Teaching and Education

I’m knee deep in a new semester, so this week I thought I would post a brief reaction I wrote in response to two quotes. Be sure to leave a comment with your opinion of the quotes and the ideas expressed by them below!

“Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is a great equalizer of the conditions of men [and women]–the balance wheel of the social machinery.” –Horace Mann, 1848

“Education is the one realm in which constitutional guarantee of equal opportunity has not been adequate to promote and protect the social equity embedded in the promise of U. S. democracy. While such equality remains an ideal essential to the health of the republic, its manifestation as tangible reality remains…elusive.” Manuel Gomez, 1999

As someone studying to be a teacher, the two quotes presented serve a dual purpose of inspiration and catalyst. From a naive viewpoint, Mann’s belief that education is the “great equalizer of the conditions of men [and women]” reflects everything I desire to believe about education. I am almost desperate to believe that as long as a student is dedicated and willing to work hard, the education they receive will put them on equal footing with their peers, the other students in the class, regardless of their situations outside of class. It is this idea of education working as an equalizer of things otherwise outside of my control that inspires me to teach, to be a part of the “balance wheel of the social machinery.”
However, as much as I want to believe that education is the “great equalizer,” I agree when Gomez speaks without the rosy glasses of wishful thinking, saying that this potential’s “manifestation as a tangible reality remains…elusive.” Social expectations exist outside of school, so while a teacher might attempt to keep the classroom balanced, these social expectations will continue to unbalance the balance wheel. While it is discouraging to think that education has not—and perhaps cannot—lived up to its potential as an equalizer, without educating students in a way that attempts to do away with inequalities inherent in the current system, schools will not encourage future generations to do away with the system of inequality. Without the realization—the catalyst to action—that education is not fulfilling it’s potential, nothing can be done to change it.

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