Silencing the Oracle!!

Atty. Ralph A. Sarmiento's Blogsite!

Friday, October 28, 2005

The Teacher is Irrelevant!?

I am reproducing below my recent exchange of text messages with a student (whose name I will withhold under terms of confidentiality) who was pleading that I teach them PIL (Public International Law) this coming semester in law school. I believe, however, that the teacher is really irrelevant because students of law are really supposed to be autodidacts if they are to understand and comprehend the nuances and intricacies of the law. The law is not taught; it is learned and studied. But please forgive the English; it is text messaging (SMS) English!

Student: Sir, gud pm! You gonna be teaching PIL? (more of a plea than a question).

Atty. Ralph: Ha ha! I hav actually thought about dat! I really wish I cud! However, it's also my subject at Lex Bar Review. ü

Student: I am... Well, dissatisfied with who's teaching the subject... :( i wish i can say that better... :( no chance?

Atty. Ralph: Why? Who's handling the subject? Isn't d teacher supposed to be irrelevant?

Student: :( If the teacher is irrelevant, why bother enrolling. Supposed to be competent to guide the student through logical labyrinths! Indi guid ya pwede na irrelevant. I need a teacher who can inspire and motivate me. Inspiration, motivation and guidance are never irrelevant! :(

Atty. Ralph: I think u just hav to learn to live w/ those constraints! But to say dat dey leave u w/ no inspiration, motivation or guidance is to disclaim a personal responsibility 4 pursuing an intellectual path dat is inescapably ur own & solely ur own. Make it ur own experiment in learning, seeking genuine inspiration, motivation or guidance dat can only come from within d broad spectrum of ur own will & intellect! ü

Student: I am a student... As such, it is my need to be guided by those whose experience and intellect precede and exceed mine. While i claim sole responsibility for my intellectual growth, i am still undeniably a young mind whose cerebral capacity is greatly influenced by those who come before me. Aren't we after all, in this study of law, merely building on the genius of the intellectual giants. Would Socrates or Plato have come up with the blueprint of their theories w/o their teachers' input? Of course, if the teacher is not of a worthwhile caliber, doesn’t justify the student's failure. But while there are competent teachers, it doesn’t excuse them from such an honored responsibility of moulding eager minds. And well, wouldn't that be something? ü

Atty. Ralph: D intellectual path is a truly a lonely path, but it's just part of d choices we make! I believe dat u wud ultimately just be riddled by perplexity and aporia if u insist on finding an Archimedian point outside of urself! What matters really is not inspiration or motivation but a deep personal commitment to, and a clear vision of, ur own intellectual path! ü

Student: And equating my saying that they leave me with no inspiration with disclaimer of a personal responsibility of my intellectual path is an arbitrary conclusion. Ive never pegged my thirst for knowledge with their ability to teach. ü but you are quite right and inescapably undisputed. I will make it my personal goal to learn much as i can. But what a lonely path it will be not to be surrounded by people whose intellectual capacity one respects. ü

Student: I hope you didnt get it the wrong way. Not to worry, i am no puppet controlled by hands other than mine. These external factors are never a premise, a benefit maybe. It is simply satisfying to be able to discuss the law with people who know that the law is not a one-dimensional science. ü but nonetheless you are right. I should get used to such a solitary endeavor. ü

Atty. Ralph: I am not a cynic or a legal nihilist, but I think to claim dat one really knows or cud know "what d law is" is nothing but plain & vain megalomania! Spare me! I really know nothing! I'm just an infantile legal thinker who has committed to free myself from technocratic legal thought & to proceed in a spirit dat questions all formula, doctrines & dogma! ü

Student: Yep, right you are. Even Einstein constantly insisted on questioning everything. Established data taken for a fact cannot be infallible against sound review and reasoning simply for being accepted. There are so many worthy discoveries and innovations yet! ü keep the unwavering determination. I will work on mine as well. ü


  • At 10:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    ATTY RALPH: "I believe, however, that the teacher is really irrelevant because students of law are really supposed to be autodidacts if they are to understand and comprehend the nuances and intricacies of the law. The law is not taught; it is learned and studied."

    To say that the teacher is really irrelevant is to make a mockery of institutionalized learning of which the author is undeniably a part of. While it is true of course that one has to possess a certain degree of independence and unbashed sense of adventure when delving into the intricate maze of logic and philosophy of the law (which is by the way applicable also in other sciences) it is also true that some established precepts and theories are too complicated to absorb and comprehend in the context it was meant to be absorbed and comprehended by its creator without the guidance of a mentor who has experienced it.

    To proceed from the your statements sir would be to admit a fact that cannot be accepted at any level of that intellectual discourse. It would admit the fallacy that to say the teacher is relevant and material, is to sweepingly admit that the student is a parasite- a fallacy of which I cannot allow undisputed and uncorrected... even in a blog because it distorts my judgment which is neither tainted in weakness or parasitism.

    No. The student has a resposibility to learn as much as he can and that responsibility extends outside the four walls of the classroom... the world is in fact his place of learning. But every young mind needs guidance as every bird must be nurtured before it can fly.

    Admitting that is neither a weakness I am shamed to display, but a certain sense of humility I feel no remorse accepting.

    "All wise men know that they don't know everything."

    I do not claim that i know everything, I do not inadvertently claim that I am wise either. But there is something to be said about a student who while making it a personal responsibility to learn also respects those who have gone farther than him... both in experience and professional degree.

    If experience is the best teacher, then is it not but natural to listen to the wise words of those who have been taught by the best?! But to listen discriminately and to listen indiscriminately is an issue I have never addressed- of which you have decided to settle for me.

    A student is not a sponge... but a filter. He listens, learns and makes up his own mind. That is what a student should be and I have no wish to deviate from the moral imperative

    To say that the teacher is irrelevant because the student is a sponge is creating a statement on a premise that is not only baseless but totally presumptive- Great men do not generalize and neither should you, sir. :)

  • At 12:28 PM, Blogger attyralph said…

    With the intellectual integrity, thirst for learning, and facility of expression you have been exhibiting, you don’t really need a teacher, except your own self. I really don’t think we have a real argument here. However, I think some clarifications are in order.

    When I said the teacher is irrelevant, I was not proposing a new revolution in universities that removes the teacher in the system. My premise was simply that it is irrelevant WHO the teacher is and I merely proceeded to emphasize the personal responsibility of the student in the process, as formal legal education should be considered a post-graduate study.

    Legal education should not be teacher-centered with legal knowledge viewed as a commodity that is transmitted from the teacher to the student’s empty cup. Legal education should be viewed as acquisition of knowledge by students by themselves. Like plants, students grow with the correct nutrient and minerals derived from the spirit and letter of the law, interaction with peers, challenge from teachers, and a personal commitment to knowing and living the path of the law.

    You should be your own teacher. One secret of success in law school is to study the law as if you were to teach it. You should be able to approximate your teachers’ levels of preparation for every lecture or meeting. You should not wait for answers from them but develop them yourself. More importantly, you should fall in love with the study of law if you are to do all these. You may not love the law, but you should love the study of it for the law is truly the greatest expression of the movement of human thought.


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