Student Spotlight: Richard Boutwell

Richard Boutwell, social science teacher, shares his journey in the Curriculum & Instruction Master’s program and his philosophy on the necessity for individualized education.  

The original intent behind my perusing a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction was to move up the district payscale. As I progressed through the program, however, it became apparent that the intellectual inquiries posed by the School of Education professors captivated, intrigued, and stimulated my desire to become more affluent in the field of education. In the time that I have spent in this program, I now understand why so many educators throughout the Inland Empire have spoken highly about the credential and master's degree programs at the University of Redlands. This program has enhanced my skills as an educator and improved my overall understanding of this country’s public education system.

Since the implementation of No Child Left Behind, it has become increasingly difficult to find a public school in the United States that is not focused on the statistical output of their students. This increased focus on student performance has dehumanized K-12 students. It has turned them into assembly line made products valued only by the usefulness measured in their performance on standardized tests. The role of the teacher in this factorization of student performance has turned teachers into the assembly line workers.

They are watched, judged, and critiqued by their factory boss, ensuring that their product is adequately assembled to maximize their future profits.

This system is not what should come to mind when contemplating educational justice. Educational justice should not be a system of measuring teachers and students by their quantifiable output. They should not be deemed worthy by a third party detached from the educational process. The end result should be for students, teachers, and administrators to collectively work toward the goal of enlightenment, self-reflection, and academic inquiry.  Educational justice needs to be the process of creating equal, equitable, and informative institutions aimed at teaching students how to think for themselves and take an active role in pursuing the lifelong endeavor of knowledge. Educational and social justice should not take a backseat to an individual’s own selfish desire to impress their superiors or fulfill their own political aspirations. Education needs to return to the practice of humanizing the individual rather than the current mechanization of our nation’s teachers and students.

The identification of the individual is a rather perplexing phenomenon, especially when it comes to the role of the educator. In this growing world of rampant subjectivity, it has become much harder to find objectivity in a world plagued by partisan association. Even the scientific method, the strongest of systems rational thought, has become compromised by subjectivity and idealistic objectives of partisan individuals. Throughout the Curriculum and Instruction Program, it has become increasingly more difficult to understand how a non-Hegelian-Marxist could teach in this profession and be truly committed to the ideals of Educational and social justice. How can one blindly ignore the stratification of youth or the distinctly biased system that rewards the students best equipped with culture capital?  Understanding how the system works and how it affects all students and teachers has been met with liberation, as well as with complications. It has become much easier to understand and empathize with each student’s unique dispositions, but it has also become much harder to fall back into the modality of the robotic teacher toeing the company line. Empathizing with students and understanding the various aspects of oppression in the public school system has allowed me to work towards teaching my students how to navigate their way through the system into college or trade-schools.

Providing my students with the opportunity to think critically, self-reflect, and actively inquire about the world they live in, has become the lasting mark that the University of Redlands left on my teaching practices.  The knowledge and insight that I have obtained at the University of Redlands will stay with me for a lifetime.

 Now, if you made it through this rather dark dystopian view of education, then here’s my message to you. I am fully aware that my viewpoint may have offended you. I am also aware that you might be perplexed by the pessimism in this profession. However, I willingly put myself on the frontlines in the fight against the mechanisms created by modernity and class-ism. My intent is to enlighten and inspire the next generation of American youth. I wish to continue my fight against ignorance and arm my future students with the same intellectual tools obtained through higher education. If you wish to join the fight, actively work to keep your priorities fixed on the betterment of all students. Encourage all students to take an active role in their intellectual growth and inspire your students to be humanists fixated on the betterment of all individuals. Our students and teachers no longer have a voice or individual identities. We have collectively become a disposable commodity that can be discarded and replaced overnight. I teach because I want to be my students’ champion. I want to teach them how to obtain the right amount of cultural capital to navigate through our distinctly biased system. I teach because I want to use my privilege and cultural capital for good and the betterment of all people. My fight is to improve educational and social justice for all my students, not just those born to the proper gender and ethnicity. What’s your reason?