What safeguards does Russell suggest against a teacher’s becoming a tool in the hands of governments and how far are they adequate?
The profession of teaching has been widely spread around the world. Teaching, thus, is no more about revolution of ideas but is a profession for modern men. Teachers nowadays have no passion of teaching but they are compelled to adopt it as they are jobless. It was the time when, Socrates was put to death and Plato is said to have been thrown into prison, but such incidents did not interfere with the spread of their doctrines. Today, the situation is totally opposite, every teacher is a puppet in the hands of the government and system. Bertrand Russell fears that the teacher has no freedom to teach as per his own desire. He fulfills the desires of the government. He is of the view that it is not the function of a teacher to teach what he thinks, but to instill such beliefs and prejudices as are thought useful by his employers. Russell agreed that education is necessary for everyone and it should be given by the State but because of it, teaching is converted to a profession and every teacher has become, in the vast majority of cases, a civil servant. Hence, he is obliged to carry out the behests of men who have not his learning, who have no experience of dealing with the young, and whose only attitude towards education is that of the propagandist. He gives some of the suggestions, in order to save a teacher becoming a tool in the hands of the government:
A teacher must not be one sided, if he is doing so, he is no more than a propagandist. He should teach his pupils what is right and not what is beneficial for a State. In this way, Russell prefers humanity than any specific country. As per desires of the government and State, a teacher should not twist the reality but direct his pupils to choose a purpose, which is beneficial for mankind. He differentiates a teacher from the propagandist by saying that a teacher trains his pupil for a useful purpose but a propagandist replace the generous mind of a pupil with envy, destructiveness and cruelty. According to him, a true teacher replaces the cruelty with kindness in the minds of his pupil. For this reason, philosophy of Russell is accepted in every corner of the world because he teaches a teacher not to give importance to the State but to give importance to humanity and education.
In the same essay, Russell suggests that a teacher must have freedom. He can convey his message, if his mind is free and if it is not, then he is bound. Russell in this regard is very much true. We have no choice except to agree with him. Most of the institutions compel every teacher to teach his students, what is in the syllabus, prescribed by the State. He cannot go beyond it. Moreover, in a very short time a teacher has to prepare his students for examination, which is not the duty of a teacher. In a very limited time and short period of class, a teacher cannot teach what is right and what best suits to his pupils, therefore, he turns his mind and do what government wants him to teach. One more thing, which is in the mind of Russell is the overworking of teacher. He says that
“Most teachers are overworked and are compelled to prepare their pupils for examinations rather than to give them a liberalizing mental training. The result is that many of them become harassed and nervous, out of touch with recent work in the subjects that they teach, and unable to inspire their students with a sense of the intellectual delights to be obtained from new understanding and new knowledge.”
Russell adds another suggestion, in which he suggests survival of democracy. A teacher should teach his pupils tolerance. He also gives strong reasons for it. For instance, there are a lot of custom differences between nations. A person, who has no tolerance becomes furious on small things. Custom and religious difference are two main reasons for that and if he has no tolerance, the situation may become worse. No custom, religion and society is inferior or superior to another and no one should make sarcastic remarks about anyone, if one makes, the other should tolerate, therefore, it is duty of a teacher that he must teach how to tolerate in every condition. If a teacher teaches the tolerance to his students, everyone’s views should be respected and tolerated.
Teachers are bound to teach as per the desires of system, country or State. They are not free to teach as they wish but “to instil such beliefs and prejudices as are thought useful by his employers”. They are not independent and rather than teaching righteous, they instructs within the limits of senior officials. A teacher, therefore, has no freedom at all. Here we see Russell as a universal writer. It is reported in many countries that a syllabus has been given to every teacher and he should have to teach/complete it within a limited time. He is not free to teach, what he thinks but what he is forced to taught. “The teachers have no authority to decide what shall be taught or what the methods of instruction are to be.” Russell uses the word self-determination to clear that the teacher determines what is necessary for the pupils but alas “the immense majority of educational institutions are hampered and controlled by men who do not understand the work with which they are interfering”. Russell very beautifully defends the teacher from slavery (slavery in a sense that teachers are restricted in deciding what to teach). He writes:
“The only way to prevent totalitarianism in our highly organized world is to secure a certain degree of independence for bodies performing useful public work, and among such bodies teachers deserve a foremost place.”
At the end, Russell has hope that
“we must wait for quieter times before the claims of civilization can again override the claims of party spirit. Meanwhile, it is important that some at least should continue to realize the limitations of what can be done by organization. Every system should allow loopholes and exceptions, for if it does not it will in the end crush all that is best in man.”
The suggestions of Bertrand Russell are reliable and much adequate. His philosophy is mostly accepted in every part of the world. Teachers are facing similar problems. Every country’s student is taught that his religions, customs, views and country is better than the other. Every teacher, is partial in teaching; hiding the other side of the story; every teacher is bound and his teaching is limited. If he wants a successful civilized future, then he should know that it is in the students. For this, a teacher must follow the suggestions of Bertrand Russell so that government would not use a teacher as weapon. The whole advice to the teachers and function of a teacher, provided by Bertrand Russell can be expressed in the following lines:-
“The function of a teacher, however, is not merely to mitigate the heat of current controversies. He has more positive tasks to perform, and he cannot be a great teacher unless he is inspired by a wish to perform these tasks. Teachers are more than any other class the guardians of civilization. They should be intimately aware of what civilization is, and desirous of imparting a civilized attitude to their pupils.”