Blog Post

Teaching Humility to Stop Stealing Dreams



So, last post I plan to have under the GEDI header for a while.

My reflection from this last week’s readings (mainly Dan Edelstein’s educator manifesto “Stop Stealing Dreams“) surrounds my own teaching philosophy. As I said at the start of this blog, these posts are exercises in humility and invitations to learn. But to learn what? Well, in my case, mainly how to teach criminology.

But that’s not all. Criminology, is by its very nature, controversial. What perspective do I teach from? A focal concerns perspective, where I assume that members of the criminal justice system adopt a humanitarian yet dispassionate or rational attitude towards sentencing? How then, do I address the concerns of those most victimized by the criminal justice system, which constantly makes decisions on the basis of race, sex, or ethnicity? Going deeper, how do I look my students in the eye and ask for their trust and cooperation when I’m teaching something that largely erases their perspectives, their experiences, and can be used to justify injustice? By the same token, how do I address the fact that this framework does have evidence supporting it in certain situations, is often a reflection on community opinion, and is important to understand for students who might be considering a career in criminal justice or criminology?

In other words, I not only need to transfer information and guide interpretations, I also need to teach students how to talk about and think about controversial topics, how to rectify how systems work with the values they extol, and how historical injustices affect our current everyday lives.

And what’s the value of that? Well, to quote Edelstein:

When we teach a child to make good decisions, we benefit from a lifetime of good decisions. When we teach a child to love to learn, the amount of learning will become limitless. When we teach a child to deal with a changing world, she will never become obsolete. When we are brave enough to teach a child to question authority, even ours, we insulate ourselves from those who would use their authority to work against each of us. “

But to teach these, I have to learn these. Well, how do I go about doing that?

You guessed it, humility.

The humility that allows me to let go of the safe and established but ineffective educational models, even though I am put in a more vulnerable position.

The humility that allows me to step away from an authoritarian classroom and encourage my students to decide the course of our discussion and, by extension, curriculum.

The humility that allows me to, as Edelstein puts it, commit to learn even though I recognize that I might fail.

And make no mistake, I fully expect to fail in some of my efforts. But if I don’t try, I don’t learn. If I don’t learn, I can’t meaningfully teach. And if I can’t meaningfully teach, then I am not helping to calibrate passion or dreams, I am in effect, encouraging at least a partial abandonment of pursuing those passions. I am not only wasting time, I am stealing dreams.

And that is one thing I will never willingly do.

Thank you for following my posts so far. I hope you’ll come back for my updates!