Back to School Week: On Teaching

Plato, Laws 803

“We should speak next about the teaching and communication of these subjects: how to do so, who should do it, and when it is right to apply each of them. In the same way that a shipwright anticipates the outline of his creation at the beginning in laying out the keel, I seem to be outlining the whole, trying to imagine the shape of lives based on the habits of their minds and in actuality then laying out their keels, by seeking out precisely through what method and with what habits we might best navigate through this journey of life.”

τούτων δὲ αὐτῶν διδασκαλία καὶ παράδοσις λεγέσθω τὸ μετὰ τοῦτο, τίνα τρόπον χρὴ καὶ οἷστισι καὶ πότε πράττειν ἕκαστα αὐτῶν· οἷον δή τις ναυπηγὸς τὴν τῆς ναυπηγίας ἀρχὴν καταβαλλόμενος τὰ τροπιδεῖα ὑπογράφεται <τὰ> τῶν πλοίων σχήματα, ταὐτὸν δή μοι κἀγὼ φαίνομαι ἐμαυτῷ δρᾷν τὰ τῶν βίων πειρώμενος σχήματα διαστήσασθαι κατὰ τρόπους τοὺς τῶν ψυχῶν, ὄντως αὐτῶν τὰ τροπιδεῖα καταβάλλεσθαι, ποίᾳ μηχανῇ καὶ τίσι ποτὲ τρόποις ξυνόντες τὸν βίον ἄριστα διὰ τοῦ πλοῦ τούτου τῆς ζωῆς διακομισθησόμεθα, τοῦτο σκοπῶν ὀρθῶς.

Quintilian, 2.19

“In sum, nature is education’s raw material: the latter shapes, the former is shaped. There is no art without substance; material has a worth apart from art; and yet, the highest art is superior to the best material.”

Denique natura materia doctrinae est: haec fingit, illa fingitur. Nihil ars sine materia, materiae etiam sine arte pretium est; ars summa materia optima melior.

Plutarch, Can Virtue Be Taught 439f

“ ‘If people are not made better through education, their teacher’s pay is wasted’  The teachers are the first to guide children after they leave their mother and, just as nurses help shape the body with hands, teachers shape their character: with their habits they put children on the first step toward excellence. This is why the Spartan, when asked what he accomplished through teaching, said ‘I make noble things appealing to children.’ ”

“εἰ μὴ γίνονται μαθήσει βελτίονες ἄνθρωποι, παραπόλλυται ὁ μισθὸς τῶν παιδαγωγῶν”; πρῶτοι γὰρ οὗτοι παραλαμβάνοντες ἐκ γάλακτος, ὥσπερ αἱ τίτθαι ταῖς χερσὶ τὸ σῶμα πλάττουσιν, οὕτω τὸ ἦθος ῥυθμίζουσι τοῖς ἔθεσιν, εἰς ἴχνος τι πρῶτον ἀρετῆς καθιστάντες. καὶ ὁ Λάκων ἐρωτηθεὶς τί παρέχει παιδαγωγῶν, “τὰ καλά,” ἔφη, “τοῖς παισὶν ἡδέα ποιῶ.”

,Image result for Ancient Greek teaching vase

Hmmm, how do you do this?

Suetonius, On Grammarians 37

“Marcus Verrius flaccus, a freedman, became especially famous through his manner of teaching. For he was in the habit of matching students with their equals in order to encourage learning. He would not merely specify the subjects they would write about, but he would offer a prize which the winner would earn. This prize was some pretty or rare old book. For this reason, Augustus chose him as tutor to his grandsons….”

Verrius Flaccus libertinus docendi genere maxime claruit. Namque ad exercitanda discentium ingenia aequales inter se committere solebat, proposita non solum materia quam scriberent, sed et praemio quod victor auferret. Id erat liber aliquis antiquus pulcher aut rarior. Quare ab Augusto quoque nepotibus eius praeceptor electus

No course of learning is without some regrets….

Letters of Cicero, Fragments. (Suet. Gram. 26) On Lucius Plotius Gallus,

“I still have a memory from my childhood when a certain Plotius began to teach in Latin for the first time. When crowds circled him and everyone was eager to study with him, I was upset because it was forbidden to me. I was restricted by the advice of the most educated men who used to believe that minds were better fed by training in Greek.”

Plotius Gallus. de hoc Cicero in epistula ad M. Titinium sic refert: equidem memoria teneo pueris nobis primum Latine docere coepisse Plotium quendam. ad quem cum fieret concursus et studiosissimus quisque apud eum exerceretur, dolebam mihi idem non licere; continebar autem doctissimorum hominum auctoritate, qui existimabant Graecis exercitationibus ali melius ingenia posse. (Suet.Gram. 26)

Vergerio, de ingenuis moribus et liberalibus adulescentiae studiis, XLIX:

“It seems right here to lay out some definitions of learning and intelligence and the types of each. In which it should first be noted that it is proper to receive not only those lessons which are given to advanced students, but even the very first elements of knowledge from the best teachers; and, that it is proper not to waste time on any random authors, but to look into the best ones. For this reason Philipp, the king of the Macedonians, wanted his son Alexander to learn his first lessons from Aristotle; for this reason, the ancient Romans took care that when they sent their children to school, they would first be brought up on Vergil. Each of these choices was made with the best reason. For, that which is instilled into young minds will set deep roots, and will not easily be removed by any force afterward.

Therefore, if students accustom themselves to the best authors at the beginning, they will always have them foremost and will always use them as guides. If, however, they should drink in any draught of error along the way, they will require twice as much time in their education – they must first get rid of their errors, and then they can partake of true learning. For this reason Timotheus, a famous musician in his own time, who was ordered into exile from Sparta because he increased the number of strings on the cithara and discovered new musical modes, used to charge a fixed price from those students who had never learned anything before; yet he charged a double price from those who had learned something from other teachers.”

Attributed to Aristotle, Vitae Philosophorum 5.21

“He also believed that teachers should be honored more than parents who merely gave birth. The latter give life, but the former help us live well.”

τῶν γονέων τοὺς παιδεύσαντας ἐντιμοτέρους εἶναι τῶν μόνον γεννησάντων· τοὺς μὲν γὰρ τὸ ζῆν, τοὺς δὲ τὸ καλῶς ζῆν παρασχέσθαι.

Pindar, Ol. 8.59-60

“Teaching is easier for someone who knows; not learning first is stupid. “

τὸ διδάξασθαι δέ τοι εἰδότι ῥᾴτερον• ἄγνωμον δὲ τὸ μὴ προμαθεῖν•

Critias, fr. 9

“Men become good more from practice than nature.”

ἐκ μελέτης πλείους ἢ φύσεως ἀγαθοί

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