Bertrand Russell

Start Your Free Trial

Write a complete summary of Bertrand Russell's essay "The Functions of a Teacher." 

Expert Answers info

Jason Lulos eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write3,297 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and Science

Russell begins this essay by noting the recent (modern - late 19th/20th century) transformation of education from "a small, highly skilled profession concerned with a minority of the population, to a large and important branch of the public service." Although this shows that education has become available to more people, Russell sees problems with state-run education and how these problems can limit the function of a teacher. 

Russell notes that while innovative teachers of the past (Socrates, Galileo) have been persecuted for teaching non-traditional doctrine, their work survives and is therefore proof that they had the intellectual freedom to think and teach such non-traditional ideas. Russell adds that for a teacher to fulfill his/her role as a teacher, he/she must feel this sense of intellectual freedom and independence. 

Russell cites examples where education is censored (Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union), nations where teachers must not question the dogma of their respective governments. This limits the teacher's intellectual freedom and he/she must therefore teach students to think only within the beliefs of their country's ideology. The result, especially in totalitarian countries, is that the state essentially teaches students to become stubborn nationalists. Thus, each nation teaches (brainwashes) all of its citizens a strict dogma. If the dogma conflicts with the dogma of another country, greater conflict can occur. So, not only is this danger to intellectual freedom, it also increases the potential for warfare: one intolerant generation teaches another to be...

(The entire section contains 500 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now


Further Reading:

check Approved by eNotes Editorial