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Academic Hierarchy

November 5, 2011

I headed to my old middle school the other day to chat with a class about life after middle school.  (Which subsequently led to the happy realization that my life has only been getting better since middle school.)  I also asked them to help me test the “Twitter Challenge” project I’m working on for my M.A. capstone.  The premise is simple: give them a kind of Twitter scavenger hunt comprised of mini “challenges” that illustrate different principles of media literacy.  The result: after about an hour of snooping around Twitter and several shocking discoveries, in which Barbie emerged as a “global news source”, and Justin Bieber was accepted as having a “chique” profile, I learned that middle schoolers approach Twitter way differently than I do.  In retrospect, I probably shouldn’t have been so surprised here.  And they’re not necessarily wrong about most of it.  I’m still contemplating Barbie’s global reach…

Going back also reminded me just how much energy and chaos teachers get to juggle in middle school classrooms.  In light of this rediscovery, I’d like to propose a revision of the academic hierarchy:

Top tier:  Middle school teachers
Second tier:  Pre-school/Elementary teachers/High school teachers
Third tier:  College professors

Now, I know there are people who work hard across the whole spectrum, and I don’t intend to knock professors (whom I work with every day and respect dearly).  In fact, I’m not trying to comment on college professors at all.  Rather, I’m concerned about the growing, ambient disdain for K-12 teachers that we’re seeing in politics and the media that is both insulting and grossly unjust.  We are shockingly dismissive of teachers’ and students’ classroom work–work that is profoundly shaping the direction our society will take in the future.  Work that contributes “deep value” to society that is more stable than most of our financial institutions and all the value shuffling that goes on there.  Only rarely and inconsistently do we stand up to this malicious maligning of teachers.  So perhaps an inversion of the accepted hierarchies of respect–or, even better, just more respect all around–would make sure credit goes where credit is due.

*end soapbox*


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