Philosophical Friday: A Better Living or a Better Life?

Socrates takes a bite of the apple, spewing juice on the staff lounge poster that advertizes the latest professional development opportunity.

“Why do you teach here?” he asks the group, sitting huddled over their instant soup (the kind that you can microwave so that you don’t have to bother taking it out of a can at all; a bit absurd, but not as crazy as instant yogurt on a stick)

After a long pause, he misses the unspoken rule that teachers do not engage in dialogue with substitute teachers. It’s a caste system that Socrates dares to break again.

“I’m serious. Why do you teach here?” he asks, concerned that they missed him with his thick Greek accent.

“Oh, I want students to get a good job. I want them to get out of the ghetto.”

“What’s wrong with the ghetto?”

“There’s poverty here.”

“Where is the problem there?”

“Well, they’ll be stuck in a job they hate.” Another teacher interjects.

“So, the goal of education is to get a good job. What makes a job good?”

“If it pays well.”

“Thus, money makes you happy. So the goal is to get a good job to make money to be happy.”

“No,” the first teacher replies. “I want them to get out of the ghetto because this place is scary. There are gangs and violence and crime.”

“Then education makes you a better person,” Socrates replies.

“No, because there are poor people who are good. Education gives people power.”

“And power makes people happy?” Socrates asks.

“No, but it gives you more opportunties. And that makes you happy.”

“So, you are happiest when there are more choices.” (Apparently they hadn’t read The Paradox of Choice)

No one ventures an answer. “Wouldn’t it seem that the point should be to examine life and gain wisdom if you have so many choices?” Socrates continues.

“Hey, did you see American Idol?” asks a PE teacher, leaving the dialogue unfinished – not unlike most Socratic dialogues.

John Spencer

My goal is simple. I want to make something each day. Sometimes I make things. Sometimes I make a difference. On a good day, I get to do both.

More about John

3 responses

  1. This post made me smile. The unspoken rule about not talking to substitutes is indeed in effect. Lunch can be very lonely. So, I just throw in my soup, drink it from a can, and mind my own business. It helps me to observe more about life itself.

  2. The Paradox of Choice is an awesome book. I just spent two days teaching it in my Marketing class.

  3. I like it. This is the kind of dialogue teachers need to be having.

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