I believe that the role of educators is more important than ever.
I say this in large part because I am an educator and my job has grown considerably harder over the years in response to the manner in which young people and parents have changed. Don’t get me wrong; I love change. My primary concern, as an educator, is that children and parents are changing in the wrong way, and it is my job to get them going in the right direction. At least the children.
But in reality we need to do more than simply correct; rather, we must cure a prevailing ailment that is crippling young people and their parents: fear. I have never before seen children so terrified of growing up and facing the world and parents just as terrified for them, if not more so.
Because parents see the reckless pace of the contemporary world, they care almost exclusively about ensuring their children’s safety. They drive them places, call their cell phone frequently (even during the school day,) and participate actively in their social lives. In some ways, I think this newfound level of bonding is lovely. The problem is, though, that children never learn to go it on their own.
Take for example Chloe—savvy, well-dressed, editor of the yearbook. She is paralyzed at the idea of going to college. She is afraid for her life, afraid of date-rape drugs, afraid her thousand dollar purse will be stolen. She regards statistics that schools are, in fact, some of the safest places in the world, as propaganda. More importantly, her parents are right there with her. They ask panicked questions at college counseling sessions and have forbidden her to look at schools more than an hour and a half away from home. Chloe did commit to a school forty-five minutes away, but I wonder how long she will last there.
Fred is another case. Fred is afraid to go into nature. He has never really spent time in trees or on water, and he regards all insects as poisonous. Whenever he and his classmates have the opportunity to go rafting or hiking or mucking around in the Chesapeake, he seizes up and announces to his peers that he will not attend. He always does (he is too social to stay behind), but the entire time he is out he can scarcely move without the constant cajoling of bemused chaperones.
Chloe and Fred’s parents will cover for them any time they are required by the school to confront their fears. So I have to insert myself often between parent and child and use every method of persuasion I can to get those children out the door.
I love my students, and I do want them to be safe. However, it is far more important to me to equip them with skills to deal with the changing world.
An educator’s work is literally never done. In this world in which we live, it’s tough to teach people the courage to not be afraid. And yet I believe I have to push as hard as I can to make my students go forward.
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