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Teaching A Person To Fish, “Buying The Pond,” & Social Emotional Learning

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I heard the above quote — or something similar to it — on Public Radio International yesterday in their story on squatters. A person with a group supporting squatters said it, but PRI only published a portion of the story on their site, so I can’t give proper attribution or the exact quote.

But I was really struck by his take on the old saying “Give a person a fish, and feed him/her for a day. Teach them to fish, and you will feed him/her for a lifetime.”

Yes, that’s fine, he said, but we also want to buy and own the pond.

I was immediately reminded of Social Emotional Learning, and how recent studies have shown — unlike what some so-called school reformers might suggest — it isn’t a magic bullet (see The Best Articles About The Study Showing Social Emotional Learning Isn’t Enough). These studies show that poverty causes a lack of self-control and perseverance and it’s not the other way around.

So, yes, let’s implement Social Emotional Learning in our classes. But let’s also help our students develop the critical judgement and skills necessary to eventually “own the pond.”

What are your ideas on how we can do that?

Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

One Comment

  1. The analogy of the original quotation is problematic because of the reference to purchasing as opposed to ownership. It’s very loose, but your take on it (at the end of the post) does sort of get us closer to the point.

    So, how do we get students to “own” anything? We first have to decide what we mean by own or ownership. How different is it from mastery or acceptance, for example? If a person can do something, doesn’t he/she own it?

    Or are we addressing motivation? That of the person who knows full well how to fish, but chooses not to do so.

    The final point in this post seems to point back to the skills (the ability to fish) as the means to ownership. So, is the onus on the educator to make the connection?

    Interesting post, Larry! : >

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