View Full Version : Tolstoy as Teacher

02-15-2006, 11:57 PM
I read somewhere sometime that Tolstoy had an innovative approach to teaching -- "Do what you want," he suggested to his students. After the day I just had as a teacher, I'm beginning to wonder if he wasn't "onto something."

From what I remember, his idea was that students should come to school only when they chose to do so, and be taught only what they were interested in learning. Several days per week, he said, he had no students...but the rest of the time he did and those students were truly there to learn something.

Certainly, we can't subscribe to such a carte blanche approach to education -an entity that has sadly become a machine - grinding forward and away from its goal of providing students with the tools they need to live meaningful lives - leaving both teachers and students wondering what the hey they're doing "in school." What to do? What to do? It's for minds bigger than mine. Forgive the rant. It's been a particularly challenging day. Now what would Tolstoy do...?

02-16-2006, 12:02 AM
Oh, I wish I had Tolstoy as a teacher. I wouldn't have shown up until my mother got wind of my playing hooky and then she would have given me a swift kick in the pants. ;)

08-25-2006, 09:53 PM
He did have some revolutionary ideas about education and it seemed to work for him. He may have had days where there weren't many children but the enrollment steadily increased to the point where he had to hire other teachers to help out. I would imagine he was a wonderful teacher and made learning actually fun but I would also imagine that their knowledge was somewhat hit or miss. I think of it like a foster sister I had who had spent her entire school life in and out of institutions, brilliant girl, even graduated high school a year early but had no idea what Asia was, she had these huge gaps in her knowledge and I could see those peasant children of Tolstoy's being the same way.

08-26-2006, 06:52 AM
Theoretically, that should work. The problem is people aren't interested in learning, they are interested in making money. They know that the only way to make money is to go through school. Along the way they absorb some meaningful knowledge, but it is up to them to find it. So if you take Tolstoy's idea these students would be lost, and would not learn anything at all. They would only learn what is absolutely necessary for making money. Also, many people don't have the motivation to make themselves come to school all the time, they need to be forced to. And my last argument against this way of teaching is that, how do you know what you like? If you're forced to take subjects you've never considered before, or previously thought you didn't like, you might discover something new and great.

08-26-2006, 09:45 AM
Wow - I'm glad to see some discussion here. Since I'm getting ready to go back to teaching in the public schools, I haven't got much time to respond right now. Just let me say this, though: The 'traditional' school just doesn't cut it for many students, and forcing it on them doesn't eliminate 'gaps' in their education, either. Take a look at these links:



While the teaching/learning methods in 'traditional' (public) schools have historically been quite differerent from those advanced by Montessori and Steiner, I don't think they necessarily have to be... I'll come back when I have more time.

08-26-2006, 11:17 AM
I've long been familar with the Montessori method and I really do think it works best for some kids. I work in a daycare with toddlers and when they turn 3 and need to start looking for preschool, there are just some kids you know are not going to flourish in these big warehouse like preschools with their generalized teaching methods. There are those kids that just don't do well in highly structured and standardized environments, their minds simply do not function that way and I think it's wonderful to have a teaching method that can recognize that and respond. The problem with that is that as you get older and you have a class size of 25-30 kids and one teacher with limited time and resources, how to you tailor your lesson plans according to each child's strengths and interests?

I don't think Tolstoy's method would work in this day and time. He wasn't educating these kids so they could go out and get good jobs and make something of themselves, they were peasant children, they weren't going anywhere, they had no real future other than what their parents had so he was educating them simply for educations sake. To give them an idea of the outside world, which they would realisticly never take part in...kind of cruel in a sort of way. :rolleyes: And he was incredibly biased in his teaching, stretching the truth to make things more interesting so he obviously didn't have to worry about standardized testing. :lol: