On the surface, teaching seems like a fairly simple job: present information in a concise and organized fashion, in order to develop a particular skill for a specific set of topics. So far, so good. Right?
Here is where things start to get complicated: minds often don’t want to change. Often times without realizing it, people have adopted attitudes that make them resistant to learning. People tell themselves ” is hard”, “I can’t do this”, or “girls aren’t good at ________”. Sometimes it is simply a factual error that they have internalized, often times as simple as thinking that 7×8 is 54 (instead of 56).
Now we are faced with needing to do more than simply inform students, we are faced with needing to alter attitudes and teach thinking skills. I think this is why some groups are deeply suspicious of colleges (or education) in general. By forcing students to think critically about their own quality of thought, even on a topic as simple as mathematics, we are changing their lives. I try to change attitudes by being an unrepentant and joyful math geek, and I give people thinking skills by answering questions with reason and thinking tools rather than asserting authority of experience.
Here is where the “evil” creeps in: critical thought, once you start to do it, is nearly impossible to turn off. Once you learn to spot thinking errors and logical fallacies, it snowballs outside the arena it started in. This is why education is so important. It makes people question, and questioning is threatening to people and institutions who rely on those thinking errors… this includes political parties, religious institutions, and corporations. Being a teacher means being an agent of change, and of opening minds to alternative possibilities.
When I call myself an “evil teacher”, I am only poking fun at the ad hominum attacks that some people offer against education…
… that and the fact that I wear black a lot, like angst-ridden music, and have floor plans for my very own hollowed out volcano.