Quotations about   teaching

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If today you can take a thing like evolution and make it a crime to teach it in the public school, tomorrow you can make it a crime to teach it in the private schools, and the next year you can make it a crime to teach it to the hustings or in the church. At the next session you may ban books and the newspapers. Soon you may set Catholic against Protestant and Protestant against Protestant, and try to foist your own religion upon the minds of men. If you can do one you can do the other. Ignorance and fanaticism is ever busy and needs feeding. Always it is feeding and gloating for more. Today it is the public school teachers, tomorrow the private. The next day the preachers and the lectures, the magazines, the books, the newspapers. After a while, your honor, it is the setting of man against man and creed against creed until with flying banners and beating drums we are marching backward to the glorious ages of the sixteenth century when bigots lighted fagots to burn the men who dared to bring any intelligence and enlightenment and culture to the human mind.

Clarence Darrow (1857-1938) American lawyer
Scopes Trial, Dayton, Tennessee (13 Jul 1925)
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Added on 20-May-21 | Last updated 20-May-21
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Teaching takes skill and education and dedication. Home schooling as an idea is on a par with home dentistry.

Dick Cavett (b. 1936) American writer and critic
“Schooling Santorum,”New York Times (24 Feb 2012)
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Added on 15-Apr-21 | Last updated 19-Apr-21
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CHORUS: It won’t do you any harm, my Lord, to listen to him and see if what he says is wise. And you, too Haemon. Because both of you spoke well.
CREON: At our age? Should we allow a young little rooster to teach us wisdom?
HAEMON: Justice only. Young or old, one does not look at years but deeds.

Χορός: ἄναξ, σέ τ᾽ εἰκός, εἴ τι καίριον λέγει,
μαθεῖν, σέ τ᾽ αὖ τοῦδ᾽: εὖ γὰρ εἴρηται διπλῇ.
Κρέων: οἱ τηλικοίδε καὶ διδαξόμεσθα δὴ
φρονεῖν ὑπ᾽ ἀνδρὸς τηλικοῦδε τὴν φύσιν;
Αἵμων: μηδὲν τὸ μὴ δίκαιον: εἰ δ᾽ ἐγὼ νέος,
οὐ τὸν χρόνον χρὴ μᾶλλον ἢ τἄργα σκοπεῖν.

Sophocles (496-406 BC) Greek tragic playwright
Antigone, l. 724ff (441 BC) [tr. Theodoridis (2004)]
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Original Greek. Alternate translations:

CHORUS: Sire, thou shouldst learn where he has hit the mark:
Thou too from him: for both have spoken well.
KREON: And shall we, in our riper age, receive
Lessons in prudence from his youthful mind?
HÆMON: Is nought but what is just. If I am young,
'Tis meet to scan my purpose, not my years.
[tr. Donaldson (1848)]

CHORUS: If he says aught in season, heed him, King.
Heed thou thy sire too; both have spoken well.
CREON: What, would you have us at our age be schooled,
Lessoned in prudence by a beardless boy?
HAEMON: I plead for justice, father, nothing more.
Weigh me upon my merit, not my years.
[tr. Campbell (1873)]

CHORUS: My lord, 'twere wise, if thou wouldst learn of him
In reason; and thou, Haemon, from thy sire!
Truth lies between you.
CREON: Shall our age, forsooth,
Be taught discretion by a peevish boy?
HAEMON: Only in what is right. Respects of time
Must be outbalanced by the actual need.
[tr. Storr (1859)]

CHORUS: My king, it is right, if he speaks something appropriate, that you should learn from him and that you, in turn, Haemon, should learn from your father. On both sides there have been wise words.
CREON: Men of my age -- are we, then, to be schooled in wisdom by men of his?
HAEMON: Not in anything that is not right. But if I am young, you should look to my conduct, not to my years.
[tr. Jebb (1891)]

