We need to make sure we make the public our allies, for most of us educators are really there for them – for the greater good, in all we do: our teaching, our research, and our service (unless we get co-opted to do things not in the best interests of the citizens and the greater good. See, for example, the special issue of AAUP’s Academe titled “The Conflicted University.” http://www.aaup.org/AAUP/pubsres/academe/2010/ND/default.htm)
Most of us in education do not want those, who may be tempted by a conflict of interest, or those who may be more beholden to the bottom line and to stockholders than to employees or the public or the environment, to run away with our democracy.
If industry or corporate entities have their agendas, which are often self-serving, with their own lobbies and moneys, so must the public have its say, in its election of our legislative bodies.
Education, in its purest form, is on the side of the people: helping its citizens learn things that will make their quality of life better, both physically and emotionally. We are interested in ensuring public health, community wealth, and opportunity for all. For if the citizens of a country are besieged by pollution and a cancer-causing environment, for instance, the quality of life is adversely affected. If the wealth lands in the hands of a few, and the resulting quality of life for the many is adversely affected, that is not wanted. If the haves do not let the have-nots have a chance to better their lot with education and opportunity, the whole society suffers as a result. The ideal society helps all members of society, and does not place the heaviest burden on those that suffer most.
On a narrower level, why do we teach languages? For myself, I teach students languages so that they can 1) have the confidence to say – wow, I can actually make myself understood, and I can understand, using foreign words!, 2) understand that different peoples have different, often culture-specific ways of looking at things, and that doesn’t make “me right and you wrong,” 3) have web tools to delve into what people are saying across languages across the world on the web and can interpret that with some validity, 4) think and reflect more deeply about issues of importance and make crucial connections between them, 5) be creative and re-develop their divergent thinking skills, and 6) not be swayed easily by “sound bites” in any language, which may or may not be right about something.
The public – the people – the citizens of our state and our country need to know that we are there for them and for truth (even if somewhat relative). They need to understand how we are working to help them and truth. We need to be sure we are engaged in dialogue with them – directly and through our students, also citizens of our state and/or country.
Ultimately, human beings want enough physical comforts not to go hungry, and not to be left out in the cold – we need food, clothing, and shelter. But beyond a certain minimum of the physical comforts, our happiness is not affected (See Schor, Born to Buy). We also need community – people in our lives to enjoy, for most of us are not hermits – we like human interaction. Most of us also need something to do, it seems, that allows us autonomy, mastery, and purpose (Daniel Pink talking at the Royal Society of Arts) People have physical needs, and people act according to rewards and punishments. However, five minutes into his talk, he says: “Three factors lead to better performance, not to mention personal satisfaction.” Those seem to be the basic human needs, as we now know them. We need our basic physical, mental, emotional/spiritual needs met. Then we are pretty happy.
Dan Pink doing his talk
His website: http://www.danpink.com/about