What are you going to do with that?

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For anyone embarking on their studies in Literature, History or Management, they more than likely are faced with the question: What are you going to do with that?  People ask me why I chose Management and I answer “I didn’t decide to love it, I just did.  In the same way I didn’t decide to love chocolate, I just tasted it and enjoyed it.”  Now I research, write the subject well.

But the question: What are you going to do with that?  Teach? underscores something I find problematic in the attitude towards the profession of teaching.  It is as though teaching were the last and only option.  Or, more dramatically, the bottom of the career possibility totem poll.  I am not endorsing this view but merely pointing it out. Indeed, sometimes the term “teach” comes out with disdain, as if it were useless or not important.  If someone were studying Biology, for example, would the same attitude accompany: What are you going to do?  Be a physician?

With the wave of discussion regarding education hitting the headlines I would like for us to consider the way in which we view the profession of teaching.  How can we as a nation argue for better schools yet keep this sort of common question as a reaction to a student’s declaration of a major in the Humanities?  It is not the only possible career path, but for someone who does want to be a teacher they should not be subjected to the idea that “teaching” and “doing” are different things.  Or, that “teaching” is the equivalent of not being able to find something else.  If we want our students, our children, to get the best education, then respect for teaching as a valuable professional choice needs to be on par with that.

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