CHORUS: O King! if right the youth advise, 'tis fit
That thou shouldst listen to hi: so to thee
Should he attend, as best may profit both.
CREON: And have we lived so long, then, to be taught,
At last, our duty by a boy like thee?
HÆMON: Young though I am, I still may judge aright;
Wisdom in action lies and not in years.
[tr. Werner (1892)]

CHORUS: Sire, 'tis meet that thou shouldest profit by his words, if he speaks aught in season, and thou, Haemon, by thy father's; for on both parts there hath been wise speech.
CREON: Men of my age -- are we indeed to be schooled, then, by men of his?
HAEMON: In nothing that is not right; but if I am young, thou shouldest look to my merits, not to my years.
[tr. Jebb (1917)]

CHORAGOS: You will do well to listen to him, King,
If what he says is sensible. And you, Haimon,
Must listen to your father. -- Both speak well.
CREON: You consider it right for a man of my years and experience
To go to school to a boy?
HAIMON: It is not right
If I am wrong. But if I am young, and right,
What does my age matter?
[tr. Fitts/Fitzgerald (1939)]

CHORUS: There is something to be said, my lord, for this point of view,
And for yours as well; there is so much to be said on both sides.
CREON: Indeed! Am I to take lessons at my time of life
From a fellow of his age?
HAEMON: No lesson you need to be ashamed of.
It isn’t a question of age, but of right and wrong.
[tr. Watling (1947), l. 620ff]

CHORUS: Lord, if your son has spoken to the point
you should take his lesson. He should do the same.
Both sides have spoken well.
CREON: At my age I'm to school my mind by his?
This boy instructor is my master, then?
HAEMON: I urge no wrong. I'm young, but you should watch
my actions, not my years, to judge of me.
[tr. Wyckoff (1954)]

CHORUS: My lord, he has not spoken foolishly;
You each can learn something from the other.
CREON: What? Men of our age go to school again
And take a lesson from a very boy?
HAEMON: If it is worth the taking. I am young,
But think what should be done, not of my age.
[tr. Kitto (1962)]

LEADER: You'd do well, my lord, if he's speaking to the point,
to learn from him, and you, my boy, from him.
You are both talking sense.
CREON: So,
men our age, we're to be lectured, are we? --
schooled by a boy his age?
HAEMON: Only in what is right. But if I seem young,
look less to my years and more to what I do.
[tr. Fagles (1982)]

CHORUS: Sir, you should learn from him, if he is on the mark.
And you, Haemon, learn from your father. Both sides spoke well.
CREON: Do you really think, at our age,
We should be taught by a boy like him?
HAEMON: No. Not if I am in the wrong. I admit I'm young;
That's why you should look at what I do, not my age.
[tr. Woodruff (2001)]

CORYPHAEUS: Lord, it is fair, if he says something to the point, for you to learn,
and in turn for you from him. It has been well said well twice.
CREON: Are we at our age to be taught
in exercising good sense by a man of his age?
HAEMON: Yes, in nothing that is not just. Even if I am young,
you should not see my years more than my deeds.
[tr. Tyrell/Bennett (2002)]

CHORUS LEADER: My lord, if what he’s said is relevant,
it seems appropriate to learn from him,
and you too, Haemon, listen to the king.
The things which you both said were excellent.
CREON: And men my age -- are we then going to school
to learn what’s wise from men as young as him?
HAEMON: There’s nothing wrong in that. And if I’m young,
don’t think about my age -- look at what I do.
[tr. Johnston (2005), l. 820ff]

CHORUS: My lord, if someone speaks in season, you should learn, and you also, for both sides have spoken well.
CREON: At our age, taught reason by a man so young?
HAEMON: Taught nothing that is not just! If I am young, I do not need more time to study what's right.
[tr. Thomas (2005)]
Added on 4-Feb-21 | Last updated 9-May-21
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One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.

Carl Jung (1875-1961) Swiss psychologist
“The Gifted Child” (1942), The Development of Personality, sec. 250 (1954) [tr. Hull]
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Translated from "Der Begabte," Psychologie und Erziehung (1946).
Added on 17-Mar-20 | Last updated 17-Mar-20
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As the true object of education is not to render the pupil the mere copy of his preceptor, it is rather to be rejoiced in, than lamented, that various reading should lead him into new trains of thinking.

