David Bruce: Education Anecdotes

• A cart driver asked Rabbi Akiba to teach him the whole of the Torah all at once. Rabbi Akiba told him that Moses had stayed on the mountaintop 40 days and 40 nights to learn the Torah, but that if he really wanted to learn the basic principle of the Torah, he should learn this: “What is hateful to yourself, do not to your fellow man.” Soon after, the cart driver went on a journey with two other men. They came to a field filled with seed pods, and the two other men took two seed pods each, but the cart driver took none. Then they came to a field filled with cabbages, and the two other men took two cabbages each, but the cart driver took none. They asked the cart driver why he wasn’t taking anything, and he replied, “Thus did Rabbi Akiba teach me: ‘What is hateful to yourself, do not to your fellow man.’”

• The book The Unwritten Curriculumby Arthur and Phyllis Blumberg contains this story: In the 4th grade, a student was in band. Because of band practice, he always missed half of an hour-long class. Once, an IQ test was given during that hour, and he was given only 30 minutes to complete it although the other students had an entire hour. Because of this, the test said that he had a very low IQ and he was assigned to a “slow” class in the 5th grade. Another IQ test was given in this grade. Because he was in a slow class, the student was given extra time to complete the test. Of course, this time the test said that he had a very high IQ and he was assigned to a “fast” class in the 6th grade. The student grew up to become an educator whose goal is to end standardized testing.

• After Joe Hyams tried tricky moves against a more skillful sparring partner — and got beat — kenpo-karate master Ed Parker spoke to him. Mr. Parker drew a line on the floor with chalk and asked, “How can you shorten the line?” Mr. Hyams gave several answers, all of which Mr. Parker rejected. Mr. Parker then drew a second, longer line and asked, “How does the first line look?” Of course, in comparison with the long, second line, the first line looked shorter. Mr. Parker then said, “It is always better to improve and strengthen your own line or knowledge than to try and cut your opponent’s line.” After that, Mr. Hyams tried to improve his own knowledge and skills instead of trying to trick his opponent.

• Once a drought afflicted Israel. The King and his ministers prayed to God, but the drought continued. The wise men and the captains made their prayers, but the drought continued. The lords and the rich men made their prayers, but the drought continued. Finally, an old man made his prayer, and rain fell. The King asked who he was, that God listened to his prayer after ignoring the prayers of so many others. The old man replied, “I am a teacher of little children.”

• Peter Cartwright was a pioneer circuit-riding preacher who was suspicious of educated preachers. Once he met an educated preacher who addressed him in Greek in order to humiliate him. Not to be outdone, Mr. Cartwright spoke to him in German. The educated preacher, who did not know Hebrew, concluded that Mr. Cartwright had replied to him in that language, and said that Mr. Cartwright was the first educated Methodist preacher that he had ever seen.

• British boarding schools frequently provide a superior education. When actor Patrick Macnee (who as an adult played John Steed in The Avengers) was eight years old, he played the title role in a production of Shakespeare’s Henry the Fifth. The play was performed in its entirety — completely uncut. (Playing the Dauphin — because he could speak both French and English — was eight-year-old Christopher Lee, who also became a professional actor.)

• When Leo Slezak was in the Austrian army, he taught other soldiers bugle calls by whistling them and having the other men imitate his whistles. Once he saw a man scribbling in a notebook and thought his efforts to teach were being ignored. However, when he looked in the man’s notebook, he found that the man was writing down the bugle call: “Tadaradatataratatada!”

• A sculptor once had a child in kindergarten. For an entire year, the sculptor came into the kindergarten class — at the request of the teacher — once a week and “loved” clay. He didn’t teach the children, but simply came in and “loved” clay. Just by watching the sculptor, the children also learned to “love” clay and became very creative with it.

• The Chofetz Chayim was against students pulling all-nighters; instead, he ordered that the lights be put out at midnight. He explained, “Whenever you have the desire to stay up all night to study, remember that this is a trick of the Evil Inclination. He wants you to go without sleep in order that you might be incapacitated for study altogether.”

• “If I were obliged to leave off preaching … there is no office I would rather have than that of school teacher; for I know that this work is with preaching, the most useful, greatest and best; and I do not know which of the two is to be preferred.” — Martin Luther.

• A school in Germany had only one Jewish student. The teacher told her, “Just like all the Jews, you are greedy. Your father pays tuition for only one student, but you are learning enough for three.”

• You can learn by teaching. This is well understood in the martial arts — the dojo, the place where the martial arts are taught and practiced, is known traditionally as the “Place of Enlightenment.”

• Milt Kamen once said that he was held back three times in first grade: “I hardly said two words to my teachers — but I said them all the time.”

• “A man that has never gone to school may steal from a freight car, but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad.” — Theodore Roosevelt.

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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