I need to adjust my attitude. As a teacher, I find myself increasingly intolerant of ignorance. The problem, however, is that I also am intolerant of the ignorant. In my profession, the former may be acceptable, but the latter is not. There are two recurring examples I encounter in the world that never fail to prompt me to lament the state of our educational system and believe the end is near: the virtually universal inability of people to make change without a calculating device to do simple subtraction (with coins, the result must be a number of no greater than two digits, but an astonishing number of people are baffled if you hand them an odd amount above the total in order to receive, say, a quarter in return), and the common question, “what state is Washington, D.C. in?”
I confess I cannot help but feel, for a moment, contemptuous of people who have no compelling excuse: they are not impaired in any manner, and they seem to be natives of this great nation of ours. Worst of all, they display no shame whatsoever at their condition, much less interest in improving.
But I must remind myself. The better outlook on my part would be to consider what might be appropriate and effective means of enabling them to acquire these basic skills I reasonably expect them to have. Perhaps the most difficult aspect of the endeavor is showing them that it is actually in their self-interest to develop their minds and offering inspiration. And then it is our responsibility to assure them that it is within their capabilities to do so. I too have my own weaknesses. I am neither a mathematician nor a geographer, and the ability to make change or place the capital confer no moral superiority. I have had the privilege of an excellent education, opportunities I did not always take advantage of, and the crucial social support that enabled me to apply myself to the extent I ddi. Yet no doubt there are those who would regard my own level of learning as woeful.
At least if I want to call myself a teacher, I must regard everyone as a potential student – myself included.