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Interpreting Nietzsche

This quote was in my inbox today:
You are rewarding a teacher poorly if you remain always a pupil.
- Friedrich Nietzsche

My first thought was "every day provides valuable opportunities for learning, whether you're a "pupil" or not!"

Then I looked at the quote again, and that didn't seem to fit, so I tried to understand what ol Nietzsche was getting at...

First: it's fine to be a pupil, but not permanently.

Definition of pupil, according to Merriam-Webster:
  1. : a child or young person in school or in the charge of a tutor or instructor : STUDENT
  2. : one who has been taught or influenced by a famous or distinguished person

To me, when u say pupil, i [see] a kid in primary school uniform. Very much a vessel into which "knowledge" is spoonfed rammed poured. Someone who's probably not much into the questioning mode. And not really into the whole thinking-for-yourself concept. More of memorisation and regurgitation.

So how would one "remain always a pupil"?
By not going beyond what has been taught? By not questioning? By not challenging? By not striving for understanding? By instead continuing to just seek knowledge within the boundaries and confines of the institution (school / mentor, etc)?

Again, my mind goes back to LEARNING: yes, there's only so much "learning" that can come from memorisation and regurgitation of official facts.

So once you have gotten the basic foundation of knowledge (these foundations differ depending on the person / vocation), you've got to make them "your own".


Becuase only through application of your knowledge can true understanding and appreciation emerge. You know the difference between "theory" and "practical / reality", right?
Just because you know that if your car is skidding on ice you need to turn the steering wheel INTO the slide in order to straighten out, doesn't mean that you will be able to Do it when you are in a spin!

Just because you've seen pictures of glaciers and fjords in books and movies, doesn't mean you're not going to be awestruck when you're actually there at the edge of Sweden, gazing at one of Mother Nature's incredible works!
So, by going out and experimenting, applying what we've learnt, we'll end up understanding even more that what could ever be taught in a classroom.

Is THAT the "rich reward" to teachers that Nietzsche is alluding to?

Or is he saying that we should "reward teacher" "richly" by taking over the teacher's role? After all, moving up to "teacher" level implies a certain level of knowledge and understanding has been acquired by the ex-pupil, which implies a compliment to the teacher, thus the "rich reward"?

Anyone got other interpretations on this?

*** and on an unrelated note: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, RAIL! :-)


  1. I guess what Nietzsche wanted to say was that, by not learning and moving on, you would have disgraced your mentor? :-)


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