[iDC] A Modest Proposal: Let's get rid of the teachers

Alex Halavais alex at halavais.net
Thu Feb 19 05:27:11 UTC 2009

Too easy here to assume we are just playing with words. Will people
stop teaching one another? I find this extremely difficult to
envision. We are, at heart, learning animals, and teaching is merely
the obverse of that act. So, I'll leave that aside.

Will people stop being payed as "teachers," or identifying that as
their profession? Yes. The transition will not be rapid, and I think
we will see it happen from higher education down, and happen slowly;
but yes, of course. It is already happening as university education is
undertaken by a flexible workforce of what are often called "adjuncts"
or "part-timers" depending on where you are, or by TAs in many cases.
Much has been said about this being an exploitation of labor, as these
teachers are not paid at the same scale as "regular" faculty. But
aside from the economic issues, it reflects a larger reality: those
outside academia often lead students to discover more than those who
call themselves "teachers."

And what do these people do? The good ones are already "link jockeys"
whether or not they are using a computer. They pull out interesting
examples, they engage students' existing knowledge, they provoke
exploratory conversations. They are as much salonists as they are
"instructors." Will people continue to be paid to facilitate
conversations? My guess is they will be, because this is a valuable
skill, and does not always emerge naturally within a group.

As it stands, students learn far more outside of the classroom than
they ever do inside of it, especially from middle-school on. And
ironically, that kind of incidental learning seems to be what is going
in the classroom too. It's almost a side effect of the process of
sorting, labeling, and training students to be students.

For those who really do assign nonsense tasks without real-world
application, grade them according to a rubric that makes your
administrators happy, and do anything other than aim to create an
environment in which your students can create and grow: to you I offer
congratulations, since you will hasten the inevitable death of the
occupation of "teaching."

- Alex

// This email is
// [X] assumed public and may be blogged / forwarded.
// [ ] assumed to be private, please ask before redistributing.
// Alexander C. Halavais, ciberflâneur
// http://alex.halavais.net

More information about the iDC mailing list