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Thursday, May 22, 2003

Edifier du Jour-James 3:1-6(NASB)
1 Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment. 2 For we all stumble in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well. 3 Now if we put the bits into the horses' mouths so that they will obey us, we direct their entire body as well. 4 Look at the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder wherever the inclination of the pilot desires. 5 So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire! 6 And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.
It only takes a second to say something, but days or even a lifetime to repair the damage caused by a misstatement. This is especially true of teachers, who are affecting dozens of lives by what they teach. One of the odd sensations of teaching college classes is that students actually listen to what you say and will take notes; the ad-libbed statement comes back to you on essays. One short sequence of speech can alter people's opinions. I remember talking about the IMF to my Microeconomics students about how IMF austerity plans can cripple economies by raising taxes and cutting spending just when the economy often needs a boost; those plans are disliked by just about everyone but the big banks who want their loan money back. When the exams came back, the core message of "The wealthy don't like the tax increases and the poor don't like the cuts in spending" came back when I asked the question of why the IMF is so unpopular. They weren't quite getting Coase's Theorem, but they got this. Seeing that crop of answers was a wakeup call on the role of the teacher and how students will accept a decent argument from a professor; I just soured their opinion of the central banker's central bank and affected international economic debate in their lives and the lives of the people in their worlds. They aren't quite the "skulls full of mush" of Rush lore, but they will absorb some of what you teach them, often less critically than we'd like. That's why teachers are to be held to a higher standards. If you are teaching them things that are injurious to themselves or the commonweal, you should be called to account for that; feel free to put in your favorite ivory-tower "progressive" horror story here. When we assume the mantle of authority on a subject, we wind up influencing lives and need to be prayed up in order to assure that the influence is a good one.

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