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The Avocado Jungle is a source for current events, politics, arts and culture on the web. Editor In Chief David P. Kronmiller, along with a talented staff and guests, bring you news, commentary, analysis, interviews, humor, music, art and more. Our deeper mission is to seek truth in understanding, offering current events, arts and culture as paths to that understanding. We value and promote creative thought, intelligent dialogue, elevated debate, and informed action. If you see something that interests you on the site, please take the time to leave a thoughtful comment. Thanks for visiting.

Jungle Writers

David P. Kronmiller, Editor-In-Chief
Notes from the Jungle
Matthew Tullman, Current Events Editor
On current events.
Joyce Chen Blogging from New York.
Tharuna Devchand Blogging from South Africa.
J Lampinen
Our resident comic strip, Congo & Steve
Joanna Lord
Blogging on life, art and spirituality.
Jeremy Olsen
Director of Development emeritus and occasional commentator.
Dan Rickabus
On things musical.
Nicky Schildkraut
On poetry.

Plus guest writers and past staff, including Zach Fehst, Amy Reynolds, Aaron Vaccaro, Jae Day, Sarah Jawaid, Scott Martin, and Bronson Picket.
March 16, 2009, at 12:00 pm — Audio | audio interview | Blogs | Interviews /

Well Educated People

I took this week’s theme for The Avocado Jungle and styled it into the question, “Is education part of the solution to almost every problem the world faces?” Then I began asking teachers and former teachers. Last time I wrote it was middle school music teacher Ria Kubota. This entry I’m sharing two strikingly similar responses from two more of my friends, Frank Perez and Patrick Clark. Frank’s answer is several minutes long and can be found here. Patrick’s lasts a minute and a half and you can hear it here.

Frank is a talented trombonist and former successful high school music teacher who is back in the student role himself, pursuing a doctoral degree—a pursuit that does still include some teaching assigments, but that also entails lots of music performance, conducting, studying and research. He’s also married and a proud father of a little girl. When I asked him this question his answer began, “Yes and no.” And as I didn’t define “education” for any of my interviewees, he (like Ria) took it to mean formal schooling. He spoke of the benefits of school. “We need to know where we have been so we know where we’re going,” he said, going on to also mention needing the skills needed to function in society and be productive. But then he gets right to the point, explaining that, “Just because we have schools in place and teachers teaching doesn’t guarantee that the information is going to get to the students. … Fundamentally what parents are doing with their kids is more important than the actual educating. I think parents hold the key.” And he flips to the reverse angle, reminding us that “Somebody can have so much education that the next thing you know they’re building bombs out of their garage,” also citing the more common problem of insider trading and other so-called white collar crime.

Patrick is another good friend and a fantastic thinker who taught middle school social science about fifteen years ago before leaving to pursue a career in Hollywood. He seems to agree with Frank and Ria that formal education is only a part of the equation. “It’s kind of like baking a cake. Flour is an important ingredient but it’s not the only one.” White collar crime comes up in his answer, as with Frank, as an example of well educated people who are using their presumably excellent educational backgrounds for selifsh, unethical, and arguably evil ends. Clearly they are missing something. “It comes down to getting a good rounded education as well as watching life examples of people who live their life with integrity.” In other words, “teaching morality as well. So in that sense, it’s teaching.” Though as Frank points out, even if schools were to institutionalize the teaching of morals, there’s no guarantee the information gets to the students.

As Patrick finishes up his answer, I really start to regret not providing a broader definition of education to my interviewees. I expect that instead of, “Yes and no,” their answers would generally be, “Probably.” To various degrees all three express that formal schooling is not everything and cannot solve everything—frankly, a sensible and realistic and comforting thing to hear from any teacher. And all three touch on the need to learn social and life skills that aren’t formally written into the public school curriculum. They use words that include morality, integrity, dignity, and compassion.

Common sense and tradition have it that these are the things you learn by example. As a child you learn to be compassionate because you see your parents acting that way. It may not sink in fully for decades, but eventually you realize you, too, are a reasonably compassionate person. You may learn the importance of compassion if punishment succeeds in helping you realize the extent to which you hurt another person. You do not learn compassion because somebody talks about it, defines it, or assigns you reading about it. As far as formal education goes, our youth (who we must never forget were us not so long ago) do not need a morality curriculum. Holding classes on it won’t do any good. I do feel, however, that our teachers-in-training ought to learn how to weave morals into their instruction as the fountain from which all decisions and discipline spring. I know that it was not made clear to me, as a 22-year-old about to take on a high school band director position, either that this was of enormous importance or how to achieve it. It’s not that I never thought about fairness, for example, it’s that I rarely had my limited definition challenged by older, wiser people than me. In our training, my peers and I learned about musical instrument performance and maintenance, the latest research on language and cognitive development, and age-appropriate musical literature selection. We did not learn, as young people just out of our teenage years, how to be exemplary models of ethical and moral goodness and fairness while handling the daily stress of being a school teacher.

It sounds to me like Ria, Frank and Patrick would all agree that creating this type of role model, and creating lots and lots of them, would be a fantastic solution to many of the world’s problems. I’ll blog again soon and wrap up by venturing a guess about how we might do this and how, along with many other forms of education, it could go a long way toward addressing some of the biggest issues we face.

Many thanks to both Frank and Patrick for their time, for their thoughts, and for the years each of them spent aiming to be superb role models for their students.


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