Imagine if we celebrated teachers the way we do actors and musicians. The world would be such a better place. We have it backwards and I think I understand why.
Suppose we lived in a world where the teachers were the celebrities with salaries to match those of Hollywood movie stars; a world where our brightest and the best aspired to be teachers. Instead of A-list and B-list celebrities there were A-list and B-list teachers as instantly recognisable as Tom Cruise.
Just imagine what our education systems would be like, how mindful and civilised our people, the global challenges we could surmount and how technologically far advanced the human race would be. Instead of gossiping about the “stars” we would literally be going to the stars.
Back to reality. Sadly, society, by way of the media, has become obsessed with celebrity worship. We shower such adoration and attention upon the lives of a few actors, pop stars and socialites. Television channels, various weekly magazines and bloggers are fervently dedicated to evangelising their conspicuous consumption and continual notoriety. Why do we pay so much attention when this very exclusive group of people gets together under one roof to give each other various awards each year. What difference do they really make?
Distraction over education was emphasised from early on. This current cult of celebrity worship probably originated back in the early 20th century when most of the inhabitants of the current developed world’s industrialised cities worked on assembly lines in coal-fired factories and led short miserable lives.
Distraction from the harsh reality of the time was needed to prevent a Bolshevik-like revolution, and why waste extra money properly educating exploited wage slaves who only needed to follow instructions and not think for themselves when that money could be spent on the military?
Under the threat of communism in the Great Depression, American culture solidified across the continent into the shared recognition of brand names, symbols and cultural icons. It was only natural that the fledgling Hollywood film industry, whose films were watched across the disparate regions of the country provided the first contemporary cultural icons such as John Wayne, the epitome of archetypal heroism and American masculinity.
The iconographic trend continued out of the silver-screen era to today where we have the glamorous likes of Angelina Jolie, Tom Cruise, Shah Rukh Khan and George Clooney getting paid upwards of US$30 million per film. That’s more than you or I will likely ever make in a lifetime for pretending to be other people and simply playing make- believe. That’s how highly society values distraction.
Finally, steps are being made in the right direction to rectify this problem. Roughly a year ago, on March 17, 2014, the Global Teacher Prize was launched in Dubai. The Global Teacher Prize is an annual award accompanied by US$1 million in prize money from the Varkey Foundation to celebrate and recognise the best teachers around the world who continually enhance the lives of their students and their communities.
The focus is to uplift the valuable contributions that teachers make every day to establish a flourishing global society. Of course, one million dollars pales in comparison to US$30 million per film, but it’s a start.
Celebrating teachers is celebrating progress, our future, and not the silly distractions from our present. Aside from parents, teachers have the most influence on the next generation, yet many must work jobs in addition to teaching in order to make ends meet. If we value our future, then we should value our teachers.
Perhaps I am just a product of my environment, but I can remember many old movies vividly and struggle to recall a few specific class lessons. This indicates to me that it’s very likely that I am still struggling with the many hard-earned limitations of my education.
I am sure that my teachers tried their best with me and the limited resources that they had available to them, but I can only wonder and speculate about how my life might have been different today had I been educated by charismatic, enlightened geniuses who would have not just taught me how to memorise but how to learn, and continually inspired, empowered and uplifted me each day of those crucial formative years.