I've come across this quote from Phil Collins' Son of Man:

In learning you will teach

And in teaching you will learn

I'm not really sure what it's supposed to mean - I think it means more than just "you're a student first and become a teacher later".

Any hints appreciated!

closed as off-topic by Drew, JHCL, Hellion, tchrist, Mitch Nov 10 '15 at 14:49

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  • 1
    It means what it says. Have you never taught something to someone, and, in the process, learned something yourself? In order to explain stuff to someone else you have to first clarify your own understanding. Similarly, if you are learning from a teacher your questions drive the teacher to better understand the subject. – Hot Licks Nov 5 '15 at 21:50
  • Dictionary, dictionary, dictionary... teach, learn. Dictionary, dictionary,... – Drew Nov 5 '15 at 22:48

@A.P. has the right approach to the problem. And that is to first consider "In teaching you will learn."

As it says in this article by John Sonmez, "You Never Really Learn Something Until You Teach It"

He goes on to say:

Why teaching is such an effective learning tool
When we learn something, most of us learn it in bits and pieces. Typically, if you read a book, you’ll find the material in that book organized in a sensible way. The same goes for others mediums like video or online courses. But, unfortunately, the material doesn’t go into your head in the same way. What happens instead is that you absorb information in jumbled bits and pieces. You learn something, but don’t completely “get it” until you learn something else later on. The earlier topic becomes more clear, but the way that data is structured in your mind is not very well organized–regardless of how organized the source of that information was.

Even now, as I write this blog post, I am struggling with taking the jumbled mess of information I have in my head about how teaching helps you learn and figuring out how to present it in an organized way. I know what I want to say, but I don’t yet know how to say it. Only the process of putting my thoughts on paper will force me to reorganize them; to sort them out and make sense of them.

When you try to teach something to someone else, you have to go through this process in your own mind. You have to take that mess of data, sort it out, repackage it and organize it in a way that someone else can understand. This process forces you to reorganize the way that data is stored in your own head.

Also, as part of this process, you’ll inevitably find gaps in your own understanding of whatever subject you are trying to teach. When we learn something we have a tendency to gloss over many things we think we understand. You might be able to solve a math problem in a mechanical way, and the steps you use to solve the math problem might be sufficient for what you are trying to do, but just knowing how to solve a problem doesn’t mean you understand how to solve a problem. Knowledge is temporary. It is easily lost. Understanding is much more permanent. It is rare that we forget something we understand thoroughly.

So knowing that when someone teaches something they learn the subject at a deeper level, we can now understand that by allowing someone to teach us we are helping that teacher learn that subject more fully. That is:

In learning you will teach.


Let me take these in reverse order and offer some thoughts:

"In teaching you will learn" commonly means one learns important lessons when instructing somebody else. That it requires patience and compassion to teach, for example.

Regarding "in learning you will teach": Tarzan needs to learn a lot to survive. Perhaps the intended meaning is he will inspire (or teach) others in the process of learning and growth. By observing Tarzan, other characters will learn that he's tenacious, brave, etc.

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