Who is the learner who is the teacher ? How do we know we know better than someone else ? How do we know we have gathered and consolidated an understanding strong and substantial enough to be able to teach it or assert it to others ?
Undoubtedly, anyone who has lived long enough to earn some skill in a particular field will have experienced the two sides of the coin: being a learner and a teacher. One day he sat and listened. And another day he stood and lectured. On each side of the coin two opposite poles compete in an endless struggle. One brings positive feedback, while the other leaves a negative feeling behind.
As a pupil sitting at a lecture, either the teacher succeeds in captivating your attention, or you simply cannot follow the course and you start watching the ticking of your watch. In the first case, a complex maelstrom of ideas, connections, discoveries and insights whirls in your mind while you listen to your teacher, whereas in the second case, you ask yourself why is it that you have to be sitting there losing your time.
As a teacher giving a lecture, either the audience is filled with starry gazes or you simply cannot ally your passion to the audiences’ interest. In the first case, in the eyes of those who listen, you can make sense out of what you are trying to express, or you start realising that your point of view stands on the unreachable top of a tall wall.
The relationship between a person who teaches and one who learns is although not restrained to the context of education. While hearing someone speaking, it is not uncommon to think of the speaker as knowing more poorly or less than we do. Then emerges the urge to interrupt that person and assert a perspective of the subject which seems (at least from a personal point of view) more clear, complete and astute. This situation is often encountered while having a debate among equal speakers. Politicians for instance have to suffer these kinds of contingencies every day. They have developed a lot of subversive techniques of trying to take out the advantage over their opponents. But in the end, who knows best ? The one who takes out arguments the most swiftly? The one who punches all opinions with a fundamental principle borrowed from great thinkers ? The one who drowns others throughout a complex structure of long intertwined explanations made of spiky words all intended to repel the clench of the audiences’ trail of thoughts ? Or would it be the one who’s discourse has the highest density of the words “freedom”, “security” and “dream” ?
The more a person ages and gains experience in life, the less the distinction between teacher and learner remains clear. During childhood, anyone older has more overall experience and thus plays the role of a teacher to some extent. Older pupils, older siblings, school teachers, parents, grandparents: children have something to learn from everyone. However, as we grow older, this perception fades away and we gradually begin to cease to recognise the teacher’s side in the people we meet. Moreover, teachers themselves are said to learn from their pupils. This reciprocity blurs furthermore the gap between the role of a teacher and the role of a learner.
Yet, in any society, there is always a group of experts or wise men whose knowledge – or be it wisdom – is respected more than the average public opinion. Their teachings are seen as guidelines for future decisions and deserve to be considered with special attention. Stephen Hawking, Umberto Eco, Noam Chomsky, and many others are widely recognised for their effort, work and ideas. They were interviewed a tremendous number of times during their life. Their works will be used as a reference basis for future studies and analysis. Before it comes to that point, how and why does anyone become a teacher for a worldwide community ? For instance, Socrates’ teachings have been and still are very influential in modern history. Many philosophers and politicians based their reflections on the basis of the precepts he tried to pass down to humanity. Nonetheless, he himself thought he knew less about anything than anyone. He could not hide his astonishment when the Oracle nominated him for being the wisest of his contemporaries.