Timothy Reagan in Non-Western Educational Traditions
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) Contrary to indigenous approaches to education, Western education is typically practiced in formal settings and delivered by teachers who are said to be the most knowledgeable for the position.
Although viewing teaching as a specialized profession has produced many favorable outcomes for some students and society it also shows there are many consequences to this development. At large, the evolution of teaching as a specialized profession has oppressed people’s own values and practices. Most importantly, the specialization of this profession has contributed to a great deal of gender inequality in the workplace.
Furthermore, teaching as a specialized profession has benefited many students and advocated for those struggling. In Western education, teachers are viewed as skilled professionals who possess more prestige and authority over other members of society. I would first like to speak about the advantages of possessing prestige in education. In Western education, teachers function as the managers of the classroom and possess dominance over their students. For many students, an organized learning environment is beneficial to their learning. The manager of a classroom usually exerts authority and power over their students; therefore, students are more likely to respect and listen to these individuals.
Most importantly, the specialization of teaching has helped many students overcome the hardships they face outside of the classroom. 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 lives in poverty and lacked the support of family and resources needed to better themselves. The teachers at Baseline Academy worked tirelessly within their professions to mentor students who never had role models growing up.
These teachers make sure struggling students know they are 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 academic achievements. For these students, their families and peers do not possess the same skills of cooperation, strength, and encouragement that their teachers do. Without the help of a teacher, these students would have never received their diplomas. Fortunately, a turnaround school and a good teacher was what they 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 receive it outside of a formal institution. Therefore, teaching as a specialized profession has given struggling students a person to turn to who can advocate for them.
Moreover, recognizing teachers as intelligent individuals who possess specific skills and knowledge separate from the rest of society 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 their own opinions and beliefs aren’t valued if they don’t correspond with their teachers. Teachers are trained to follow a set plan in their classrooms, and this often does not benefit everyone as many teacher’s approach learning mechanically. 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 often feel they know nothing and are just objects. This can have a huge effect on a student’s self-esteem and confidence. This development has oppressed many child-rearing and educational practices in other regions. 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. 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 education 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 have framed what society wants students 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, society views women usually dominating more skills in leadership, communication, and patience. Therefore, this communicates that men don’t 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 in education because they’re unassociated with 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 if a teacher is forcing them into a certain way of knowing. Western education is no longer a region 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 significant impacts each and every member of society has on a child’s development whether they have a degree or not.