A Social Hierarchy in Education
As discussed by Timothy Reagan in Non-Western Educational Traditions “The idea of teachers engaging in a profession with specialized knowledge and expertise not held by others appears to be a western and indeed relatively recent innovation.” (350) Dissimilar from indigenous approaches to education western schooling is typically practiced in formal settings and delivered by teachers who are considered the most knowledgeable for the position. Although understanding teaching as a specialized job has produced many favorable outcomes for some students and society it also shows there are many consequences to this idea. At large the evolution of teachers as a specialized profession has oppressed peoples own values and practices. As a result, the specialization of this profession has contributed to an immense amount of gender inequality in the workplace.
Furthermore, teaching as a specialized job has advocated for many struggling students who lack role models. In western education, teachers are viewed as skillful professionals who possess more prestige and authority over all other members in society. Teachers are classroom managers and possess dominance and control over their students. The authority and power they are expected to have over these kids makes students respect and listen to them more because of their prestige. Most importantly the specialization of teachers has helped many individuals overcome the hardships they face outside of schooling. In reference to the film Teach Us All, Baseline Academy was established as a turnaround school for students who are non-English speaking low income or of color. Many of the students attending Baseline lived-in poverty-stricken areas and lacked support from their families and the resources needed to better themselves.
How it works
The staff at Baseline Academy worked tirelessly within their professions to mentor students who never had good examples growing up. These teachers made sure struggling students knew they were loved believed in and cared for. This specific example showcases how the role of a teacher can have an enormous effect on a student’s self-determination and self-esteem. For these students their families and peers failed to possess the same skills of cooperation strength and encouragement that their teachers did. Without the role of a teacher in these students lives they may have never escaped poverty drugs crime and low self-esteems. Fortunately, this turnaround school and the influential staff was what these students needed to restore their own hope and faith. The specialization of teaching as a profession ensures that students have a place and person to receive guidance and strength from if they cannot access it outside of a formal institution. As a result, teaching as a specialized profession has given struggling students a person to turn to who can advocate for them.
However, recognizing teachers as intelligent individuals that possess specific skills separate from the rest of society also generates many negative consequences. As stated in Non-Western Educational Traditions “Such ways of knowing and acting could constitute so much to the educational experience of all students; but because of the rules of evidence and the dominant epistemologies of western knowledge production such understandings are deemed irrelevant by the academic gatekeepers.” (1) When we refer to teachers as specialized individuals, we are reminding society that our opinions and beliefs aren’t valued if they don’t correspond with an educator. Teachers are trained to follow a set plan in their classrooms and it often fails to benefit everyone. Education should be a place where every student feels they can challenge and create ideas. Since students perceive teachers as the most knowledgeable in a classroom, they routinely feel like objects who know nothing.
This has a huge effect on a student’s self-esteem and confidence. This development has oppressed many child-rearing and educational practices in other regions as well. In regions such as Africa, education is not taught by a specific person who possesses skills over others. It happens much more informally through parents and peers who all possess their own unique skills. Essentially the specialization of teaching as a profession here in the US has deemed that these other regions are doing something wrong. Western education attacks foreign regions for approaching practices much differently. Timothy Reagan states “in American society particular educational instructions are often expected to serve the needs of the economy rather than the needs of the individual.” (350) This is even more apparent and brutalizing to students. How are these students supposed to trust a system that is designed to benefit employers and not foster their own passions and beliefs this is a common theme in American schooling. Teachers knowledge is framed to mold students into what society wants them to become. At large we become aware that this specialization is not universally applicable and disruptive culturally. The development of teachers as specialized individuals has contributed to gender inequality in the workplace.
The structure of teaching as a career continuously reinforces the existing status inequalities between men and women. Teaching as a profession has long been associated with women. Generally, a teacher can be described as someone who exerts compassion intelligence and organization. When comparing women to men women are expected to display more skills of leadership, communication, and patience. This communicates that men dont possess the traits it takes to be educators. Men typically occupy the most hazardous and dangerous occupations therefore they face backlash when trying to pursue careers that are not central to their masculinity. To continue, in the reading entitled Pedagogy of the Oppressed Myra Ramos states “This relationship involves a narrating subject the teacher and patient listening objects the students the contents whether values or empirical dimensions of reality tend in the process of being narrated to become lifeless and petrified. education is suffering from narration sickness.” (71) This reinforces how students are treated as objects and cannot develop their own perspectives when a teacher is forcing them into a certain way of knowing. Western education is no longer a place where students learn freely instead, they are molded into society’s definition of what an educated person is.
In conclusion viewing teachers as specialized individuals who possess expertise over the rest of society produces more negative outcomes than positive ones. This reinforces a social hierarchy in education between intelligence and knowledge. At large this specialization has oppressed the thoughts and practices of many indigenous cultures. Instead of viewing teachers as specialized individuals we need to understand the role each member of society has on a child’s development whether they have specialized knowledge or not.