Author: Melinda Cochrane, Teacher at Beaconsfield High School, regular writer at Life as a Human magazine, QWF finalist for best youth novel 2013, and recipient of the North Carolina Mary Belle Campbell scholarship as poet and teacher.
There is no greater service to others than to teach. In a world sending messages that are erosive to our youth- we are becoming the new moral leaders of today's generation. We are now faced daily with the challenge of creating a positive safe environment of tolerance and acceptance, and because of this a new identity (yet a very old one) has emerged- we are the thinkers. Today this role is even more important.
A few years ago, after reading The World We Want: Virtue, Vice and the Good Citizen by Mark Kingwell, I remembered one part in particular from the book that I immediately embraced as a new teacher. To paraphrase, he wrote that we no longer had men or women like Socrates who would stand by their beliefs for a greater good. Socrates would not deny himself of his ideals of citizenship.
It stood out to me as a teacher because I came to realize that Kingwell was incorrect. We as teachers are the great thinkers debating the morality of today's world and our students are the recipients of the messages. We constantly address the greater moral good. We fight for the rights of all daily. We act against injustice, we address intolerance, and we answer questions that deal with today's issues. Science, art, reading, writing, music and numbers are the mode of transfer for this information and we stand by them.
Yesterday, I was asked by a student, “Miss, what do you think of us not being allowed to wear baseball hats in school?”
I stopped and paused to think as we all do as teachers. We dialogued about the messages currently in the news in American politics and world-wide. In true Socratic form, we discussed the greater good of our world and the role of citizen. What was a seemingly simple question became a moral lesson- something we all do and never truly see ourselves as the thinkers in a world exploiting ignorance. We began a greater lesson of comparisons on a world without decorum. The student removed his hat, but it was his thinking that made him come to the conclusion. He understood that It was about being an example in a world where politicians and media sources no longer act as the moral leaders- they are instead eroding the moral belief in citizenship.
We all have examples of classroom moments like this. So I ask you, do you truly believe the values of people like Socrates no longer exist? They do exist, and teachers like Socrates will be remembered as those who served the greater good. Stay vigilant and united to ensure the validity of our Socratic classrooms for our students. Teachers are transferring the ideals of citizenship.
The World We Want: Virtue, Vice and the Good Citizen by Mark Kingwell. Penguin Canada (Sept. 18 2001)
Online source- retrieved March 31, 2017 http://www.ancientgreece.com/essay/v/the_apology_socrates_defense/