Monday, March 16, 2009

Those Who Can, Learned How To


(image: cover of book about Jaime Escalante, renowned teacher
of high-school math)
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
I've been glancing at some quotations about teachers; my text is the Webster's New Explorer Dictionary of Quotations (Massachusetts: Merriam Webster, 2000), pp. 408-409.
*
Probably the most famous quotation about teachers is from George Bernard Shaw's play, Man and Superman: "He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches." The quotation often appears in the plural nowadays: "Those who can . . . ." The quotation has endured because it's well phrased, reflect the great appeal that "making it" entirely on one's own has, and it gives voice to bad feelings toward and memories of schooling and teachers we might harbor.
*
Apparently Shaw harbored quite a few of these about the schools he attended: Wesleyan Connexional School and the Dublin English Scientific and Commercial Day School. The trouble with these schools may have begun with their names, and it continued with such lovely practices as corporal punishment.
*
Later Shaw married an heiress; they were both members of the socialist Fabian Society. I don't think the heiress gave up her inheritance. Those who have the capital tend to keep it. Ironically, Shaw helped found the London School of Economics, where at least a few of the teachers, apparently, can teach, do teach, and can practice economics. I think Mick Jagger went there. He certainly seems to have learned something about amassing capital--and about dancing in a very silly way.
*
A few more quotations about teaching:
*
"A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops." --Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams. I assume the quotation applies to women teachers, too, and I might add that teachers can never tell where the influence starts. It's a mystery.
*
"Who dares to teach must never cease to learn." --John Cotton Dana, motto composed for Kean College, New Jersey. Amen, brother Dana. You have to keep current in the subject you teach, but as importantly, you have to maintain a certain delight in learning. And the next class-session is the none you have to do well in, regardless of how well or poorly the last session went. I don't know if Kean College still exists. I'm going to check.
*
Of course, all of us learn from and teach each other all the time. That's pretty much how society and culture work. If you don't know, you ask; if you see someone struggling to figure something out, and you know something about it, you offer to show them how the thing works. If you can, and if you have the opportunity, teach someone who can't, provided they appear to be open to the idea of learning. Random acts of instruction, and all that.
Post a Comment