(Explained using only the ten hundred words people use the most often, just like at that one not-real place I found with my computer. I wrote this using a thing the guy who makes that not-real place made to help people to write more simply.)
I work at a big college (the kind that has a lot of little colleges in it). This week I went to a meeting where some of the top leaders of my big college talked about how they want a lot of us in my big college to do new things in teaching.
They said a lot of stuff about how teaching is good and how teaching matters a lot to people and how important it is to do new things in teaching . . . and especially how important it is that people in my big college do the new things before anyone else does them.
What they did not say, but I thought I heard anyway, is how they do not really know what teaching is.
To them, it seems to me, teaching is just this stuff-they-know-not-what that a lot of people seem to like because it helps them find jobs and make money and because it helps make the country richer and stronger.
What we need to do, they said, is to do a lot of new things in teaching so that we can make a lot more of this teaching-stuff-we-know-not-what with a lot less work and get it to more and more people than ever before, so they can find jobs and make money and make the country richer and stronger.
And we need to do a lot of those new things with computers.
Someone I know at my big college asked how we would find out if the new things we do in teaching actually help people to learn, and the top leaders of my big college said there would be money to help people who want to find that out.
After that, though, one of the top-most leaders of my big college said we would know we were doing well because a lot of people would like us and would want to come to our big college and give us money, or take courses through their computers and give us money, and that, anyway, we will be doing new things, which are always better than old things, right?
And we will be doing the new things before anyone else does them, and that’s always good, right?
I left the room feeling not at all happy.
What no one asked – not out loud, anyway – is why teaching matters so much, and what all this teaching is for.
There was no sense that teaching ever could or ever did mean something more than a strange thing-we-know-not-what that helps people get jobs.
I want the people who learn in my classes to be able to think more clearly, to become better and more whole people, to join in thinking about what it means to be alive, to be human, to be in the world, to live and work with others.
I want to make sure my teaching is better not just more or newer.
Anyway, if you want me, I’ll be reading a book.
Later: Some More Words on Why I Wrote This the Way I Did
Why did I write this using only the ten hundred words people use the most often?
I’m not sure what made me think it would be a good idea, but today I read the word-pictures at that not-real place I found with my computer, and I thought it might be a funny way to say how much I was not happy about the meeting this week.
More than that, though, it seems to me that saying things with simple words makes it easy to show what is being hidden by people who use big words to make people think well of what they are saying. Sometimes when you use only simple words to say again what people – and not only top leaders – say with big words, what they say doesn’t sound so good or so important, and it becomes easier to see when something hidden in their words is not true or not right.