Happy 100th birthday Martin Gardner! We’re celebrating with a special blog post. wolfr.am/1tIuGHy
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A passage from Avot (The Fathers) in the Mishnah. Avot 5:15 says: ‘there are four types among them that sit in the presence of sages’.
In other words, according to the rabbis there are four types of disciples – the sponge, the funnel, the strainer, and the sifter (sieve).
1. The sponge – it soaks up everything. … a disciple who has no discernment—he just takes it all in and records it all; the trivial and the important; it doesn’t matter — there is no discrimination on his part.
2. The funnel – it takes in at this end and lets out at the other. … We could say that is the student who is quick to perceive, but he is equally quick to forget. He is very bright, he takes in very quickly, but then he forgets it equally quickly.
3. The strainer – it lets out the wine and collect the lees. This person is the one who forgets the essentials but retains the unessentials. … they can recite the most obscure trivia from the Bible, but when it comes to the important stuff, they don’t know it.
4. The sifter – it extracts the coarsely ground flour and collects the fine flour. This is the kind of disciple that the rabbis most admired – the one who memorizes the good in all the material but rejects the worthless; he retains what is good and excellent and he rejects what in unimportant and what is trivial. The rabbis were always interested in a student’s discernment, a student’s skill at learning; not just mere repetition. It didn’t impress a rabbi if you have photographic memory.
Paraphrased and abridged slightly from Dwight Prior from a Hebrew/Christian religious series. Those rabbis clearly knew their students!
Mountain or fountain?
One without the randomness.