If this is true:
Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.
—William Butler Yeats
Then why am I not drenching my students in combustible challenges and flicking matches at them?
Mostly, it's pouring in stagnant syllabi and heavy assessments.
I want fire. I want energy. I want kids to burn with the excitement of learning.
And just so you know:
Yeats did not say this. The closest actual quote is from Plutarch:
…the mind is not a vessel that needs filling, but wood that needs igniting – no more – and then it motivates one towards originality and instills the desire for truth.
For the mind does not require filling like a bottle, but rather, like wood, it only requires kindling to create in it an impulse to think independently and an ardent desire for the truth.
(With thanks to Quote Investigator.)
Those little bits about truth and originality which are left out of the modern conception are actually quite important. And it is telling that they are missing. The quest for truth takes the student beyond school syllabi and into the realms of evidence, reasoning and meaning. And unlocking the ability to think independently encourages meaningful, innovative problem-solving.
Igniting the flame of learning must thus be aimed at smelting out something valuable from the raw ore of knowledge. Otherwise it's just a flame with no purpose.