The Ingredients of Education

by Jay Nordlinger

Responding to a post below, a reader writes,

Your interview with Marilyn Horne got me thinking. If you asked a thousand people at random about their favorite teacher, how many would bring up how well the teacher employed education software, or whether she had a master’s degree from an ed school, or whether she took the class on fancy field trips, etc.?

I was reminded of something I read recently, while doing some research. There was a man named Dr. Gerrit Jan van Heuven Goedhart. He was a Dutch journalist and politician — also the U.N. high commissioner for refugees. He ended an important speech as follows:

Many years ago I participated in a discussion on the problem of international education. After many experts had presented their complicated theories, an old headmaster of a certain school got up and quietly said: “There is only one system of education, through love and one’s own example.” He was right. What is true for education is true also for the refugee problem of today. With love and our own example — example in the sense of sacrifice — it can be solved. And if in the cynical times in which we live someone might be inclined to laugh at “love” and “example” as factors in politics, he would do well to be reminded of Nansen’s hard-hitting, direct, and courageous words, based on a life full of sacrifice and devotion: “Love of man is practical policy.”

Fridtjof Nansen, incidentally, was the Norwegian hero — and world hero — who, in addition to about a thousand other things, was the first U.N. high commissioner for refugees.

“There is only one system of education, through love and one’s own example.” I don’t think I have ever read anything truer on the subject of education.

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