Setting the Bar
Laozi said that in a healthy society, promises are easy to keep, work is easy to do, tradition is easy to follow, debt is easy to repay. 老子曰 治世之 職易守也 其事易為也 其禮易行也 其責易賞也
So being a student isn't like being a politician and politicians aren't teachers. Teachers, farmers, builders, merchants, we all have different callings, separate concerns. That's why farmers talk to each other about crops and teachers talk about discipline. It's why builders talk to each other about building and merchants talk about prices. That way teachers don't lose control and builders don't botch jobs. That way farmers don't waste effort and merchants don't lose money. Happy with our lot in life, we train separately, we're organized differently, but we all do easy jobs and don't grumble, make mistakes and get corrected, get it right and get credit. 是以人不兼官 官不兼士 士農工商 鄉別州異 故農與農言藏 士與士言行 工與工言巧 商與商言數 是以士無遺行 工無苦事 農無廢功 商無折貨 各安其性 異形殊類 易事而不悖 失處而賤 得勢而貴
Prophets and visionaries are geniuses, but a healthy society doesn't expect much of people. Knowledgeable, ambitious, argumentative, eloquent, we all know they're talented, but an enlightened master doesn't ask much of apprentices. Decadent societies are in decline, out of touch with changing times, and teachers are tyrants, but healthy societies aren't trying to change people. 夫先知遠見之人才之盛也 而治世不以責於人 博聞強志口辯辭給 人知之溢也 而明主不以求於下 敖世賤物 不從流俗 士之伉行也 而治世不以為化民
That's why we don't hold students to impossibly high standards or expect institutions to live up to utopian ideals. That's why we don't have philosopher kings and everyone is expected to get a basic education. That's why we don't let idiots lead and armed forces are subject to law. We don't look back to an ideal past and we're adaptable. We take what exists and work with it. 故高不可及者不以為人量 行不可逮者不可為國俗 故人才不可專用 而度量道術可世傳也 故國治可與愚守也 而軍旅可以法同也 不待古之英俊 而人自足者 因其所有 而並用之
Society today sets a high bar and blames us when we don't measure up, gives us hard jobs and punishes us when we don't succeed, sends us on dangerous missions and executes us when we aren't brave. People respond by polishing their stories and lying to authorities, by playing dirty tricks and taking stupid risks. Laws are harsh, punishment severe, but we can't help ourselves. A cornered animal lashes out, a frightened hen will peck, desperate people lie. 末世之法高為量而罪不及也 重為任而罰不勝也 危為其難而誅不敢也 民困於三責 飾智而詐上 犯邪而行危 雖峻法嚴刑不能禁其姦 獸窮即觸 鳥窮即啄 人窮即詐
That's what he told us. 此之謂也
What I've interpreted here as "teacher" is actually 士 (shì), something between a priest and a knight. In healthy societies, 士 were public servants, members of a literate manager class, and though "teacher" isn't strictly accurate, it's not too far from the mark, and I know a few teachers who can appreciate the sentiment expressed here.