I just got back from commencement and watched my students “walk” and shake hands with the President of Clemson University, Jim Barker. In his remarks to the graduates, he quoted William Butler Yeats. Yeats said, “Education is not filling a pale, but lighting a fire.” This really resonated with me. To often I think, students – and professors – think education is about giving information. Many wrongly assume with our advanced degrees that our job is to “fill the empty pales” of our students, and once the pale is full (or more accurately, overflowing), they are educated and ready for the world. Not the case!
Author and leadership expert John C. Maxwell said, “Information is giving out, communication is getting through.” I have used that one for years. As an educator, we have to ask ourselves if we are getting through to our students. Are we connecting with them? Giving out information is not what education is about and if you think about it, it is pretty naive to think that if we give out information, learning is taking place. Even if students are learning, they usually do not retain the information for very long (again, as a result of information overload).
So, let’s look at the second part of Yeats’ quote, “Education is about…lighting a fire.” Inspiring our students, igniting a spark in them, inflating them, energizing them, helping them find their passion – through WHATEVER subject matter we teach – is what education should be about. I have always said, I teach people, not percussion. I hope I have been able to light a fire in my students to work toward excellence and pursue their dreams.
Congratulations to the Class of 2012!