melting & burning

December 11, 2013, 5:21 pm
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Instruction is education by means of the theory in its actual sense, and must therefore be at the center of all ideas about education. The separation of education from instruction is the symptom of the total confusion in all existing schools. Instruction is symbolic for all other areas of education, because in all of them the educa­tor is also the person teaching. You can, of course, designate teaching as “learning by example,” but you will immediately discover that the concept of example is being used figuratively. The teacher does not actually teach in that he “learns before others,” learns in an exemplary way. Rather, his learning has evolved into teaching, in part gradually but wholly from within. Thus, when you say that the teacher sets the “example” for learning, under the concept of example you conceal what is characteristic and autonomous in the concept of such learning: that is to say, teaching. At a certain stage, all things become exemplary in the right person, but they thereby metamorphose into themselves and are rejuvenated. Seeing this rejuvenated creative something as it unfolds in human life cycles provides insight into education….I am convinced that tradition is the medium in which the person who is learning continually transforms himself into the person who is teaching, and that this applies to the entire range of education. In the tradition everyone is an educator and everyone needs to be educated and everything is education. These relationships are symbolized and synthesized in the development of the theory. Anyone who has not learned cannot educate, for he does not recognize the point at which he is alone and where he thus encompasses the tradition in his own way and makes it communicable by teaching. Knowledge becomes transmittable only for the person who has understood his knowledge as something that has been transmitted. He becomes free in an unprecedented way. The metaphysical origin of a Talmudic witticism comes to mind here. Theory is like a surging sea, but the only thing that matters to the wave (understood as a metaphor for the person) is to surrender itself to its motion in such a way that it crests and breaks. This enormous freedom of the breaking wave is education in its actual sense: instruction-tradition becoming visible and free, tradition emerging precipitously like a wave from living abundance. It is so difficult to speak about education because its order completely coincides with the religious order of tradition. To educate is only (in spirit) to enrich the theory; only the person who has learned can do that: therefore it is impossible for future generations to live other than by learning. Our descendants come from the spirit of God (human beings); like waves, they rise up out of the movement of the spirit. Instruction is the only nexus of the free union of the old with the new generation. The generations are like waves that roll into each other and send their spray into the air.

-Walter Benjamin (from a letter to Gerhard Scholem, September 1917)


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