William Godwin (1756-1836) English journalist, political philosopher, novelist
The Enquirer, Essay 15 “Of Choice in Reading” (1797)
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Added on 2-Oct-17 | Last updated 2-Oct-17
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The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.

William Arthur Ward (1921-1994) American aphorist, author, educator
Thoughts of a Christian Optimist (1968)
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Added on 11-Aug-17 | Last updated 11-Aug-17
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When you teach your son, you teach your son’s son.

The Talmud (AD 200-500) Collection of Jewish rabbinical writings
Seder Nashim, Kiddushin 30a

Paraphrase of "This serves to say to you that whoever teaches his son Torah, the verse ascribes him credit as though he taught him, and his son, and his son’s son, until the end of all generations" (alt. trans. "to him who teaches his son Torah, the Writ ascribes merit as though he had taught him, his son and his son's son until the end of all time!"). This is in turn referenced to Deut. 4:9.
Added on 27-Jul-17 | Last updated 31-Jul-17
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It should be quite unnecessary to point the moral; the right telling of the story should be sufficient. Do not moralize, but let the facts produce their own moral in the child’s mind.

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) English mathematician and philosopher
Education and the Good Life, ch. 11 (1926)
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Added on 14-Jul-17 | Last updated 14-Jul-17
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Those masters who allege the incapacity of tender years, only tacitly reproach their own: those who are incapable of teaching young minds to reason, pretend that it is impossible. The truth is they are fonder of making their pupils talk well than think well; and much the greater number are better qualified to give praise to a ready memory than a sound judgment.

Oliver Goldsmith (1730-1774) Irish poet, playwright, novelist
The History of England; in a Series of Letters from a Nobleman to His Son, Letter 1 (1764)
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Added on 8-Jun-17 | Last updated 12-Jun-17
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Good teaching is one-fourth preparation and three-fourths theater.

Gail Godwin (b. 1937) American writer
The Odd Woman, ch. 3 (1974)
Added on 2-Jun-17 | Last updated 2-Jun-17
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To know how to suggest is the great art of teaching.

Henri-Frédéric Amiel (1821-1881) Swiss philosopher, poet, critic
Journal (16 Nov 1864) [tr. Ward (1887)]
Added on 21-Apr-17 | Last updated 21-Apr-17
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The proper time to influence the character of a child is about a hundred years before he is born.

William Ralph Inge (1860-1954) English prelate [Dean Inge]
More Lay Thoughts of a Dean (1931)
Added on 8-Nov-16 | Last updated 8-Nov-16
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Anybody who teaches a skill, which coaches do, is admirable. But sport doesn’t build character. Character is built pretty much by the time you’re six or seven. Sports reveals character. Sports heightens your perceptions. Let that be enough.

Heywood Hale Broun (1918-2001) American author, sportswriter, actor
In Ames Daily Tribune (16 Jan 1974)

Broun used a number of variations of this idea. It was more famously paraphrased in James Michener, Sports in America (1976), as "Sports do not build character. They reveal it." More discussion on this quote here.
Added on 18-Oct-16 | Last updated 18-Oct-16
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The first duty towards children is to make them happy. If you have not made them happy, you have wronged them. No other good they may get can make up for that.

Charles Buxton (1823-1871) English brewer, philanthropist, writer, politician
Notes of Thought (1873)
Added on 6-Sep-16 | Last updated 6-Sep-16
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The virtues, like the body, become strong more by labor than by nourishment.

Jean-Paul Richter (1763-1825) German novelist, art historian, aesthetician [pseud. Jean-Paul]
(Attributed)

Quoted in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).
Added on 20-Jul-16 | Last updated 20-Jul-16
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What I mean is that if you really want to understand something, the best way is to try and explain it to someone else. That forces you to sort it out in your mind. And the more slow and dim-witted your pupil, the more you have to break things down into more and more simple ideas. And that’s really the essence of programming. By the time you’ve sorted out a complicated idea into little steps that even a stupid machine can deal with, you’ve learned something about it yourself.

