Teacher Harry Coverston questions teacher’s role in student cynicism

From Harry Coverston, concerning “A Story for the Future” post:  “At some level I am represented by the teacher you represent here. I do find the defunding of public institutions, the growing disparity of wealth and the extremist tenor of politics in our nation depressing. And I find the Gen Y Millenials I teach who are supposed to save the world from its crises increasingly disengaged and solipsistically wrapped up in their electronic distractions. Where I would question your argument is your tendency to simply presume a causal relationship between the alarm of the educator and the cynicism of the students. Why would that be so? Teachers are but one agent of socialization in a much bigger picture and increasingly are seen as less important than agents such as the media. Moreover, why would it be the role of the teacher to not only critique the status quo but to offer a replacement for it as well? Why would all of that be a teacher’s responsibility? Where does the public come into that picture? Indeed, where does this enormously talented generation of students get called upon to be mature, responsible citizens rather than disengaged, self-focused cynics with inordinate sense of entitlement?  While I absolutely do not wish this, I sense that it will require a crisis for any changes in the current direction of our culture to occur. Indeed, I see no way the polarized, unstable status quo can continue much longer. Increasingly I try to use my time and energies to discern what needs for reorganization will present themselves post crisis. Perhaps that will merely entail maturity but increasingly I see it as a matter of transcending that which has come before.

CJ: “Moreover, why would it be the role of the teacher to not only critique the status quo but to offer a replacement for it as well?”  Only because that is a responsibility we all confront—governmental leaders, educators, media, and the populace at large. I do argue that educating for a culturally mature future becomes education’s needed new bottom line referent (to replace the Modern Age referent of providing the universal literacy needed for democratic government and industrial advancement). That  means that if educators aren’t at least reflecting on culturally mature concerns and somehow bringing those reflections into the classroom, they are not doing their jobs.

Will it require a crisis for change to occur?  Crises are happening all around us. The questions you propose about how change will happen are essential — both so that we see things accurately and so that we bring ourselves to advocacy in the most useful ways.  These are indeed crisis times.  Yet, too, as I write about frequently, there are real traps that come with crisis/transformation thinking (it can lead easily to liberal cynicism and idealized notions of the future that we could not achieve, and ultimately would not want to achieve). Change of the sort I write about has been happening throughout the last century. And the drivers for future change are pretty inescapable. For me the question is not whether Cultural Maturity is possible, but only how much misery we will put ourselves through in getting there (foresight is the best route, but foresight of the sort we are talking about itself requires culturally mature capacities.



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