In the current efforts to account for the failings of American education, the searchlight of attention has been turned to the quality of teaching. The implication seems to be that teaching, among all the variables that affect colleges and schools, is most susceptible to management and repair. The themes recur in state after state: career ladders, merit pay, teacher testing, job analysis, effectiveness measures, definitions of "mastery." Salary increases are made contingent on their adoption. Official interest, however, focuses on their motivational and managerial aspects; and there is a taken-for-grantedness with respect to the idea that enhanced teacher quality will increase student achievement.
When taken as a literal doctrine, Israel Scheffler's statement of some years ago, "There can be no teaching without learning," becomes a slogan. But in times of educational inertia, he said, a slogan of that sort takes on practical import: "To speak . . . of teaching as selling and of learning as buying, to suggest that teaching be compared with business methods improvable by reference to effects on the consumer, [is] to signal strikingly the intent to support reform of teaching." The buying and selling metaphor may not be used today, but clearly a very similar mode of thinking underlies current "reform" proposals. The insistent emphasis on achievement and the dangers we are said to face if achievement levels are not raised make the "success" use of "to teach" dominate, if not overwhelm, the "intentional" use of the term. Yet most practitioners still believe themselves to be teaching if they are engaged in a particular kind of deliberate, goal-oriented activity, in efforts to move others to learn to learn. Because of the persistence of reassuring slogans (those Scheffler called "rallying symbols of the key ideas and attitudes of educational movements,") the intentional dimension is being overlooked, along with many possible ways of thinking about the teaching act. It is with possible ways that I shall be concerned.
"Reflection and Passion in Teaching,"
Education and Culture: Vol. 09
, Article 3.
Available at: http://docs.lib.purdue.edu/eandc/vol09/iss1/art3