Do We Need Masters?


There is a new trend in French education concerning Masters and the idea is that they are no longer needed. In our modern society, this concept is considered old-fashioned and outdated.

As a result teachers are no longer expected to teach their students but to manage the class. Similarly they should not grade papers or oral presentations themselves but ask the students for their assistance. As for the curriculum, the teacher is supposed to choose topics that are already part of the children’s culture and not impose his/her own choices on the students.

This has been bothering me since I first heard about it a few years ago.

To my mind, the master/student relationship is one that has always existed and I can’t see why it should suddenly stop to be relevant.

On the contrary, in traditional cultures, it is something that is valued and encouraged. It has always struck me that in Judaism the geatest teachers always give thanks to their masters before they express their own opinions and beliefs. It is interesting also to note that a rabbi is not a priest or a leader but a teacher.

Likewise one of the first things that a student of martial art learns in order to address their instructor is the word sensei (master).

I feel that if I am only entitled to teach what the students already know, I am part of a plan which organizes collective amnesia since this would do away with the culture each generation hands down to the next. Part of a society’s identity is its shared heritage of which history and culture are fundamental elements.

On a pragmatic level, I know that I have been influenced and encouraged, both directly and indirectly, by a few people I consider my masters, both when I learned English and today when I read Jewish books for inspiration and guidance.

Were you influenced by great teachers? Do you still consider some people as your teachers? Do you feel that some masters impress your children more than others?