Teaching, in some ways, is a thankless job.
From kindergarten to the 12th grade, school is mostly a forced environment — students are required by law to get schooling. There are options beyond the classroom environment, like homeschooling, but regardless, there is a generally standard curriculum of study that students have to go through and get tested on.
College is virtually no different. While we can argue that college is a matter of choice — no one has to attend college through a legal mandate — for many students (anecdotal), college is a fake choice. If they don’t go, then they get (or they feel they get) some mark of shame via the label “uneducated”. I’ve met a lot of people from a lot of educational backgrounds. For the person who “dropped out” of or never attend college, one of the first things they announce is that “they never finished / went to college”. In some way, it becomes a form of identity.
The whole bit about not finishing a certain level of school is just another dimension in our societal pecking order. We exist in a competitive society. And even if we don’t want to compete, we’re thrust into the world of comparisons and contests against our general desire. No high school < high school < some college < community college < four-year college < graduate school, etc. And then within each class of people, say for example college degree holders, it’s what kind of degree, where the degree was gotten, etc.
But is this really competition or is this vanity? I think it’s mostly vanity. I went to Elite School A and now work at Elite Company A. That somehow makes me better than the person who went to Elite School A and now works at Almost-Elite Company B, and so forth. This is sometimes known as ‘pedigree’.
All of this is one, big, fat, stupid game. It has absolutely nothing to do with education, nothing to do with learning, nothing to do with self-improvement, and has made a mockery of the teaching profession.
To some extent, we, as a people, have done it to ourselves with our need for external validation. And to some other extent, it’s been done to us, because we, as a society, compete over quality labor. This is all a structural, probably incurable side effect of our want for progress — technological progress. And we probably want technological progress because we compete against one another. So there is some feedback loop here.
A problem is that quality labor can be developed through quality education, but I think that it’s the individual’s (practically every individual’s?) sense of pride and a misdirected sense of purpose that gets in the way of their own education.
I think that people, in general, have two goals that don’t have to contradict each other, but end up doing so. Goal 1 is to get a quality education. Goal 2 is to look better than the person they’re next to. “Looking better” is a surface-level evaluation while determining if one has received a quality education takes a bit more probing. Unfortunately, we don’t have time for all this getting to know you stuff, and we just want to see the bullet-listed, bottom-lined curriculum vitae or résumé.
But our résumé is a consequence of what we can and can’t do, what we do and don’t know. Alas, many of us get this backwards, and we aim to beef up our external image without actually taking care of the “inside” (our knowledge). This behavior isn’t a new phenomenon. People have always been peddling their wares and get-rich-quick schemes for millennia.
In today’s context, where we have an environment of structured education, and well-established educational institutions, it’s an immense tragedy that so many people waste so many years of their life within the bureaucracy of education — seeking the degree rather than the knowledge, hoping that once they get the degree then the knowledge will have been bestowed upon them. I remember a person once saying to me, “I’ve finished college, I know everything.”.
This is why teaching is a thankless job. Many a student, and they are getting younger and younger in this mentality, see school / education entirely as a bureaucratic process. What papers are you giving to me? What papers do I have to give to you? For so many students, this is all that school is!
There is no conclusion to this article. It’s just a sad ending. As a society, we have continued to mistake the finger for the moon and don’t seem to care.