My heart is heavy and burdened this week.
As some of you may know, the marching arts world was rocked to its core with the allegations of sexual misconduct against, and subsequent resignation of one of the most well-known names in drum corps, George Hopkins.
At the risk of sounding trite, I would like to offer my thoughts and prayers to all those affected by this horrific turn of events. I know how tight-knit the drum corps activity is, especially within each individual organization, and my hope is that there can be hope and healing as those affected work through the pain and sorrow of what has occurred.
Sexual misconduct and abuse have been brought to the forefront of media and national conversation over the last year thanks to movements like the “Me Too” movement. However, this is not something that is new or unique to our society. We have all seen on the news reports through the years of these types of horrible behaviors occurring in almost every facet of life – home, church, work, government, school, youth organizations… The list could go on and on.
Why is this happening? There isn’t a definitive answer. Some say lack of religion, others say poor economics, and some say poor examples are coming from media, government, and Hollywood. It could be a combination of all those factors. It could be something else. The fact is, we don’t know.
So, how do we as a society combat this epidemic? How do we combat any of our epidemics? Gun violence, addiction, physical abuse, sexual abuse… What can society do about these issues? What can YOU do about these issues? What can I do about these issues?
We as educators need to ask ourselves, “What is our prime directive?” Now, I’m not necessarily talking about “The Prime Directive” from the Star Trek series. However, there is some consideration to be given to this fictional ordinance meant to regulate the behavior of the futuristic society of the Federation.
According to Wikipedia, the Prime Directive has been defined this way:
As the right of each sentient species to live in accordance with its normal cultural evolution is considered sacred, no Starfleet personnel may interfere with the normal and healthy development of alien life and culture. Such interference includes introducing superior knowledge, strength, or technology to a world whose society is incapable of handling such advantages wisely. Starfleet personnel may not violate this Prime Directive, even to save their lives and/or their ship, unless they are acting to right an earlier violation or an accidental contamination of said culture. This directive takes precedence over any and all other considerations and carries with it the highest moral obligation. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prime_Directive)
No personnel may interfere with the normal and healthy development… Introducing things to those incapable of handling them… Fixing earlier violations… A directive that takes precedence over any and all other considerations and carries with it the highest moral obligation…
We educators need to consider our roles within our educational settings. We have an obligation to our students to provide them with the best possible education no matter what subject we teach. We need to use age appropriate and developmentally sound best teaching practices to provide a safe, healthy environment where they can grow, thrive, and discover who they are as individuals and human beings. Let’s face it, these days we are often battling outside influences we cannot control in order to help our students overcome personal obstacles – like trying to fix “earlier violations.” We don’t need to be the ones creating the obstacles ourselves.
That led me thinking about what our “prime directive” would look like as educators. What would and educational directive be like that would take precedence over any and all other considerations and carry with it the highest moral obligation? While thinking about this, the medical Hippocratic Oath came to mind. You know, the one that every one thinks says “First, do no harm,” but actually doesn’t say that? I really never read it before, so I researched it.
Here is what the Hippocratic Oath actually says:
I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:
I will respect the hard-won scientific gains of those physicians in whose steps I walk, and gladly share such knowledge as is mine with those who are to follow.
I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures [that] are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.
I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science, and that warmth, sympathy, and understanding may outweigh the surgeon’s knife or the chemist’s drug.
I will not be ashamed to say “I know not,” nor will I fail to call in my colleagues when the skills of another are needed for a patient’s recovery.
I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know. Most especially must I tread with care in matters of life and death. If it is given me to save a life, all thanks. But it may also be within my power to take a life; this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God
I will remember that I do not treat a fever chart, a cancerous growth, but a sick human being, whose illness may affect that person’s family and economic stability. My responsibility includes these related problems, if I am to care adequately for the sick.
I will prevent disease whenever I can, for prevention is preferable to cure.
I will remember that I remain a member of society, with special obligations to all my fellow human beings, those sound of mind and body as well as the infirm.
If I do not violate this oath, may I enjoy life and art, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May I always act so as to preserve the finest traditions of my calling and may I long experience the joy of healing those who seek my help. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hippocratic_Oath)
After reading this, I thought to myself that with a little bit of rewording, this would work perfectly as the “Educator’s Prime Directive.” I thought of calling is the “Socratic Oath” after one of the worlds best known ancient educators, Socrates. Then I thought to myself that this has probably already been done as is the case with so many of my great ideas. So, as all good educators do, I Googled “Socratic oath.” Sure enough, it’s been done!
Here is a Socratic Oath as written by Walter L. McKenzie, Jr.:
I swear to fulfill, to the best of my ability and judgment, this covenant:
I will respect the hard-won gains of those educators in whose steps I follow, and gladly share such knowledge with my colleagues.
I will not enter into any relationship that creates even the appearance of impropriety in ethically carrying out this creed. My sole professional responsibility is to students, helping them take charge of their learning, health and happiness.
I will not hurt any student, and I will protect all learners from harm. I will remember that there is art to learning as well as science, and that caring, empathy, and social, emotional and physical development are as critical as intellectual achievement.
I will apply, for the benefit of each student, all available instructional supports and resources, in the knowledge and conviction that we each learn differently, and that everyone can learn.
In all things, it is my charge to prepare learners to participate as citizens of a global society. I will not be ashamed to say “I do not know” as I model inquiry, risk-taking, collaboration, perseverance and resilience for students and colleagues alike.
I will respect the dignity of my students and their families, for they are entrusted into my care. I will not judge others, and I will tread with care as they work through challenges and frustrations. Everyone deserves many chances to dream, learn and be successful.
I will inspire all learners to be and do their best. I do not work to achieve minimum proficiencies, nor am I charged with teaching to the lowest common denominator. Learning is an iterative process, and I will work to instill that inner discourse within each student.
I will remember that I am a member of humankind, contributing to its future; the future for which I prepare all students. I will foster a learning environment where each learner is healthy, safe, engaged, supported and challenged, so that they may flourish at their current interest and ability levels and grow to realize their full potential.
In honoring this oath, may I enjoy a robust career, respected while I live and remembered with affection thereafter. May my legacy preserve the finest traditions of my profession and leave this world a better place than I found it. Most importantly, may I instill in my students a healthy curiosity, a thirst for discovery, and the hunger to be life-long learners who contribute to the greater good. (http://surfaquarium.com/oath.htm)
I call all educators to reflect upon their purpose inside and outside of the classroom. Whether we like it or not, we are one of the “soldiers” on the front lines of the battle for the heath and well being of our society. If we can make a positive difference in a child’s life and remember our duties as their mentors and role models, we can impact the future of our world so that we all can “Live long and prosper.”
What are your thoughts on a “Socratic Oath” for educators? Join the discussion! Please don’t be afraid to comment to this post or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’m looking forward to hearing from you all about our roles as educators.
Blessings to you all!
Ten-Hut Productions LLC