Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Art of Teaching -- Gilbert Highet

From my new favorite book (new to me; published in 1950):
The real job for which teachers are trained and paid is to help the young to learn. It should not be necessary also to make them learn.
In countries where education is imposed on every boy and girl under the age of sixteen, it is very hard for them to see it as the valuable gift of the state, next to national security and public health and the rule of law. If it is surrounded and sanctioned by disciplines, they come to hate it. If it is made easy and delightful, they don't take it seriously -- as in some schools where students are "automatically promoted" every year. This means that even if they have been too lazy or stupid to master first-year geography they are pushed on to second-year geography to get them off the teacher's hands, and to avoid the danger of giving them a feeling of inferiority to their intelligent and hard-working classmates. For this problem I see no solution except the radical one of declaring such numskulls to be unfit for education in book-work, and devising trade-schools, outdoor schools like the CCC camps, and domestic schools, to occupy their strong hands until they grow up. (Montaigne, who was a mild enough man and devoted to kindness as an educational ideal, had no solution either. He said that if a boy refused to learn or proved quite incapable of it, "his tutor should strangle him, if there are no witnesses, or else he should be apprenticed to a pastry-cook in some good town.")

Michel de Montaigne

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