Teachers and Students

“Though I have spoken in some detail of the duties of the teacher, I shall for the moment confine my advice to the learners to one solitary admonishment, that they should love their masters [teachers] not less than their studies, and should regard them as the parents not indeed of their bodies but of their minds.  Such attachments are of invaluable assistance to study…..For it is the duty of the master to teach, so it is the duty of the pupil to show himself teachable.  The two obligations are mutually indispensable.”  Quintilian (c.35-c.100), Institutes of Oratory, Book II, section ix (selections in The Great Tradition, ed. Richard M. Gamble, p. 120.) [Emphasis added]

“…instructors are to be loved and respected as parents are; for as the latter are creators of the bodies, so the former are the creators of the souls of the listeners (not generating of themselves the substance of spirit but engendering as it were wisdom in the minds of listeners by making over their nature for the better.)  Such attachments are of great assistance to study, for pupils are glad to listen to those whom they love….For as the function of teachers is to teach, so that of auditors to show themselves teachable; otherwise neither without the help of the other avails.”  John of Salisbury, Policratus, Book VII, chap. 14 (selections in The Great Tradition, ed. Richard M. Gamble, p. 280 [Emphasis added]

In these quotes we see John of Salisbury’s reference to Quintilian’s work on teaching boys and young adolescents.  John, a twelfth-century priest and educational theorist, served at the papal court for a time, but also served as an administrative secretary for two archbishops of Canterbury.  Quintilian, born in Roman Spain, spent his adult life as a teacher in imperial Rome.  When I first read them, John’s words changed my perception of the relationship between the teacher and the student.  These words could apply to elementary school teachers or graduate school professors.  While teachers form the minds of their students (or create their souls), students will listen more intently to someone they admire or respect.  Knowledge, wisdom, and eloquence only arise from the cooperation of the teacher and student.  Both have integral roles.  Additionally, the purpose of education is never simply the impartation of knowledge, but ultimately the transformation of the mind or soul.



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