Your Customer is Different

Sometime in the last decade, the average teacher’s customer has changed.

It used to be that our customer was the state.  We worked for the government that paid us, and we were expected to raise good little citizens.  

Then our customer was business.  We worked for our communities, and our goal was to raise factory workers and office clerks; the bright ones would get to go to college to become professors and teachers and perhaps if they were lucky, diplomats.

Then our customers were the parents.  We answered to families, to the community of our school, and our goal was to raise happy, healthy little children who wouldn’t hurt themselves, who lived within safe boundaries and attended safe schools.

Now our customers are our students.  

We’re in a bit of a bind. Our salaries are still paid by the state; the businesses around us can make life heaven or hell for us in the present moment; the parents can cause us trouble on a day-in/day-out basis if they feel we are not living up to their expectations to provide a  schooling experience cognate with what they had fifteen to twenty years ago.

But our students are our customers.  They pay our salaries, because they will be paying off the debts incurred by the present generation.  We cannot afford to turn out more factory workers and office clerks, because we will impoverish ourselves if we turn out more of the same that we don’t currently need.  We need scientists and inventors and communicators and artists and musicians and software programmers and designers and … and… and…

The great piles of wealth under the Earth’s surface?  Mined.  The great forests on the surface? Turned to lumber.  The great waters of world-girdling Ocean? Overfished.  The vast free expanses of air above us? Poisoned.  The rolling fields of grain and the wide open pastures of sheep and cattle?  Overfertilized, overfarmed, overmedicated.

There are no new resources on this Earth for the human species to exploit. We have access to them all, and all of them are owned by somebody.  No one will make the next fortune making something out of what was formerly free, without good ideas.  Without new content.  

Our children — our customers — are growing up into a world of borders, of barriers, of possession.  The only thing they have to work with are their minds, their imagination, and the storehouses of informational treasure we have laid up for them, the data of ages past.   But they will need to learn to manage, manipulate, and extract relevant data from that information, and then act on it. 

That is our teaching mission. To help our customers learn to make sense of the data, in all the languages they can master — biology, English, mathematics, history, physics, chemistry, dance, painting, drama, music, yoga… whatever. 

Because all the old customers — the state, business, the parents — they’ve lost the battle, and the war.  They pay us, and micromanage us, because they’re desperate to be in control and in power.  But they’re not. 

The children are. The children have to have the ideas and the creativity to think us out of the mess the last three made in the only classroom that matters, the World.  Because otherwise, the School Board is shutting the school down. Soon.

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