The Humane Part of Education

It was during my high school. One of my English teachers asked in the class, what’s the job of education? Many of us responded but finally, we agreed on one thing – to make us more humane. This was the first time someone taught about a different facet of education and I was sixteen that time. During the final semester of my undergrad, I was taught a class on Engineering Practice and a small part of that was on ethical values in engineering. Other than that, there was no class on ethics in my entire life. I did not get any chance to take these classes in the earlier stage of my education, which could have been more impactful. Despite the availability of a class called Engineering Ethics at Virginia Tech, I did not take it as I thought there will be a lot of workload on me besides doing research. Some of my friends took the class, however, they think the materials which are taught in that class are what everybody knows. So I thought, since I know the stuff (every human must know how to act ethically!), I may skip the class. But sometimes, we need to be reminded of what we know and what we should practice. To me, this type of classes must be made compulsory for all students to be reminded of their responsibility as humans.

Educating the educators is what required most to make sure that students become more humane in the process of education. I taught for two years when I was in Bangladesh. I got the chance to teach just after completing my B.S. without any training on teaching. Because of the lack of candidates with higher degrees, students with good GPA in B.S. can teach in my country. This makes a huge void in the education system. I only taught my students what was required to complete the syllabus, but I could not offer much. There were few reasons behind it, which I figured out later. I was not educated enough and I was not trained enough. I could teach better if I were given chance now. Because I got an extended exposure, which made me confident and I got training in teaching. It is true that sometimes we teach unconsciously by just influencing students by who we are. But to become that person who can teach students unconsciously, the person needs to be trained. If the teacher himself has no idea of the goal of education, it’s treacherous for all. Now if we consider the educators who are already in practice and practicing the old school teaching style where the humane part of education is absent, how we can solve this issue. Replacing the existing negative (!) teachers with positive would take time in a natural way, and the time required to do that would create a huge number of graduates without a humanistic view of education.

9 Replies to “The Humane Part of Education”

  1. Hi Syeed,
    I think you bring up a very strong point about the purpose of education is to make us more humane–and that this element is often missing from curiculua in general. I think we should always be asking ourselves what the ethical implications for our choices, behavior, and research are. Thanks for this thoughtful post!

  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. After taking graduate school classes at Virginia Tech, I also believe that we need a training to teach students because the influence of the teacher is really important in our society. Also, we need more discussions on ethics of our discipline rather than just learning the skills or theories.

  3. Thank you for your post! I really enjoyed reading it and you brought up so many great points. If an educator has not been trained to educate, they often teach in the same way that they were taught (for example, derivations on the chalkboard). You bring up so many good points about educating the teacher so that they are able to see multiple perspectives and help students learn. By reevaluating how and what we as educators teach, we can help students better understand the course material and better understand the importance of the material (for example, ethics should not just be one module of one engineering class – unfortunately it often seems like it is). Thanks for the great post!

  4. I wonder what we can change to encourage more students to see education this way. So many of my students this year have justified absences and late assignments to me that they say were due to job interviews with the excuse “the purpose of going to college is to get a job, so those assignments shouldnt count against me”

  5. I really liked “It is true that sometimes we teach unconsciously by just influencing students by who we are. But to become that person who can teach students unconsciously, the person needs to be trained.” I think whether we like it or not, just by standing in front of a class or facilitating, some students may look up to the instructor as a role model. I think educators need to recognize that they themselves have to demonstrate good character and professional ethics. This may require “training” and a good amount of self-reflection. Great post!

  6. Hi Syeed, so it seems I am coming late to the party. It is interesting that the points you made about not being really prepared to teach students after your B.S. have been identified in research, and yet it continues to happen. Even here in the U.S., often graduate students are assigned to teach classes or labs without necessarily going through a minimum training to do so, as you said, knowing the content of the class does not mean you are ready to be a good teacher

  7. You touched on a lot of great points, and I agree with what you said that teachers have to be trained before teaching. In my BA which was from Saudi Arabia for the last year and before graduating we have to go and teach in schools, and then some of our professors will come to our classes and observe and give us comments and feedback. I think that helped me a little bit in improving my way of teaching.

  8. You’re absolutely right. Across most universities in India, we are taught how to do things. How to optimize profit functions etc. We are never taught why we should do some of those things. The education system assumes that we will learn the “why” parts as we go. This I believe is a wrong approach.

  9. You are still welcomed to join the Ethics class, haha. I think it is really great for our department to let us have Future Professorate certificate in order to be eligible for teaching. This helps a lot for the potential instructors to be well educated and get prepared. Just like you, I really appreciate all the communicating and education course offered here in VT (they are not normally offered in Chinese universities), which definitely will make me a better educator in the future.

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