I was filling out a job application a while back and since the job was a teaching position at a local private high school, one of the sections asked me to supply my philosophy of education and teaching. It strikes me that I have no real idea how common or uncommon my perspective on that topic is, so let me supply y'all with my thoughts on the subject and ask for your feedback:
I believe that a complete education will serve two purposes: It will train and it will inform. I believe that these two purposes are inextricably linked in that information is the medium of the training which would, itself, be useless without informational content. In short, a full education is one which teaches students how to think and provides them with material which is worth thinking about.
Unfortunately there is one particular obstacle to effective education in modern society; a lack of motivation on the part of the student. I believe that wonder, curiosity and reason are essential aspects of human nature and are especially evident in children. These qualities provide a basic motivation to learn is often crushed or pushed out of children at a tragically early age, so that by the time they have entered the later years of school, that motivation has either narrowed or shifted away from academics altogether. As a result, a modern educator must also be able to instill motivation in his students since they will only rarely bring it to the table themselves. This brings my list of educator activities up to three: instructing, training and motivating.
As regards instruction or course content, I am convinced that a liberal education is the most broadly beneficial to the average student but that this must be tailored or altered to the specific demographics of a particular community. This alteration should only take place in a courses format or method of presentation, it should not affect a course's quality, rigor or scope.
As regards training, I am convinced that a teacher's job is to train the students in the full development of their own natural faculties of critical thinking, creativity and effective study which constitutes the student's own pursuit of information. I believe that these skills are most effectively communicated by exposition, example and practice.
Finally regarding motivation, I am convinced that students are best served by having the relevant content kinked to their own personal interests, drives and desires. These links ought to be natural wherever possible but may be artificial when necessary. I believe that motivation is most effectively sparked in a student when it is most thoroughly evidenced in the teacher. When a student sees that the teacher thinks that the content is fascinating and exciting, he is much more likely to develop his own intrinsic motivation to grasp the material. Thus, all else being equal, a well informed, passionate teacher will always be a more effective educator than one who is more interested in teaching in general than in teaching the specific content.