Leadership Lessons from Confucius: education for all
Confucius said: “Let there be education for all.”
It is a sobering fact that despite the astounding economic, technological, and social progress that humanity has made over the past fifty years, millions of children still reach adulthood unable to read, write, and do basic calculations. Although the proliferation of wireless broadband and affordable phones has made access to educational materials more convenient than ever before, children still need the guidance of teachers, parents, and other mentors in order to reach their full potential.
This article features a translation of Chapter 39 of Book 15 of the Analects of Confucius. You can read my full translation of Book 15 here.
(1) There are many different interpretations of this passage, though I like to believe that it is a clarion call for universal education. Its literal meaning is: have>teach(ing)>no>types/distinctions.
(2) The idea that everyone should be given the same opportunity to learn no matter what background they come from is the most powerful and radical aspect of all Confucius’s teachings. During the times Confucius lived in, education was almost exclusively reserved for the sons of the aristocratic elite. By accepting students and followers from poor families like Yan Hui, he led the way in making learning accessible to people from all classes of society and laid the foundation stone for the subsequent establishment of the imperial examination system (科舉/kējǔ) that was, in theory at least, open to anyone who wished to become an official in the civil service.
(3) It should be emphasized that Confucius was advocating universal education for men only. It probably never even occurred to him that women should enjoy the right to access it.
I took this image at the Mencius Cemetery in Qufu.