What’s your least favorite edu-homily?

Edutopia thanked the CK-12 Foundation for “sharing this great quote.”

How to kindle and ignite your students' passion for learning: http://bit.ly/10q7LAp. #learning #education Thanks for sharing this great quote, @[140038269383188:274:CK-12 Foundation].

Robert Pondiscio issued an Edu-Homily Alert. “Not only is this quote fundamentally anti-knowledge, there’s no evidence Socrates said it. Nor did William Butler Yeats, the other person to whom it’s commonly mis-attributed.”

It’s Plutarch, according to Quote Investigator. He said the mind is not a vessel that needs filling but wood that needs igniting. Of course, if there’s no wood, then there’s not going to be much heat or light.

Matthew Tabor comments:

This is one of the stupidest of the famous ed quotes. If you expect that flame to last more than 10 seconds, it needs to draw from a reservoir of fuel. You have to do both.

And yes, these are the folks who constantly say we need to teach “critical thinking.”

Pondiscio has other unfavorites: “Teach the child not the lesson….we don’t learn science we DO science…School isn’t for learning content. It’s where you learn to learn….My job is to develop a lifelong love of books….don’t teach facts, teaching higher order thinking…”

Feel free to nominate your least favorite education quotes.

About Joanne


  1. You covered them, I think, but can I just say…”a lifelong love of books” does not come from Accelerated Reader. AR is a great way to kill a love of books, though.

    • tim-10-ber says:

      So very true! AR for a grade stifled my younger son’s love of reading in 4th grade! Not good…

  2. Let’s not forget: “In Asian countries, they teach the students who are going on to college; in the US, we teach everyone.”

  3. I’ve always disliked ” a teacher should be a guide on the side not a sage on the stage” Who would hire a guide who didn’t know the territory?

  4. “What does education often do? It makes a straight-cut ditch of a free, meandering brook.”

    I saw this in a catalog of inspirational posters for teachers. Way to inspire the kids — Hey! My Job is to transform you into stagnant ditches!

  5. Roger Sweeny says:

    “All children can learn.”

    It is trivially true if taken literally. Of course, all children can learn something.

    But in 12 years a majority of children cannot learn what educators hope and expect them to learn. We set them, and ourselves, up for failure. The homily prevents us from asking the questions that really matter when designing a school system: What can different young people realistically learn? Of those things, which are so important that we will make sure they actually learn them?

    And it soils our souls. Requiring teachers to repeat this catechism requires them to lie to themselves (or perhaps to whisper, “Eppur si muove.”).

  6. Does this work?

  7. Sorry about the last post – I’ve been having computer problems.

    My FIL started teaching in the 30s, and for at least that long, the ed world has been saying that “those kids (the ones at the top) will do fine, anyway” (so we don’t have to offer them anything).

    Also, ever since I was a kid, I’ve heard both parents and teachers say that ” it doesn’t matter what you read, as long as you read (something)”. In the real world, it does matter; some books/sources expand kids’ knowlege and some don’t. A 5th-grader who reads Rosemary Sutcliff’s version of the Iliad (Black Ships Before Troy) will learn far more than a 5th-grader who reads something by Judy Blume (or whatever today’s equivalent is).

  8. Crimson Wife says:

    How about any of Paolo Freire’s doozies? “No pedagogy which is truly liberating can remain distant from the oppressed by treating them as unfortunates and by presenting for their emulation models from among the oppressors. The oppressed must be their own example in the struggle for their redemption.”

    So let’s not teach appreciation for the best and brightest achievements of our civilization but revel in populist navel-gazing…

  9. “All students are included.”

    Yep. All except those who need above grade level instruction. The Scouts of the world will forever be disappointed.

  10. Thinly Veiled Anonymity says:

    Pretty much anything that ends with “all students.”

  11. Mark Roulo says:

    Whenever I hear “teach the student, not the lesson” (or variations), I always hear this as, “I don’t know about direct and indirect objects.”


    Which kinda ruins the sentiment …

  12. I couldn’t think of any (and I even surfed around and looked). Then I saw a news report in Oklahoma City about the need to get away from all this memorizing. Here’s a quote: “Do we need things like math facts in the age of technology? Teri Brechen from the Oklahoma Department of Education believes kids [sic] increased dependence on gizmos isn’t all bad.
    ‘I think the children are recalling a lot. Just to be able to use technology you’re recalling a lot.’”
    She then goes on to acknowledge that well, um, actually what gets in the way of people trying to do higher math is… not knowing those basic skills. (But hey, who would want to do that anyway?) … but… since soon in some countries people might be able to use the Internet on standardized tests, well, we don’t need to memorize anything.

  13. Stacy in NJ says:

    I hate the phrase “voracious reader”.

    It’s meaningless. One could be a voracious reader of Harlequin Romance novels – so what.

  14. Linda Seebach says:

    “If you can read this, thank a teacher.”
    Nuh-unh. I knew how to read a year before I started kindergarten.
    (Someone on another list I read uses this as a tagline. Unwarranted self-congratulation.)

  15. “Whatever it takes.”

    (It sounds heroic, but it gets problematic quickly. At the very least, it needs strict qualification.)

    • That’s the justification for the huge boatloads of money we spend on those severely disabled kids who can’t function at even a preschool level (not toilet trained, can’t feed self,can’t speak etc). It defies all common sense, not to mention fiscal prudence.

  16. The all-time most damaging homily might be Dewey himself: “What the best and wisest parent wants for his own child, that must the community want for all of its children. Any other ideal for our schools is narrow and unlovely; acted upon it destroys our democracy.”

    It’s a lovely, noble sentiment in principle. In practice it often means, “Take this deleterious fad which “worked” with affluent kids (but who in reality are merely immune to it because of the advantages of their birth and upbringing), and foist it on the poor who will be fatally disadvantaged by our noble and self-congratulatory impulses.”

    • They’re not necessarily immune to it, but they’re disproportionately likely to have parents that supplement or hire it done. There’s a reason that Kumon exists in tons of affluent areas. My kids were raised in that kind of area and I’ve still never figured out why parents (unlike my DH and I) say they like the progressive edufads but make sure their kids learn the old-fashioned fundamentals. Somehow, they don’t see the disconnect.

  17. Educationally Incorrect says:

    “You’re not teaching physics, you’re teaching students”

    — Dumb-ass Assistant Principal

  18. I have to go with Socrates, Yeats, and all the others who want to light the fire without filling the pail. Drives me nuts. http://mathcurmudgeon.blogspot.com/2012/07/fill-pail-then-light-fire.html