Excellence and Ethics

I have the opportunity to join a group of individuals who are talking about Social Entrepreneurship. This, in connection with my EC420 class, has ignited my excitement about the ability of free enterprise to produce social change.

My poor wife, if she only knew how much I have spent on books the last couple of days. I have purchased two recently published books, and two that are a couple of years old. Grand Pursuit and Bonhoeffer on Business Ethics were recently publish. I have not received Bonhoeffer yet, it should arrive any day, but Grand Pursuit is an excellent read. The other two books are How to Change the World by David Bornstein, and the book entitled Good Work, When Excellence and Ethics Meet.

In all of these books there is a common socio-economic discussion. What we do is just as important as how we do it. We can make a lot of money, have that Mercedes that we want, and lose the whole purpose for living. We can commoditize things, thinking that we receive purpose or value from them, and miss the value of relationships with real human beings.

I was an employee, but I was also a father. I was a manager, but I was a husband. I was a teacher, but now I am an educator. As an employee, I did my job and made money to take care of my family. I would go home in the evening and tuck my children into bed. There was a business side to me and a human side. As a manager, I made economic decisions every day, but I also dealt with human beings all day every day. The most important human being was my wife. She has changed me as a person for the better.

Notice the last continuum. I was a teacher, but now I am an educator. The bookends seem similar, but in reality they are very different. Don’t get me wrong there are technical and procedural issues that are important to the job of teaching, but teaching can be less innovative than being an educator.

Dr. Lou Foltz is my mentor at WPC. When I started teaching there full time in 2008 the dean of faculty, Dr. Cole Dawson, gave me a choice of who I would like to work with as a mentor to help me adjust to my new career. Dr. Foltz was my instant choice. He and I have had several great discussions about rigor, process, and students. The discussion we had this week was both thought provoking and encouraging.

“Lou” stated that there is a big difference between shoving information down student’s throats, expecting them to learn, and helping students connect with information while drawing out their understanding of the details under discussion. The comparison was interesting to me. He said the difference is being a teacher or being an educator.

I want to be an educator. I want to draw learning out of my students. I want them to learn how to be life long learners. And I want them to see that they can make a difference in this world. This is where excellence and ethics meet. This is where I can be a social entrepreneur creating innovative ways for students to grow. This is the grand pursuit.

The English in the early 1800’s felt that all social problems were economic problems. I am convinced that they were on to something. I am also convinced that I need to meditate on how I teach in every class. The young people that I work with are ideological, and want to create social change. I need to support that, instead of destroy it.

Schumpeter advanced an idea that innovation involves the process of creative destruction. New ideas, or ways of doing things, destroy the old products or processes. I think I am going to look for new ways of educating students, instead of trying to force feed something that is not going to mean anything to them after they finish their degree. Hmm, it is going to be a good year.

And that is my thought for today!

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