Why We Teach

I noticed on the calendar today that this week there are some “Pre-Select Interviews” for students planning to apply to Teach for America this year. Teach for America was a popular choice for Wes grads even before other jobs after graduation became so scarce, and it continues to attract some of our most thoughtful and engaged students. For many years, Wesleyan has contributed a disproportionate share of teachers to schools at all levels, and our Graduate Liberal Studies program has provided hundreds of teachers in central Connecticut with advanced degrees. There is currently a task force of faculty and administrators investigating whether we should re-start a program of study for undergraduates intending to pursue careers in education. We certainly need new ideas for improving our schools — and a better understanding of how our education system now reproduces inequality rather than offering an escape from it.

Wesleyan faculty are celebrated for their devotion to their students, and some have been recognized nationally for their extraordinary work in the classroom. I’m thinking of Richie Adelstein in Economics and Andy Szegedy-Maszak in Classics. And I’m thinking of a film prof of whom Joss Whedon said, “I’ve had two great teachers in my life — one was my mother, the other was Jeanine Basinger.” Not every prof gets to see things like that in print, but we all take pride in them.

I’d like to think that one of the core reasons so many of our students go on to careers in education is that they are inspired by the energy and dedication of their teachers at Wesleyan. Whether they are studying computational biology or ethnomusicology, postmodern Christian thought or microeconomics, our students are enlivened by the work of their professors. And as their teachers, we are enlivened by the creativity, inquisitiveness and intellectual verve of our students. My colleagues tell me that I’m happiest just after I come back from the classroom. Now as our fall term comes to an end, I’m already beginning to wonder who will be in my spring course…

Emerson wrote that colleges “serve us when they aim not to drill, but to create; when they gather from far every ray of various genius to their hospitable halls, and by the concentrated fires, set the hearts of their youth on flame.” That’s why we teach. To see those fires and to feel their warmth.

3 thoughts on “Why We Teach

  1. Why we teach?…..What we teach?
    You speak of “even before other jobs after graduation became so scarce” but why are these jobs so scarce?
    How about a task force of faculty and administrators investigating this anomaly? Why are world economies collapsing? I outlined why this is happening in my previous comment. The question looms What will people do when they can no longer make their livings off other people’s taxes?

    You seek to answer the age old socialistic question of why things are not equal. You seek this for the greater good and why the “tower” produces an educational system of inequality. The answer is free will, competition, a desire to win. Yet, we have lost that desire to win as we promote an attitude of “lets not keep score everyone is a winner” No child left behind. This way no child can get ahead.

    Take a hard look at the 1963 communist goals for America. I am sure you can google that and judge for yourself how many of these goals have been achieved. Do not take accept my writings or believes challenge them but do your own research.

    I can not take issue with the fact that Wesleyan faculty are celebrated for their devotion to their students, and that some have been recognized nationally for extraordinary work in the classroom. This is true. Congrats.

    I as well have had two great teachers in my life God and the Bible. I only regret that it took me so long to read the Bible. Have you ever read the Bible?

    So, who is Hamilton Wentworth and why does he care?

  2. Why we teach / What we teach

    No Child left behind Act = The Minds of men being gradually reduced to the same level, the fire of genius being extinguished. – Rome is falling

    Hamilton

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