Do we have an obligation to respect our teachers?


Many philosophers teach us to respect those who are teaching us. For example, one of the five classics of the Confucian canon [The Classic of Rites - Liji] claims in "Record of Education" that:

Upon securing the proper reverence for the master, the virtue he embodies is regarded as honored. When that is done, the people know how to respect learning.

Is advice like this outmoded?

In India, teachers are recognized as near Gods, but this seems inappropriate to me because education is a business.

One is not required to respect a clerk at a store where one buys a product, and teachers are also people selling a product; therefore, one is not required to respect a teacher, either.


Posted 2014-08-28T21:10:11.217

Reputation: 11

Question was closed 2014-08-28T22:30:45.037

it does help learning i think – None – 2014-08-28T21:20:09.140

It does. but The question is how can i respect a person if he is doing things for money and also not being nice to me at certain times. – Avan – 2014-08-28T21:31:01.540

a difficult question, i think - but Avan IMHO if someone isn't being nice to you it's best to look after yourself - if you can't win them over – None – 2014-08-28T21:33:42.743

You mean to say there is fault in me that i can't win them over. – Avan – 2014-08-28T21:37:00.217

no, i would not say that at all.

FWIW i've been there, and i didn't deserve it, but it was my "fault". what i really meant in my reply here is that being principled is good, but may not be the best course of action here - i dunno – None – 2014-08-28T21:40:37.537

1And also. In Indian society, teachers being referred next to god. I find it terribly hard to swallow. – Avan – 2014-08-28T21:44:10.060

How should i calm my mind. How should i take things from here on? – Avan – 2014-08-28T21:53:13.757

IMVHO ask yourself a) what they want you to do and b) if you want to do it, then do it. best of luck mate – None – 2014-08-28T21:58:37.257

Honestly, just breathe more to calm yourself down. I don't think respecting people that mistreat us comes naturally to anyone. Remember, you not being respectful isn't going to help anything. You have the power to take the step to be a better person. – Calvin – 2014-08-28T22:08:20.183

and if i don't do it .They will come back to haunt me. One teacher was holding a grudge on me . She was looking for an opportunity to get back at me. I asked her politely what made her shout like that . My offense wasn't that severe. She replied back to me saying said something to this faculty about me . And I swear to god . They all misunderstood me there. – Avan – 2014-08-28T22:09:18.213

I'm guessing most people have had a run in with a teacher at some point - I know it's more surprising then not when I don't have a teacher I'm not regularly at odds with. But that doesn't mean we should stop doing our utmost to model the respect we hope not only ourselves but all people to be treated with. Being petty ourselves just excuses others to be petty. We have to be better. – Calvin – 2014-08-28T22:22:45.327

@Calvin - i find the thought of "better" person just a delusion. – Avan – 2014-08-28T22:23:12.813

This could use a little work to be optimally on-topic here. Maybe you could share a little bit about what may have made this an interesting or important problem to you in terms of your study of philosophy? What exactly would you like someone here to explain to you? What hypotheses have you formed and what has your research uncovered so far? – Joseph Weissman – 2014-08-29T03:29:43.660

How about now ? – Avan – 2014-08-29T15:51:21.960

1I mean, Confucian philosophy puts a lot of value on reverence for others in general, as a vector for maximizing order/harmony in society; I'm not sure respect and understanding in this sense could really be "outmoded" in any meaningful way. Maybe you could share a little more -- maybe clarify exactly what it is you would like someone to explain to you, what an answer looks like in your mind -- especially with regards to why you think Confucius is no longer relevant (?) given the state of interpersonal affairs, or hypocritical relations to money, within certain educational systems. – Joseph Weissman – 2014-08-30T14:05:12.903

1I'm definitely willing to reopen this if we can get just a little more context/motivation here, a little closer to NPOV -- again it may be simpler just to ask directly the question in the headline with respect to Confucius (perhaps asking why we have an obligation to teachers?) – Joseph Weissman – 2014-08-30T14:06:17.487

The revision is clearly better than the prior one. But Confucianism is one of my AOCs and I'm not sure quite what you're asking us to answer. Mostly, I don't quite get what you mean to ask with the term "outmoded." Are you asking to weigh in on whether contemporary society does follow a classical teacher as exemplar model vs. a school as business model? Or are you asking us whether it should? The former is an empirical question. The latter is a pretty broad and open-ended one. – virmaior – 2014-08-30T16:28:52.560



Is it justified that we have to respect teachers?

It is most likely in your own best interest to respect teachers so that you don't put them on edge and learn less than you could've from them. So I think it's in your best interest, yes, which I suppose is a type of justification.

If you considerable evidence to believe you aren't going to learn something from a teacher or would become less educated under a teacher, then respect would be less necessary as a teacher, but I believe you should still respect that teacher as a person if nothing else.

Isn't that too much.

I doubt it, respect is powerful, costs you nothing at least in a physical sense, and contributes to a global sense of well-being. If you are concerned you are not being respected, I don't think having less respect in general is the solution to that.

Does saying good morning ..changes anything ?

Good morning is an extension of your best wishes - a method of voicing support. Supporting your teacher should enable that teacher to teach better, unless that teacher is functioning under non-standard social protocols, and enable that teacher to better provide instruction.

I find it useless to respect people unless they earn it.

In that case, if you expect to be respected, you should be sure to take steps to earn respect yourself. