describing teacher practice or identifying more effective teaching methods. They even seem to go beyond examining “the psychology of teachers”. Instead, they seem to be trying to “understand” teaching on more abstract levels: as social, or even metaphysical, phenomena.

It’s not that I don’t find these papers interesting or insightful – though I usually don’t – it’s that I find their very existence weird. Would it every occur to anybody to write a paper like this about lawyers, librarians, or truck drivers?

Is this an example of the teaching profession holding a special, peculiar place in the mind of the public? Are other occupations hyper-scrutinized in the research literature the way teaching is?

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  1. Posted August 19, 2013 at 11:48 PM | Permalink

    In addition to everything you say, which I wholeheartedly agree with–didn’t you tweet this, because I could swear I read that abstract–they are obsessed with defining teaching as a relationship fraught with power. Which teachers naturally misuse.

    • Posted August 20, 2013 at 12:19 AM | Permalink

      I did tweet it, yes. Then decided I wasn’t satisfied with that.

      • Posted August 20, 2013 at 12:27 AM | Permalink

        No, that’s fine. I was just feeling deja vu, because I had the same thought when I read the abstract. It’s all about the power.

  2. Posted August 20, 2013 at 12:43 AM | Permalink

    I don’t like education ‘research’. It’s often equated with, and presented as, scientific research, which it most definitely is not. People are infinitely less quantifiable and reliable as electrons, and it’s incongruous for people to suggest that they are.

    Teachers are often their own worst enemies. Most of them are good people with good hearts but they can easily be led and confused when the, ‘it’s for the kids’ argument gets trotted out. In addition, people think that education is a panacea. Education is vitally important, but greed, politics and self-interest are much stronger drivers in the real world. I’ve been a teacher for almost 25 years.

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