The Teacher’s Intent: Understanding how Intent Affects Education

The educational institution which evaluates its effectiveness by means of examination results alone has entirely misunderstood its purpose. Far better as a tool of gauging the utility of a school is to interview its alumni. Whilst the individual can never be representative of the whole, the values, worldview, and contribution to society of a school’s former students is indicative of the type of educational experience they were exposed to. That a school nurtured a young person’s capacity to achieve the grades to attend an elite university is an achievement of a type, but it is a feat that can quickly become a crime should the young person not have been introduced to an appropriate metaphysical framework which guides her to employ her evident intellect for the benefit of humanity. Having meticulously trained a mathematician who later goes on to engage in illicit financial practices, an educator is left open to the accusation of being an accomplice. Although this would be an incongruous charge, it certainly can be argued that the contemporary educational institution’s inordinate emphasis on the product of the educational process (grades or certificates) cements within students an almost neurotic obsession with outcomes at the expense of the process. When an individual associates happiness, achievement, or worth with a particular outcome, they become extremely dangerous, not least because that outcome may never be achieved, rendering them worthless and ashamed, but more so because they may logically vindicate any action, irrespective of how damaging or immoral it may be, in the pursuit of their goal.

Young people exist in a schizophrenic state of attempting to reconcile the well-meaning motivational quotes plastered around the school, stressing self-love and the importance of maintaining mental health, with a society that only respects the winner. The plucky loser is fleetingly newsworthy, but it is the champion who is ultimately paid homage to. That is not to say that we should do away with intellectual rigour. Qualifications (when well-designed) serve a crucial social function, facilitating exposure to significant knowledge and acting as an indicator as to the societal role an individual is able to play. They do not, however, indicate the value of a human being. Traditionally, educational institutions assumed the responsibility for shaping well-rounded, informed, conscientious, competent, and upright young people, who were versed in the chivalric notion of selfless service, and were encouraged to strive to employ their talents to the benefit of the other. To the extent that qualifications can facilitate this high ideal, they are to be considered important. But it is the character of the human who walks out of the school at the end of the educational process, his outlook on life, the manner in which he treats the universe, and the contributions that he subsequently uses his knowledge to make, that define the benefit of the institution, not the grades on the sheet of paper in his hand. When selecting a school whether for your children or employment purposes, speak to the students who attend it, and, if possible, those who completed their education there. Does their outlook on life mirror the manner in which you would wish your child to interpret their existence? Would you be happy if your child turned out like that? Leaders of schools must maintain a healthy relationship with their alumni, as their eventual destination, whether it be the bank, the clergy, or the penitentiary, will reveal a great deal about the type of educational experience your institution is providing its students with, probably far more than the number of A-C grades in English.

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