On Teachers and Teaching

“It is rising above a calling, above a profession, into the realm of art. It must be dignified by technical training, ennobled by character, and sanctified by faith. It is not too much to say that the need of civilization is the need of teachers. The contribution which they make to human welfare is beyond estimation…The earnest conscientious men and women, running from the head of the great university down to the kindergarten, represent a force for good which is immeasurable. The influence which they create for better things, the inspiration which they give for higher ideals, are the chief contributing force to the stability of society and the march of progress. They point the way the dawn, they lead toward the morning, toward light, toward truth” — Calvin Coolidge, speaking before the County Teachers’ Institute and School Directors’ Convention, Reynoldsville, Pennsylvania, December 21, 1922.

When, however, teaching descends to mere self-service that rewards mediocrity, tenures incompetence and protects immoral character, it has violated the sanctity of this charge. When a system of education debases moral conduct, condones failure and punishes the individual for practicing standards that do not comport with the lowest member of the collective, it makes a mockery of education’s purpose. When the goal is not to pursue truth but to deny it exists with requirements that praise misspelling and reward wrong answers for their good intentions, education is sending its students wholesale to slaughter.

The ideals Coolidge reminds us of are necessary if society is to progress with the principles that equip it for what the future holds. Many should not be teaching at all because they do not have the moral character it deserves. Morals, relegated for far too long as the antiquated trappings of religious fanatics, are the basis that makes life whole, nourishes the soul, and prepares the mind for all the challenges of life. When classical education is abandoned, virtue is but the first of many standards to be jettisoned. When that happens, when education consists of teacher’s tenure and multimillion dollar facilities, instead of on the souls and minds of people, it is not surprising that shootings, sexual crimes and assembly-line indoctrination become the norm.

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