Bakers versus Doctors – A Teacher’s Borrowed Analogy


good candyI shall be like a doctor tried by a bench of children on a charge brought by a cook. Just consider what defence a person like that would make at such a pass, if the prosecutor should speak against him thus: “Children, this fellow has done you all a great deal of personal mischief, and he destroys even the youngest of you by cutting and burning, and starves and chokes you to distraction, giving you nasty bitter draughts and forcing you to fast and thirst; not like me, who used to gorge you with abundance of nice things of every sort.” What do you suppose a doctor brought to this sad pass could say for himself? – Socrates, The Gorgias

Allow me to sneak some Platonic philosophy into your classroom self-evaluation. In hisbad medicine Gorgias, Plato has the philosopher, Socrates, confront three powerful speakers. The three speakers rely more on wooing the crowd via rhetoric rather than helping the crow via prescriptive philosophy. Toward the end of the dialog, Socrates compares the politician to a baker and the philosopher to a doctor in as far as their dialogs and discussions with others is concerned [464d as well as 521e-522a]. It struck me that this analogy can easily be compared to how teacher’s approach their role in the classroom.

Both bakers and doctors look to benefit themselves by looking to please children. They want to benefit others as they benefit themselves. The ignorant young crowds seek out both in order to enjoy life, but most immediately prefer one over the other.

The baker polls his people and seeks to provide the masses with what they believe they want. In most cases, the baker provides sweets to satisfy the lower urges and craving of his people and this satisfaction is immediately satiated, but short lived. It isn’t ironic, but JUST, that once the masses have had their fill of sweets they usually seek a doctor to explain to them why, even though their urges have been fulfilled, they feel so terrible. The baker fills the emptiness of the young crowd and the young crowd sets out for something else.

The doctor also seeks to provide the masses with what they believe they want. In most cases, it is to get rid of an ailment. In fact, the crowds seek health. The doctor does not provide relief for diabetese if the ailment is related to the flu. The doctor seeks to identify symptoms, not to cure them, but to address the underlying issue. They doctor may in fact give his patient something they do not want to taste at all…horribly tasting medicine…to get them closer to what they DO want…health.

Doctors give tests to see where their patients need help while bakers only ask simple straight forward question to see what they can GIVE to the crowds.

Doctors address each patient, person by person (even though many people may have the same health issues, those issues must be determined on a case by case basis). Bakers produce apple pies and cake by the truck load as long as the masses will consume them. Like normal junk food, there is mental or intellectual junk food as well that our students will consume, and like it, but…only for a while before they get sick. They will all eventually need a classroom doctor.

Can one incorporate the baker’s skill with the doctor’s skill? Can medicine taste good?

Two of my most successful lessons have come from students. Like a baker, I asked what “sweets” they were looking for and then, like a doctor, I prescribed the appropriate way their “desire” would be incarnate as a government related lesson plan.

Teaching seniors at the end of the school year is a difficult endeavor…especially for the instructor (I get senioritis too!). One day near the end of the semester, nearly in tears, I threw my hands up due to the “summer stares” I saw in my student’s eyes. I then printed out and handed my lesson plan template to my students and asked them to create a lesson they would like over any topic in government. They had to incorporate formative and summative assessments into the lesson. I told them I would choose the best one and make every class do it. Needless to say, it was a lesson plan gold mine! The innovation (from my perspective…they probably saw it as common sense) was phenominal.

The second time, I simply asked students in one of my more problematic classes what sort of activity sounded “fun” to them. What would engage them? I would handle to topic, in this case the six principles of government, and they would tell me which activity we should incorporate. Their answer…? Infomercials! I was thrilled.

The expectations and rudimentary rubrics were really nice and definitely something I considered stealing. Their engagement in, not just the “fun” aspect of the lesson, but in the government related content was excellent.

There were some failures and frustrations, but the benefits definitely outweighed the problems.

Here’s the infomercial lesson my classes and I put together concerning the six principles of the U.S. Constitution. Like all things posted, please let me know how to improve this lesson or any aspect of ths post! Thanks.

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About Thrasymachus

2013 Northwest ISD teacher of the year, Humanities Texas 2012 Outstanding Teacher of the Year Award, and 2011 Outstanding Educator of North Texas Award (North Central Texas College). I'm currently a Regional Digital Learning Consultant with the Education Service Center Region 11 in Ft. Worth, Texas and a college government educator who incorporates philosophy, technology & humor. A student through and through, I walk with my students in their learning. Most importantly, I'm blessed with the 3 most perfect kids eva! I love on them ery day!!!
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