Confucius on Responsibility for Learning

Over in Beyond School, by Clay Burrell (a wonderful read), warning that it may not be “politically correct”, quotes Confucius from Analects 7.8:

 The Master said, “I will not enlighten a heart that is not already struggling to understand, nor will I provide the proper words to a tongue that is not already struggling to speak. If I hold up one corner of a problem and the student cannot come back to me with the other three, I will not attempt to instruct him again.”

As teachers should we be held responsible for students learning the material, for students learning to learn, and for students wanting to learn? I side with Confucius and say none of the above. This is not to say that caring teachers should not offer interesting and engaging learning opportunities.

The crux of the question is, “should we be held responsible?”. Apparently Confucius refused to 1) instruct students who could not or did not want to learn and 2) refused to accept responsibility for their not learning. We may covertly refuse to accept responsibility for these same students, however, we are contractually and increasingly culturally obligated to do whatever it takes to ensure that they learn the state-, district-, or school-directed curricular material and retain it at a certain percentage level at least until tested. And many of us are encouraged to and evaluated on our proficiency at instilling in our students the desire and ability to learn.

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