Value for Thursday of Week 15 in the season of Sowing

Supporting and Practicing Learning, Teaching, and Education

  • 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. Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit. [John Steinbeck, “. . . like captured fireflies.”]
  • Education leads to enlightenment. Enlightenment opens the way to empathy. Empathy foreshadows reform. [Derrick A. Bell, Faces at the Bottom of the Well: The Permanence of Racism (Basic Books, 1992), Chapter 8, “Racism’s Secret Bonding”.

Education has long been a central ethical concern. It is critical to the welfare of the individual and the state. In developed and developing countries, people spend considerable time, energy and other resources on it.


True Narratives

I recall many incidents of the summer of 1887 that followed my soul's sudden awakening. I did nothing but explore with my hands and learn the name of every object that I touched; and the more I handled things and learned their names and uses, the more joyous and confident grew my sense of kinship with the rest of the world.  When the time of daisies and buttercups came Miss Sullivan took me by the hand across the fields, where men were preparing the earth for the seed, to the banks of the Tennessee River, and there, sitting on the warm grass, I had my first lessons in the beneficence of nature. I learned how the sun and the rain make to grow out of the ground every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, how birds build their nests and live and thrive from land to land, how the squirrel, the deer, the lion and every other creature finds food and shelter. As my knowledge of things grew I felt more and more the delight of the world I was in. Long before I learned to do a sum in arithmetic or describe the shape of the earth, Miss Sullivan had taught me to find beauty in the fragrant woods, in every blade of grass, and in the curves and dimples of my baby sister's hand. She linked my earliest thoughts with nature, and made me feel that "birds and flowers and I were happy peers." [Helen Keller, The Story of My Life (1904), Chapter V.]

Best known for his contribution to education, John Dewey was an educator about many things.

Other great educators:

Imagine trying to tell our story without books . . .

. . . or libraries.

Of course, neither books nor libraries would have been necessary if the Internet had been a product of nature instead of a product of human invention. In stark contrast to the many hours I spent in The University of Michigan Law Library as a student in the mid-1970s, I have not opened a casebook in decades. All the information my colleagues and I need is available online, and what is more, we can search the cases at least ten times faster than when my career began. The same is true in virtually every discipline that relies on research from written materials. Scholarly works appear many times faster than they did a generation ago, because the research is at our fingertips.

James Madison "is deservedly remembered as 'the Father of the Constitution" . . . the principal . . . author of what would become our Bill of Rights and the prime organizer of the Jeffersonian Republican party". The "Father of Politics" "lived in his head, but his head was always concerned with making his cherished thoughts real."

Notable examples of ordinary teachers:

On learning:

Technical and Analytical Readings

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” [Elizabeth Green, see below.]


Documentary and Educational Films


Fictional Narratives

Intellectual learning:


Learing by doing:


Much have I travell'd in the realms of gold,

And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;

Round many western islands have I been

Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.

Oft of one wide expanse had I been told

That deep-brow'd Homer ruled as his demesne;

Yet did I never breathe its pure serene

Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:

Then felt I like some watcher of the skies

When a new planet swims into his ken;

Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes

He star'd at the Pacific—and all his men

Look'd at each other with a wild surmise—

Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

[John Keats, Sonnet XI. “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer”]

Music: Composers, artists, and major works

Angélique Kidjo is a “passionate campaigner for children's rights, climate change and girl's education . . .” She “uses her voice and social influence to advocate for female education all over Africa.” She has said: “I am in favor of a holistic approach to education: young African girls need to go to school, but I would also like to see the society and the local communities be equally responsible for our youth's education. We need to transmit, all together, ideas, practices, and knowledge that will allow an entire young generation to live in an improved society where their rights and lives are respected and celebrated.” Here are links to her releases, her playlists, a documentary film, in interview, live at Festival International in 2023, and some videos.

All of Beethoven’s compositions up to 1802 strongly exhibit Mozart’s influence”, and Haydn’s. “. . . Beethoven had a delicate balance to strike in his early works between making a name for himself, that is to say getting out of the enormous shadows cast by Mozart and Haydn, and paying his respects to and honoring their legacy.” Among the most notable of Ludwig van Beethoven’s early compositions are his first two piano concerti and first two symphonies. “Beethoven’s first two piano concerti typify his early period. While many of his works from this period show the obvious influence of Haydn, with whom Beethoven studied when he first came to Vienna, Mozart serves at Beethoven’s point of departure when he began writing for piano and orchestra.” “The first two of Beethoven’s nine symphonies fall into what is generally considered the composer’s ‘early period.’ As such, they owe much to the spirit of Haydn and Mozart.

Johann Sebastian Bach composed four sets of Clavier Übung (keyboard practice). BWV 825-830 are his six partitas for harpsichord. His fourth set is known as the Goldberg Variations. Both are covered elsewhere in these pages.

Other works:

Raga Shri (Shree), an evening (sunset) Raag, “usually personified as a calm, self-controlled hero, and portrayed as a royal and prosperous person” [The Raga Guide (Nimbus, 1999)]. “Siri raga is serious and thought-provoking in its nature and creates an atmosphere where the listener is led to heed the advice given therein. The listener (the mind) is made aware of the truth of the message and with this ‘education’ is given the strength to face the future with both humility and the ‘gained’ knowledge.” Performances are by Nikhil Banerjee, Kumar Ghandarv, Ali Akbar Khan, Ashwini Bhide Deshpandi, Priya Purushothaman, Venkatesh Kumar, and Ravi Shankar.

Music: songs and other short pieces



Visual Arts

Film and Stage

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