Wednesday, November 10, 2010

PLENK2010 What are you learning and teaching?

There is a story of a young, but earnest Zen student who approached his teacher, and asked the Master, "If I work very hard and diligently, how long will it take for me to find Zen? The Master thought about this, then replied, "Ten years . ." 
The student then said, "But what if I work very, very hard and really apply myself to learn fast -- How long then?" Replied the Master, "Well, twenty years." "But, if I really, really work at it, how long then?" asked the student. "Thirty years," replied the Master. "But, I do not understand," said the disappointed student. "At each time that I say I will work harder, you say it will take me longer. Why do you say that?" 
Replied the Master, "When you have one eye on the goal, you only have one eye on the path."
--quoted by Erica Goldson

This story has always made me think of the parable of the rich young seeker: Mark 10:17 'Good teacher,' he asked, 'what must I do to have eternal life?' Mark 10:21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. 'You need one thing,' he said. 'Go and sell all your possessions. Give the money to poor people. Then you will have real wealth, in heaven. Then come! Follow me!'

Gaining wisdom as walking the talk of the Kingdom of Heaven is not a game. It is not a matter of Brownie points. It is what you develop in your head and in your heart. In both cases, the young men were "playing the game", not living the life.

The teacher has the responsibility to teach the skills, yes, but not as the goal--just as the tool--to aid learning, and making sense, and then to share.


  1. Bravo, Skupik! Your storytelling as sensemaking has really made it clear to me that I need to keep my eye on the kind of network learning that I want my grad students to experience and that the assessment piece can be a natural extension of that. I just need to be more creative and include them in the process. Thanks so much for the stories.

  2. Ivan Illich said schools train students to confuse process and substance. I believe he meant that students are taught to expect, because they are participating in the process of education(school), they will automatically be endowed with the product of educaton (knowledge) as well as the benefits of that product (prestige and money). Like so many, they don't even realize they are only playing the game unless some wise person enlightens them. Some of the push-back from students is the predictable result of the betrayal they feel when they are told the truth after investing so many years in what they hoped was real preparation for life.

    Articles like the following have created a stir as Grade 12 graduates continue to discover they do not have the required credits for college & university entrance.
    "Although high school graduation rates have increased steadily since 2005, results of standard tests and diploma examinations show that that high school students’ achievement has not improved."