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Shī zhě, suǒyǐ chuándào, shòuyè, jiěhuò yě.  

“The educator is someone who teaches the Way, imparts knowledge, and resolves doubts.”  

a quote from Discourse on Teacher by 韓愈Han Yu, a Tang Dynasty scholar in China
copyright@Xin Huang

I recently had the opportunity to host a Calligratherapy workshop at the 2023 Calgary teacher’s convention. The participants and I practiced writing the above Han Yu’s quote and delved into its implications in the context of modern education.  

According to Han Yu, an educator is someone who teaches “道-The Way,” imparts knowledge, and resolves doubts.  

“The Way” is a concept that refers to the ultimate reality and natural order of the universe that governs all things. It is often described as an invisible force or energy “Qi” that flows through everything and guides all life towards balance and harmony. It emphasizes the significance of living in harmony with nature instead of trying to control or dominate it. 

To expand on Han Yu’s theory, “Teaching the Way” involves passing on the truth about moral guidance and traditional cultural values. This educational process focuses on cultivating “inner civilization” and transmitting cultural heritage to solve problems related to self-cultivation, social development, family harmony, and national governance. 

In contrast, imparting knowledge concentrates on teaching essential skills necessary for survival in society. While teaching the Way aims to educate people where there is no practical use yet, imparting knowledge involves educating people where there are practical benefits. The former refers to education in metaphysics while the latter refers to education in physics. 

As the third aspect of educators, resolving doubts plays a crucial role in connecting teaching the way and imparting knowledge. It requires educators to provide comprehensive and accurate answers to students’ questions, connecting the Way to the skills and enabling them to apply this knowledge effectively in their life.  

Han Yu’s words accurately position the role of educators in both the Tang dynasty and modern times, over a thousand years later.  

As an education practitioner, I frequently reflect on how to apply Han Yu’s theory to practice. While we may excel at imparting knowledge for students, teaching “the Way” presents a challenge. 

In the Aotearoa New Zealand context, my understanding is that “the Way” is comparable to the concept of mātaurangaMāori that both have emphasis on holistic understanding and interconnectedness.  

According to Rangi Mātāmua, mātauranga Māori is an indigenous knowledge system that provides a way of understanding our world and transmitted intergenerationally. It encompasses a broad range of knowledge, including language, customs,culture, spirituality, and history. He suggests that it is best understood when practiced, and people connect with a particular way of knowing and behaving in relation to the environment. 
In the education context, there has been a growing recognition of the importance of incorporating mātauranga māori into teaching and learning practices. This involves valuing and respecting the unique knowledge systems of Māori people and integrating them into mainstream education. 
One way this can be achieved is through the use of te reo māori (the māori language) in classrooms. By incorporating te reo māori into daily teaching practices, students are exposed to a different way of living and being and the communicating and understanding of that from within the māori worldview. 

Another way to encourage mātauranga māori is by teaching kaupapa māori subjects from an ao māori (worldview) perspective.For example, science lessons could include traditional ecological knowledge about land and water management from a māori worldview. 

And this is just the start of the journey, there is more ways for us to explore and learn.   

In conclusion, Han Yu’s words still hold true in modern times: to be a good educator requires us not only to impart knowledge and resolve doubts but also to teach ‘the Way.’ 

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