The Hippocratic Oath for Education

“I swear…to hold my teacher in this art equal to my own parents; to make him partner in my livelihood; when he is in need of money to share mine with him; to consider his family as my own brothers and to teach them this art, if they want to learn it, without fee or indenture.” ~ Hippocrates

I counted and considered the ten most influential people in my life yesterday afternoon while watching the sun rise over the Atlantic ocean. Much to my surprise, all but one of them was a teacher. Imagine that? Nine out of ten were teachers!

Teachers are stewards of the golden thread of knowledge that connects one generation to the next and humble yet noble torchbearers who light the way to self-realization. While some claim that “those who can, do and those who can’t, teach” I believe that such a statement fails to give credit where credit is due.

“I am not a teacher, but an awakener.” ~ Robert Frost

The role of the teacher in my estimation is exactly as Mr. Frost put it, that of an “awakener.” Teachers can serve to awaken many things, including:

  • A passion for lifelong learning
  • A hunger for self-realization
  • The spirit of service
  • Compassion, enthusiasm and assurance

Above all, teachers can help to cultivate the connection between the inner and outer selves, a never-ending process of refinement called maturation. Why is this important? or starters, there is greatness inherent in every person on earth and in a properly matured individual is capable of the easy and constant expression of genius resident in him or herself.

Teachers who limit themselves or who are limited by the rules of the game to only convey information are only scratching the surface of what is possible for a true teacher. Policy-makers must find ways to give teachers the tools and the room to create an atmosphere of inspiration, one that draws forth inherent greatness. I fear that too many of our students and potentially productive citizens are shut down in school rather than opened up.

Formal education should prime the pump for lifelong learning. Commencement should be more starters flag than checkered flag. Having been out of school now for nearly two decades, I can assure you that my happiest friends are those who never stopped learning, despite the fact that their formal education ended.

Good grades are no guarantor of productive citizenship. Neither is a diploma from the “right” school. Doors may be opened thereby, but at the end of the day, the value of each one is determined by the expression of each one, especially during times of adversity or pressure.

I believe that were each student to take the lesser-known Hippocratic oath articulated above, all things would be made new in the world. Such a statement of value would bolster the teaching community while enriching the experience of those taught.

14 thoughts on “The Hippocratic Oath for Education

  1. Isabelle Kearney

    If teachers only knew how much influence they had – for the better or worse. They have such an impact on the direction of so many people’s lives and the ability to open the doors of possibility. I enjoyed your description of a teacher and the role that they play.

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  2. strawberryfields

    I read your post this morning and all day I found my thoughts wandering back to my own education. My memory had to search quite a bit farther back than yours did. In the context that you were speaking about, I have to say, not one teacher had much of any influence on the direction of my life. That said, a number of my people that did have a strong and positive influence in my life came quickly to my rememberance. Interesting to me was, all but a couple were employers or associates I had worked with. It makes me think that even if our role is not of a professional teacher we are all charged with the responsibility to mentor others if the opportunity arises. I am so grateful for the people I have met that took the time to teach me and the belief that I could do more. I guess we are always a teacher and a student.
    Wonderful post. Thank you.

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  3. Kai

    You get right to the heart of why I love teaching. Magic happens when you have both student AND teacher who assume their part of this oath and keep the creativity alive in spite of a myriad of actual and perceived limitations in the school system. Thanks for giving voice to this!

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    1. I had a wonderful conversation with a kindergarten teacher this weekend while away at the beach and I had to find a way to voice my appreciation for the teachers in my life. It was my pleasure. Thanks for reading…

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  4. I often wonder if a trip back to the kind of teaching that was done in the old one room schoolhouses wouldn’t be a better cure to the educational system.

    My grandmother only attended school through the eighth grade and at times I think she received a better education than I did in my 16 years.

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  5. Colin

    I’ve found that a teacher can either set the stage for lifelong success, or stomp out a seed that could have sprouted. This is a tremendous responsibility! All told, they have the ability to influence the course of the next generation.

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