by Al Hrynyshyn, Integrated Science and Earth Systems Teacher, Lakeridge Junior High, UT
At first, this seems like an obvious answer: we are important as we educate children to appreciate whatever subject area we teach, the world around them, and prepare for a successful future. However, I would like to suggest an additional thought- teachers are the guardians of our democratic society, and it is our purpose to prepare our students to enter into this society and sustain it. Wow- now that’s important! This is a cornerstone of educational researcher JohnGoodlad and his “Moral Dimensions of Teaching.” Participation in a democracy isn’t just about stepping into a voting booth and choosing candidates. It’s about having the skills to critically examine issues important to a community and engage in a meaningful discourse about them. It’s about understanding the consequences of their civic choices and how to either use them productively or change them through acceptable means. As a science teacher, I see many issues facing our democratic society that our students will have to deal with as their generation enters adulthood. Climate change, energy use, stem cell research, water use, air quality are topics that our society does and will continue to face. If we can show our students how to critically explore these issues, engage in civil, meaningful dialog, and make rational decisions about them, then we have fulfilled our important calling.
Al participating in a solar energy exercise at the 2009 NEED Energy Conference.