Sages and Lunatics: Danger in the Classroom

This is the second post in a series reflecting on John Spencer's Sages and Lunatics


The machete was dangerous that day.

There is power that comes with learning. Ideas are born; worldviews are constructed. As we learn, we are forced to fit that new information into our existing perceptions and biases. As teachers, we have the ability to guide students and help them navigate and wield the power they gain. John uses the metaphor of a education being a machete: it can be a powerful tool as we explore and discover, but it can also be used to manipulate and destroy.

How often do we avoid the machete in our classrooms? Is it the role of the teacher to protect students from the danger that comes from learning?


creative commons licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Nina Matthews Photography

I wonder how dangerous my classroom was. Mine may have been doubly dangerous because of chemicals and pointy tools, but physical danger is easier to deal with than emotional. I had safeguards and policies in place to protect students.

I fear that my classroom may not have been intellectually dangerous.

Did I avoid the machete because I was protecting my students? Or because I was protecting myself?

It has become easier to avoid the tough questions because they "aren't within the scope of the course." Standardization has fooled us into thinking that we don't have time to cover eugenics, genetic modification of crops, and the commercialization of our diets. Why talk about abortion or birth defects? Topic avoidance in the interest of covering the standards is accepted when it should be reviled.

Hindsight is always 20/20 and is an educator's curse. I try not to think about missed opportunities with students, but they stay fresh. I've learnt to be aware of danger and more receptive to the idea of running straight in. Rather than fearing the gray areas, I want to embrace them.

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