Sage Advice: Tutoring Tips from the Masters
This Week: The Wisdom of Kong Fu Zi
Today I'd like to share with readers some quotes from the ancient Chinese philosopher
Kong Fu Zi, whom most Westerners would recognize as Confucius. Kong Fu Zi was
born in the axial age of history when numerous civilizations produced great
philosophers, from Socrates to Buddha. The foundations of the humanities, sciences,
and mathematics were all laid down in this era.
Kong Fu Zi stressed that the purpose of life was to seek knowledge through consistent
study and to improve oneself. His educational philosophy was strict, but it did work, and
laid the foundations for a Chinese meritocracy system that would serve the Middle
Kingdom well for millennia. He produced numerous educational maxims which have
inspired poets, teachers, officials, and more for centuries. Here are a few to enlighten
your day and help better educate your child and/or pupil.
"What I hear, I forget. What I see, I remember. What I do, I understand."
Experience is crucial to learning. Help your student or child engages in the material at
hand at every available opportunity. Also, be sure to encourage them to apply what they
are learning outside of the classroom, where the meeting between theory and
application can help improve a pupil's mental capacities.
"Learning without thought is labor lost. Thought without learning is intellectual
The point of education is not to become a walking encyclopedia but to encounter
information that induces us to think, reflect, examine, and draw conclusions. In a similar
vein, one can do all the latter, but without encountering information, all that thinking will
lead to erroneous conclusions and flawed critical faculties.
"I am not one who was born in the possession of knowledge, but I am one who is
fond of antiquity, and earnest in seeking it there."
Some of the wisest women and men were avid students of ancient philosophy and
literature. The study of the past enables an individual to step outside of his or her own
culture and period in history and think more critically of his/her modern age. No
student's education is complete without a deep understanding of history.
"If I am walking with two other men, each of them will serve as my teacher. I will
pick out the good points of the one and imitate them and the bad points of the
other and correct them in myself."
Learning through example is one of the better methods by which students can improve
themselves. A good mentor is always beneficial, and a tutor should always strive not
just to teach but to set a good example for the student.
"Study as if you were never to master it; as if in fear of losing it."
Learning is not a task to be abandoned once the bell rings or the student is handed a
diploma. It's a life-long pleasure meant to be consistently indulged. Socrates, the
renowned Greek philosopher, was said to have taken musical lessons just before his
death so that he might depart from the world a more learned man. Now that, readers, is
the spirit of learning!
"You cannot open a book without learning something."
Every book, no matter the quality, induces us to reflect on ourselves, an idea, a state of
affairs, etc. Young children especially should live in an environment filled with novels
and books and magazines on philosophy, mathematics, history, news, natural sciences,
dance, photography, and more so that they will learn that opening book means opening
their mind. If this habit is introduced to the child early on, they will carry it with them into
their adult years, where their quest to come across new information will be a habitual
pleasure. Tutors should always be aware of their student's environment. If educational
materials are not available to a student in his/her leisure time, suggest to the parents
that a subscription to National Geographic, Time Magazine, Nature, or other periodicals
would do wonders for a child's development. There is always something to learn!
"A man who has committed a mistake and doesn't correct it is committing
Tutors and parents should constantly strive to ensure that a student feels comfortable
making errors, since it is from our mistakes that we learn. Similarly, students should
also be taught how to analyze their actions so as to minimize the chances of making the
same mistake again.
About the Author:
Tutoring Match offers home and online private tutors for all subjects and areas of study
to help K-9, high school, college, and adult students. For more information please visit