Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.
– Oscar Wilde
Nothing that is worth knowing can be taught. It is hard to say if I fight this statement more as a teacher or as a student. Having taught now for the better part of 45 years, I struggle to acknowledge that I was not able to teach anything worth knowing. On the flip side, I believe that I was taught many things worth knowing. Since I might be too emotionally invested in the former, I will instead explore the latter, especially as it applies to my encore work of community development.
Immediately, I find that I push aside the content of what was worth knowing and move to my teachers, namely Sr. Mary Owen, Sr. Muriel, Sr. Christina, Father Justin, Brother Agathangelus, my 10th grade PE teacher, Russell Durning, Denny Fisher, my sophomore writing professor, David Prasse, and Diane Pollard. Then there were the teachers behind those teachers: Adler, Piaget, Kaplan, deMonteflores, Annon, Foucault, Prochaska, George, and a legion more.
Deeper still are the teachers who help me remain vulnerable to learning: Paul, Ann Jo, Lois, Jan, Tim, Martha, Steve, Jna, Valerie, Leonard, Amisha, Marian, Dan, Sheila, and more. Somewhere, too, I must include those alongside whom I learn and explore, lending me a confidence in my thinking, namely Paula, Katie, David, Ray, Ed, Chris, Tom, and many more.
In the context of these and many more teachers I have learned love, commitment, patience, courage, science, change theory, community, artistic expression, passion, intimacy, vulnerability, statistics, vulnerability, writing, composition, math, grammar, justice, forgiveness, perspective, human reproduction, budgeting, generosity, and order. It is not as though the people who have taught me are like friends. They are friends. I am reminded of the Hymn, St. Patrick’s Breastplate. Here I paraphrase, and in so doing subvert the religious content:
Friends be with me,
Friends within me,
Friends behind me,
Friends before me,
Friends beside me,
Friends to win me,
Friends to comfort and restore me.
Friends beneath me,
Friends above me,
Friends in quiet,
Friends in danger,
Friends in hearts of
all that love me,
Friends in mouths of friends and strangers.
Unless I am missing something in the wit of Mr. Wilde, I think he has this one wrong. Much of what I know that is worth knowing came from my community of teachers — friends whose love came in the form of knowledge, skill, wisdom, and a passion for learning.