The greatest fallacy

October 14th, 2012

This is not an article about virtuosity or guitar playing, but about another subject that’s close to my heart.

Although I teach at the college level, on a slightly different subject matter – guitar playing as opposed to high school math, for example – and serve a different clientele – college level students as opposed to k-12, the problems of teaching are the same whether you’re in college or in the schools.


I’ve been watching a few TV ads from Exxon Mobil lately.

Heartwarming stories about how some of their employees were inspired by their teachers.

That’s a bunch of malarkey. (Apologies to the VP)

Reminds me of a similar set of heartwarming ads put out by BP recently, announcing their commitment to the Gulf Coast and to America.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in life, it is to be wary of people who are a little too aggressive in promoting their good intentions. Because you can be sure that behind that warm façade usually hides some other less honorable intentions.

But let’s get back to the subject at hand.

The greatest fallacy these days in education is that teachers can influence students.

I’ve written about it before. Teachers are not miracle workers.

We cannot make students learn if they don’t want to learn.

And if you’ve ever parented a teenager, or even a toddler, you’ll understand what I mean. Have you ever tried telling a kid to do something he/she doesn’t want to do?

Okay, how about inspiring students with innovative and interesting approaches?

This is the sugar-coating option. If students don’t want to learn, come up with ‘new’ and interesting ways to teach the material.

Who hasn’t heard of the super-teacher of the year, who’s been able to ‘inspire’ a whole class of reluctant students and turn them into overachievers with their ‘enthusiasm’ and ‘innovative approach to teaching?’

But how much effect have these super teachers had on the general state of education in the country?

Not much.

Because after all the media hoopla and the awards, and the Oprah appearance, and perhaps the Hollywood movie, test scores and standards continue to decline in the country.


Because you can’t base a whole educational system on a bunch of gimmicks, or as they call it, ‘innovative teaching methodologies.’

The general malaise in our educational system reflects a wider problem and is symptomatic of our society in general.

We are placing the entire blame for the failings in our society on teachers.

Instead of pointing the finger at teachers, how about looking at the breakdown of the family unit, how can students learn when they live in unstable and dysfunctional households?

How about looking at the lack of parental guidance as a possible reason why students don’t want to learn? Parents who are more interested in their own lives and care little for their children’s welfare?

How about looking at our entertainment-driven society and the value it places on having fun and partying?

How about looking at video gaming, and how it is turning a whole generation of children into mindless zombies who live in an unreal world of virtual thrills and highs?

And in the middle of all these distractions, where is the value society places on education?

And in the middle of all this, how do we expect children to sit quietly in a classroom and absorb the finer points of math or any other subject?

What kind of ‘innovative teaching techniques’ can compete with ‘Halo’ (or the latest hot title from Electronic Arts)?

To use a biblical analogy, all teachers can do is plant a seed and if the ground is fertile, the seed will grow and bloom into a tree. And if the ground is dry and infertile, the seed will wither and die.

So to all those parents who complain about teachers, look into the mirror first.

When was the last time you sat down and helped your child do his/her homework?

When was the last time you called his/her teacher and asked how he/she is doing?

When was the last time you asked your child what he/she wants to be when they grow up?

When was the last time you read a book to him/her (assuming they’re at that age)?

When was the last time you brought your child to a museum or did something to help them grow their curiosity?

When was the last time you taught them to respect their elders and teachers? (Because teachers can’t teach if students don’t respect them.)

In other words, what have you done lately to ensure your child wants to learn at school?

2 Responses to “The greatest fallacy”

  1. MdM Says:

    It is a shame that the teachers, who are just trying to do their jobs for the most part, are blamed for what is assuredly a societal problem. But being powerless and disrespected (BP lip service aside, we show how we value people by how much we pay them), they will continue to be an easy target. I decided to put my daughter into a high quality preschool this year, at $600 a month. It is a wonderful place with a dedicated staff. However, I was shocked when we looked at the public information and found out the teachers were making $10 an hour!

    Unfortunately, the parents, who are in the best position to influence their children, are a product of the same society and, stuck on their own hamster wheels of status and consumerism, will not be of much help either.

  2. Philip Hii Says:

    $10 an hour. I guess these school operators feel that the education they’re providing is worth about as much as a hamburger, because that’s about what they pay in fast-food joints (A little less here in Texas, my students are getting $8 an hour.) The greatest country in the world, and we’re shortchanging our kids future by equating the teaching profession with flipping hamburgers.

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