Friday, 24 April 2015

What should teachers teach?

Being a teacher is a very important job. There are a lot of areas where teachers have to tread carefully.

Teachers have to decide which mistakes they should let students make and which they should help them avoid. There is a very thin line which the teachers have to walk here and it is very easy to think that teachers should make sure students don't make mistakes. The fact is, mistakes teach more than lessons do. 

Similarly, opinions about things are also something that develops through experiences. Young students are very impressionable. Teachers and parents are two sets of people whom they see as their knowledge bases. So any opinion by these two sets has more weight than say a newspaper report. 

Thus, teachers should always remember Uncle Ben's famous last words from Spider Man "With great power, comes great responsibility". 

Having an opinion or having the ability to form an informed opinion is a very important skill. Teachers sometimes teach opinions and forget that they have to instead teach how to form opinions. Its not because teachers are evil but its because our education system just tests us on whether we remember the opinions of great people instead of testing if we can formulate our own opinions. Teachers teach this way because students are tested this way.

So ideally, what should a teacher teach?

The most important and primary skill that every teacher should teach is the difference between a fact and an opinion. That's half the battle won. If the student can do that then she/he takes the first step towards learning how to form an opinion. 

Second thing that teachers should teach is how an informed opinion is one that is backed by facts. An opinion without any backing is still an opinion but to convince someone to accept your opinion, you need to have facts which back it up. Similarly, students should be taught how when they encounter any opinion, they should look for and then verify the facts that the opinion is based on. If the facts hold up, the opinion is credible otherwise it is not. This will help the kids figure out which opinions they should rely on and which ones they should not rely on. At this point, teachers should also explain to the students how the legitimacy of an opinion does not depend on the age/sex/religion/position of the person giving that opinion and so credibility does not stem from there. 

Thirdly and this is probably one of the most important, teacher should teach students how to entertain two or more opinions at the same time without accepting or rejecting them immediately. It will teach the kids how opinions cannot be right or wrong and that everyone looks at things differently. Students should be told how opinions are formed over time and are heavily influenced by experiences so they should not judge someone just on their opinion. It will make students more tolerant towards people whose opinion they do not like.

Lastly, teachers should teach ways in which students can express a dissenting opinion without being overtly rude or loud. It is completely alright to not agree with someone's views and it is also absolutely fine to tell them that you disagree but the manner in which you express that showcases your personality. 

A person's value in the society is determined by his/her opinions and hence the importance of this skill. It is our opinions that show the world who we really are and what we believe. Having an opinion and basing your actions on it is what makes us free. 

Ofcourse there are multiple ways of teaching the above in class and it would be foolish to prescribe a specific way of doing this but there is little debate on whether this should be taught to students or not. Come to think of it, this should be done by parents/mentors as well. 

As someone wise very clearly said "A teacher's job is to teach the students how to learn and not what to learn."

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