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Leadership and Activism, Learning at its Best, Philosophical Meanderings

Teaching: The Most Noble Profession

For my blog post today, I’m sharing an essay I wrote that was published on Common, a progressive news site. Here’s a short excerpt:

“In college a friend in medical school told me that he thought that medicine was the most noble profession. It was a strange statement, really, and quite provocative. I wondered at the time, can any profession be the most noble? I ruminated on it for a long time, and now, thirty years later, I feel ready to respond. If pressed to name the most noble profession, I would not hesitate to say teaching.

“Teachers are the agents of the future. Will our world be populated by people ready and able to meet that future as creative and critical thinkers; as wise, compassionate and knowledgeable citizens; as skilled and motivated solutionaries within their professions? The answer to this question lies with teachers. More than any other profession, teaching has the power to create a healthy, just, and peaceful world (or not). It has the ability to seed our society with informed, caring and engaged citizens (or not). It has the capacity to inspire lifelong learning and a passion for knowledge, understanding, and innovation (or not). Is there anything more important than this?”

Read the complete essay.

For a humane world,

Zoe Weil, President, Institute for Humane Education
Author of Most Good, Least Harm, Above All, Be Kind, and The Power and Promise of Humane Education
My TEDx talk: “The World Becomes What You Teach


About zoeweil

I'm the co-founder and President of the Institute for Humane Education (IHE). IHE works to create a world in which we all live humanely, sustainably, and peaceably. We do this by training people to be humane educators who teach about the pressing issues of our time and inspire people to work for change while making healthy, humane, and restorative choices in their daily lives. We also work to advance the field of humane education, and to provide tools and inspiration to people everywhere so that they can live examined, meaningful lives. I'm also a writer. So far I've written six books and several articles.


3 thoughts on “Teaching: The Most Noble Profession

  1. Zoe, I wonder what the political downsides are to crowning teaching a “most noble” profession? And for that matter, the upsides.

    It seems to me that truly passionate teachers are deeply fascinated by the work of watching, helping, observing people learn–that in some sense this is at the center of the enterprise. I wonder, what quality of nobility is in that?

    Posted by Kirsten Olson | March 7, 2011, 10:58 pm
    • Great questions Kristen, and really the whole “noble profession” thing is only half serious because I don’t like the idea of rating professions in this way. But because of my experience in college with the medical student, the question lingered, and I want to exalt the profession of teaching, especially now. But you are so right to ask these questions!

      Posted by Zoe Weil | March 23, 2011, 1:52 pm
  2. …and all the while I thought the legal profession to be the ‘most noble’… at least that was the ‘noble lie’ expressed during law school and even thereafter at various professional gatherings. I think all of us have a serious underlying problem if we find ourselves needing to label anything as ‘most’ noble, valuable, useful, etc., as each of these labels are likely appropriate at one time, and entirely inappropriate at other times.

    Teaching is a critical function in life. Some find their passion in being a ‘professional’ teacher, while others teach while engaging in different occupations. All told, I think everyone is a ‘teacher’, including the ‘students’ who perform well (perhaps they are just tractable and conditioned and we need to learn why), those who rebel (perhaps they are teaching us something we need to learn, that something wrong is going on) and all those in between.

    I am not a pedagogue but I do teach — some of my most difficult students are clients who ‘know what’s what’ and need to be instructed as to Unlearning various lies they were taught during their lifetimes. Some of those lies were taught by ‘professional’ teachers, but most were taught by parents and other role models.

    Were everyone to recognize they are teachers of sorts, perhaps you professionals’ would have a far easier path…

    Posted by Brent Snavely | September 2, 2011, 8:02 am

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