“There Is No Such Thing As An Abstract Student: Sukhomlinsky Speaks To Teachers

Alan Cockerill, who is the leading supporter and promulgator of Vasilii Sukhomlinsky’s educational philosophy in the English-speaking world,  has recently translated some chapters from Sukhomlinsky’s seminal work:  One Hundred Pieces of Advice for Teachers.  I include an excerpt that Alan published in one of his newsletters:

“Imagine that all the seven-year-old children commencing grade one were required to complete exactly the same physical work, carrying water for example.  One is already exhausted after carrying five buckets, while another can manage twenty. If you force the weaker child to carry twenty buckets it will overstrain them.  The next day they will not be able to do anything and may end up in the hospital.  Children’s capacity for intellectual work is just as varied.  One understands, makes sense of things and remembers things easily, storing them in their long-term memory.  Another experiences intellectual work completely differently, taking in the material very slowly, and storing knowledge in their memory for only a short time;  though it often happens that the slower student achieves more significant success in their studies and in their intellectual development than the one who found it easier to study in the beginning.  There is no such thing as an abstract student to whom we can mechanically apply guidelines for instruction and education.  There are no prerequisites for ‘success in study’ that are the same for all students.  And the very concept of ‘success in study’ is relative:  for one success in study means getting an ‘A’, while for another a ‘C’ is a major achievement.  The ability to determine what each student is capable of at a given point in time, and work out how to develop their intellectual capabilities further, is an exceptionally important component of educational wisdom.”

Note:  Alan Cockerill’s Sukhomlinsky page is located at:http://theholisticeducator.com/sukhomlinsky


About Robert M. Weiss
From an early age, I've taken great pleasure in reading. Also, I learned to play my 78 player when I was quite young, and enjoyed listening to musicals and classical music. I remember sitting on the floor, and following the text and pictures of record readers, which were popular in the 1940s and 50s. My favorites were the Bozo and Disney albums. I also enjoyed watching the slow spinning of 16s as they spun out tales of adventure. I have always been attracted by rivers, and I love to sit on a boulder with my feet in the water, gazing into the mysteries of swirling currents. I especially like inner tubing on the Rogue River in Southern Oregon. Since my early youth, I've been interested in collecting minerals, which have taught me about the wonderful possibilities in colors and forms. Sometimes I try to imagine what the ancient Greeks must have felt when they began to discover physical laws in nature. I also remember that I had a special passion for numbers, and used to construct them out of stones. After teaching Russian for several years, I became a writer, interviewer, editor, and translator. I continue to delight in form, and am a problem solver at heart.

2 Responses to “There Is No Such Thing As An Abstract Student: Sukhomlinsky Speaks To Teachers

  1. rommel says:

    Very well said. I am studying American History now. I was born a Filipino, and I didn’t know a whole lot about American History. I am doing well with it so far because I think I’m getting so into it. Everything to me is fresh. As to someone who already have previous knowledge, they may not be feeding so much more or that their perspective may not be swayed or be shifted. I mean, any kinds of history can be told by different people, and when you’re getting different information or perspective, your train of thought and you previous knowledge gets clouded.
    People ought to know what their true strength or weakness (or knowledge or lack thereof) are, but, more importantly, they also have to know to adjust where they are or what’s around them at the present and their whole goal of the picture is.


  2. Thank you for your wise words, Rommel. I enjoyed reading them and there is much to ponder.


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