July 21, 2010

Teaching and learning

El Cabrero is on the road for a few days. Goat Rope will continue to appear, but there may or may not be links and snarky comments about current events.

In the meantime, I'll be serving up some of my favorite sayings by and about the ancient Chinese philosopher known in the West as Confucius. As I mentioned before, I tend to be partial to Lao Tzu, whose Taoist ideas represent the other pole of Chinese thought, but Master Kung knew a thing or two about a thing or two.

I could be wrong about this, but it seems to me that people and cultures immersed, consciously or otherwise, with an appreciation of Confucian values tend to do pretty well wherever they land. These values include social responsibility, family, and above all a love of learning an education.

The very first line of The Analects, a collection of sayings by and about Confucius goes like this:

Confucius said, is it not a pleasure to learn and to repeat or practice from time to time what one has learned?

Learning, as he understood it, was a matter of character, morality, and social ethics. It was also a lifelong task. As he put it,

At fifteen my mind was set on learning. At thirty my character had been formed. At fifty I knew the Mandate of Heaven. At sixty I was at ease with whatever I heard. At seventy I could follow my heart's desire without transgressing moral principles.

He also had some interesting ideas about the nature of mental development, which should involve not just taking in knowledge but a creative response as well. Without both, there could be trouble:

He who learns but does not think is lost; he who thinks but does not learn is in danger.

And here's an example of some pretty advanced thinking for that day and age:

In education there should be no class distinctions

We're still working on that one.

NOTE: I'm on the road and this post has been scheduled in advance so it won't reflect any big news items that come up. Well may the world go.

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