Sacrifice and teaching

Thinking a little more about the notion of sacrifice and teaching from Ants Have Teachers, I was reminded of Albert Schweitzer, who said "all progress demands sacrifice, which has to be paid for by the lives of those chosen to be offered up." Bertrand Russell, speaking of progress, said, "There is only one road to progress, in education as in other human affairs, and that is: Science wielded by love. Without science, love is powerless; without love, science is destructive."

Granting that exceptions exist, I don't think we see much of this sort of teaching, that is, teaching guided by sacrificial love. That's why Fethullah Gülen asserts, "Education is different from teaching. Most people can teach, but only a very few can educate." That is, only a very few will love enough to sacrifice in order to teach.

Perhaps that's too strong a claim for some. Kevin Ryan, founder and director emeritus of the Center for the Advancement of Ethics and Character at Boston University, writes, "While I'm not suggesting that teachers be saints, they should take their moral lives seriously by modeling upright behavior." I wonder why the word "modeling" is used instead of "living." It suggests that teachers need to act contrary to their real character. After all, if one "lived" uprightly, one would not need to be reminded to model their behavior. As Huebner writes, "If we live our values and reflect responsibly on our life together, what need have we to teach values?"

Uprightness, for me, involves right behavior and relationships with others. Although not a one-to-one correspondence, the notion of right relationships is connected to social relatedness, which, in Deci & Ryan's self-determination theory, is an intrinsic need (along with autonomy and competence). From another perspective, right relationships involve trust. Deborah Meiers (In Schools We Trust) has some pertinent thoughts here:

"Standardization and bureaucratization fuel the very distrust they are aimed to cure" (p. 2).

Students need to be around teachers they can trust and teachers who ask questions as learners, too" (p. 14).

Instead of focusing on teaching teachers so much about teaching, education schools should work at developing character in future teachers. Huebner states that to improve teaching, "we must attend to the teacher." The problem, of course, is the "we," who must also have character. Perhaps this is why Kevin Ryan doesn't ask that teachers be saints.