Sage or Student?

Being a student is something that I am fairly sure I will never stop being. Theres simply always going to be more things that I want to learn, which as it turns out is a good thing in a teacher – at least as far a popular opinion seems to go.

Teaching in Japan is, undeniably, an experience of a life time for anyone that is wanting even a short career in teaching and doubly so for anyone wanting an extended career in teaching. As a result of its unusual relationship with its past and certain international relationships in the modern era, there are a number of areas of Japanese society that have come into the modern day in an unusual form when compared to both its past Japanese equivalent/s and its modern peers. The education system is one such area. Neither wholly Japanese nor wholly American, British or broadly speaking Western, elements of past Japanese culture and 1960’s (ish) education methodologies are blended together to create a system that exists solely to ‘teach to the test’ i.e. teaching only what is required in order to pass the test. Its not an approach I agree with and it makes things very difficult to get done in any meaningful way. However, there is a symptom of this cocktail of an education system and that is, as I once saw it so pithily put, the idea of the ‘sage on the stage’.

The concept of the Sage is one that comes up quite often in a number of areas, not the least in Education. Briefly, the Sage is often used as a foil for the Teacher by way of using a negative example to prove a point. The Sage is a character who simply spouts information without any consideration for the student. The Teacher on the other hand is someone who moves at the same pace as the student, walking with them rather than leading ahead; thats the condensed version at least. The sage on the stage is a teacher who adopts Sage-mode at the front of the class room. It is an approach that can seem similar to the ‘Master-Apprentice’ approach, however this approach has very strong elements of supervision and instruction while the Sage is simply information output.

All of which has me wondering: which approach is most commonly found in Pagan and Heathen communities? Can any of these approaches be ascribed to the relationship between deity and devotee?

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