The Caring Professions

Fortuitous timing, I think. In yesterday’s Post-Dispatch column by Bill McClellan he tells the story of a teacher who thinks he probably wasn’t re-hired because he answered two questions wrong during his (re)employment screening interview:

Do you have to love your kids in order to teach them? Do your kids have to love you in order to learn?

Chesterton has a great deal to say about education generally and the advisability of being an employee, but our current reading touches pretty directly on this particular question. Chesterton says in The Story of the Family:

In the last resort, the only people who either can or will give individual care, to each of the individual children, are their individual parents. The expression as applied to those dealing with changing crowds of children is a graceful and legitimate flourish of speech.

CS Lewis describes four kinds of love in The Four Loves and described the Greek concept storge as “the fondness due to familiarity”. Chesterton seems to be using the word “caring” as a near synonym for “storge”, and calls it apt.

But the teacher in McClellan’s story answered “no”, was told there is a right and wrong answer, wasn’t permitted to elaborate, and wasn’t re-hired. Chesterton might’ve asked “What do you mean by love?” Lewis might’ve said love in the sense of storge or caring will grow along with familiarity among teacher and pupils. 

But is it necessary to get started? Do children learn anything from an unfamiliar adult? Is it even reasonable to expect more from a teacher than the most diffuse sort of fondness for children that would be absent only in a sociopath? Is this properly called (in 21st century American vernacular) love?

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