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We Are Not 'Just Teachers'

January 22, 2014

Leading Students to Freedom through Access to the Written Word


I believe that teachers should read broadly.  It is only by reading broadly that we are able to develop a depth of knowledge in our students.  I have been listening to A. N. Wilson’s “Hitler” on audiobook while I drive, to deepen my knowledge of that period in the world’s history, and to learn more about this man who made such an impact on the world during that time.  The other day, something that I heard went straight to the core of me, and I had to pull off of the road and listen again carefully.  The words touched me so deeply because they say so much about the importance of our role as adult educators.  I had to write it down and share it with you.       


Germany had invented printed word.  Under Hitler's dictatorship Germany would burn its books. Gutenberg’s printing press created a revolution of human consciousness.  It created a freedom which no inquisition or procurator could entirely suppress.  (From Hitler, by A.N.  Wilson)


Hearing this quote lit a fire in my belly and further fanned the flames of fanaticism that I have toward educating our students, many of whom “live on the margins” of our society, disenfranchised as a result of their inability to read.  The quote made me think of my fellow adult literacy instructors in a different light.  We are not “just teachers.”  We are conductors on the “Underground Railroad” of another sort, leading our students to the freedom that can only be accessed through the ability to comprehend and create the written word.  We as teachers must recognize that this education that we provide is more than helping students memorize mathematics algorithms or the rules of grammar; it also provides access.  Through our service our students become informed consumers, empowered voters, represented constituents, strong advocates for their children, and the list continues.   Let’s view our work in literacy in its proper political context.  It is a tool against the further oppression of the less fortunate.   We are creating “a revolution of human consciousness; a freedom which no inquisition or procurator could entirely suppress.”  


Dr. Carmine Stewart


Note: This post was updated 5/13/14.

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