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency (1987)
Added on 8-Jun-15 | Last updated 8-Jun-15
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The true value of a man is not determined by his possession, supposed or real, of Truth, but rather by his sincere exertion to get to the Truth. It is not possession of the Truth, but rather the pursuit of Truth by which he extends his powers and in which his ever-growing perfectibility is to be found. Possession makes one passive, indolent, and proud. If God were to hold all Truth concealed in his right hand, and in his left only the steady and diligent drive for Truth, albeit with the proviso that I would always and forever err in the process, and offer me the choice, I would with all humility take the left hand, and say: Father, I will take this one — the pure Truth is for You alone.

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781) German playwright, philosopher, dramiturg, writer
Anti-Goeze (1778)
Added on 11-Mar-15 | Last updated 11-Mar-15
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Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one.

Malcolm Forbes (1919-1990) American billionaire
(Attributed)
Added on 10-Dec-13 | Last updated 10-Dec-13
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As to Jesus of Nazareth, my Opinion of whom you particularly desire, I think the System of Morals and his Religion as he left them to us, the best the World ever saw, or is likely to see; but I apprehend it has received various corrupting Changes, and I have with most of the present Dissenters in England, some Doubts as to his Divinity: tho’ it is a Question I do not dogmatise upon, having never studied it, and think it needless to busy myself with it now, when I expect soon an Opportunity of knowing the Truth with less Trouble. I see no harm however in its being believed, if that Belief has the good Consequence as probably it has, of making his Doctrines more respected and better observed, especially as I do not perceive that the Supreme takes it amiss, by distinguishing the Believers, in his Government of the World, with any particular Marks of his Displeasure.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist, philosopher
Letter to Ezra Stiles (9 Mar 1790)
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Added on 23-Sep-13 | Last updated 8-Jul-21
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To be good is noble; but to show others how to be good is nobler and no trouble.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Following the Equator, Preface (1897)
Added on 21-Oct-11 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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History teaches us the mistakes we are going to make.

Lawrence J. Peter (1919-1990) American educator, management theorist
Peter’s Quotations: Ideas for Our Time (1977)
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I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. It might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.

John Steinbeck (1902-1968) American writer
“…like captured fireflies” (1955)
Added on 2-Jul-09 | Last updated 20-Dec-19
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He who can, does. He who cannot, teaches.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) British playwright and critic
Man and Superman, “Maxims for Revolutionists,” “Education” (1903)
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Added on 19-Sep-08 | Last updated 11-Aug-17
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To teach is to learn twice.

Joseph Joubert (1754-1824) French moralist
Pensées (1838) [ed. Auster (1983)]
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As it is better to give than to receive, so it is better to share the fruit of one’s contemplation than merely to contemplate.

[Sicut enim maius est illuminare quam lucere solum, ita maius est contemplata aliis tradere quam solum contemplari.]

Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) Italian friar, philosopher, theologian
Summa Theologica, 2a-2ae, “Treatise on the States of Life,” Q.188 “Of the Different Kinds of Religious Life” (1265-1274)
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Alt. trans.:
  • "Just as it is better to illuminate than merely to shine, so to pass on what one has contemplated is better than merely to contemplate."
  • "Better to illuminate than merely to shine; to deliver to others contemplated truths than merely to contemplate."
  • "Better to light up than merely to shine, to deliver to others contemplated truths than merely to contemplate." [Source]
  • "For even as it is better to enlighten than merely to shine, so it is better to give to others the fruits of one's contemplation than merely to contemplate." [Source]
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 16-Jun-20
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The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.

Plutarch (AD 46-127) Greek historian, biographer, essayist [Mestrius Plutarchos]
Morals [Moralia], “On Listening to Lectures”

Alt trans.: "The correct analogy for the mind is not a vessel that needs filling, but wood that needs igniting."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 11-Mar-15
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