By Brahim Koulila
By Brahim Koulila
Morocco World News
Kenitra, Morocco, May 7, 2012
We have all been taught by teachers, from kindergarten all the way through college. Good)teachers have always played a substantial role in raising generations and educating nations. When we go to school, we expect teachers to teach us what we ignore, to show us the right track to follow, teach us values…Doubtless, the better teachers are, the better students are.
For instance, in Morocco, the difference between students who go to prestigious schools and those who go to public ones is clear to everyone: for example, some good schools, such as Descartes High School in Agdal, Rabat, are known for producing very good students for the quality of education they present, which implies they have good teachers. Still, can a good teacher make of a student a scholar, a scientist, a thinker or whatever if he/she does not want to work hard?
Of course, not! No matter how good a teacher is, students must be willing to learn and go forward if they want to benefit from his/her experience and knowledge.
In this respect, self-teaching is a must; more than that, students/people not adhering to this culture would never ever make it at the scientific level, simply because teachers are not supposed to spoon-feed their students. Rather, they are supposed to guide them or to be good initiators, so to speak.
Being a teacher, I have remarked that a lot of students – generalization would be a huge mistake—lack this culture and believe that teachers are kind of “demi gods” who must teach them from A to Z. Actually, contrary to what some people may believe, the Internet has not helped them rely on themselves; instead, it is among the factors that make some students (at all levels) shy away from doing their homework or research because of the distraction (music, movies, chatting, video games…) it causes.
The culture of self-teaching, in some students and people, is no longer as prevalent as it used to be in the past. This makes the new generation rather weak, and a lot of people, unfortunately, do not realize that self-education has always been the secret behind great scholars, thinkers, scientists and writers’ success and fame.
Students must rely on themselves more than they rely on teachers. This principle applies to all stages of education; from primary school on, students should normally do research by themselves, read as much as possible – reading is, indeed, the major aspect of self-teaching–, ask help from their parents or sibling.
However, at university, students are more supposed to teach themselves than at any other stage: this is the level where one should acquire the skill of self-reliance, as it were. At university, teachers, regardless of their competence/experience, honesty, good will, give their lectures and expect students to do research at home.
For instance, a composition teacher can introduce to students types of sentences and paragraphs, some writings skills, rules of punctuations and so forth, but he could never ever make of them good writers. To be a good writer, one must practice writing for a long time to develop hisor her own style. Great writers have all gone through this process. Also, a student, say in the Spanish department, could never master Spanish unless he or she toils and moils by him or herself.
A medical student, by the same token, cannot become a good surgeon without a lot of individual hard work, research and practice. The bottom line is that teachers are not gods, supposed to pour knowledge into our brains; their mission is to put us on the right track. Indeed, Self-made people have always been the pioneers at all levels.
All great thinkers and scientists are autodidacts. History is full of examples of people who reached very high stages of knowledge and fame thanks to self-reliance and hard work. For instance, the late, great Egyptian writer Abbass Mahmud Alaqqad received little formal education – he just completed his elementary education–, but he was fond of books that he spent most of his money, when he was a boy, on them. This made of him an erudite person and writer.
Likewise, Taha Hussein, another Egyptian landmark of Arabic literature , and was blind, would not have become “the dean of Arabic literature” had he not taught himself for such a nickname would not be got without toil and hard work. Albert Einstein, one of the most famous and eminent scientists ever, should be considered another great self-made man: he dropped of school before getting his high school degree and went back to college, but thought for his determination and self-reliance, he would not have become the Albert Einstein we all know.
Another good example is William Faulkner, the great American writer and 1949 Nobel Prize winner; he too dropped out of school very early and, apart from a course that he took at university, he did not get any serious formal education—he did not have any high degree at all–, knowing his writings are among the best works in English literature in the 20th century.
Another disarming argument that self-cultivation can make of people something is Mohamed Chokri’s story; this late Moroccan writer and primary school teacher did not start learning how to write and read until he was 21 years old. Nonetheless, he could assert himself and produce some good works, such as Bread Alone, which was translated to many languages.
Also, Alexander Pope, the famous English poet, dropped out of school at age 12, but did not give up and taught himself until he became a great poet. These people were just some good examples of self-made intellectuals, though Taha Hussein pursued his studies almost regularly and got his M.A. and Ph.D. from two prestigious universities, Montpellier and Sorbonne Universities, respectively—I would have to write an encyclopedia to state every autodidact in the world.
Not all high degree holders are great thinkers. The examples above prove that erudition has nothing to do with high degrees or prestigious schools or universities: One might pursue his/her studies till getting a PhD, yet he/she might not become a great writer, philosopher or scientist. To be like Alaqqad or Falkner, one should have a strong will, patience, determination and, above all, to believe in the value of self-teaching.
I would say though for some great people who spent their lives teaching themselves and doing research, a lot of theories, books, inventions and discoveries would not have existed at all. In other words, man does not have mind just to memorize things, but to consider what surrounds him, to contemplate the universe, to question things…I wonder if a Moroccan student—I am talking about the Moroccan context because I am Moroccan– in our epoch would do the same thing as William Falkner. Unfortunately, most students who drop from high school give up and never read or write, knowing that they could learn by themselves.
Self-teaching seems to be limited to a certain elite of people who do not necessarily come from well-to-do families; rather, they are people who see what their peers probably do not see. They have self-confidence and stamina to achieve what even regular learners would not achieve. As such, I see that Moroccan students, as well as learners everywhere, must rely on themselves and never think that teachers are supposed to spoon-feed them. Teachers can be either “good initiators” or “bad initiators,” but never demi gods. Incidentally, I am writing this article because I see some students are rather naïve: They keep “dozing” until they discover that they have wasted a lot of time and squandered a lot of opportunities.
Koulila Brahim is a Moroccan teacher of English and essayist. He lives in Kénitra, Morocco. He obtained his M.A. (Studies in English language and culture) from Ibn Tofail University, Kénitra (Morocco) in 2010. He is interested in Morocco’s politics.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Morocco World News’ editorial policy.
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