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Friday, December 9, 2011

Are Students a Teacher’s Clients?

“You are rewarding a teacher poorly if you remain always a pupil.”-- Friedrich Nietzsche
Our advertising-saturated culture invariably slops over into education. Houses are offered for sale as "homes"; amusement parks as "great adventures"; life insurance as "protection."

Some suggest that a student should be thought of as a "client." Perhaps what is at work here is the thought that people who deal with clients are more "professional," more worthy of respect, than those who deal merely with customers, wards, dependents, charges, inmates, or students.

Is reconceptualizing student as client just harmless ego bolstering for the practitioners of our traditionally underprized occupation? I think not. Students are not their teachers' clients. Nor should we aspire to our students' someday achieving such a relationship with us. Client is a term both too pompous and too shallow to characterize the special relationship that under the best of conditions exists between teacher and student.

No teacher gains an increment in prestige by referring to his or her students as clients. That deep commitment to (one might say, "obsession with") students' well-being found in many, many teachers -- a commitment that leads them to spend energy, time, and money far in excess of any compensation they could hope for -- is miserably served by the characterization of the student as "client."


To examine these issues further, see The Student as "Client"

-- EGR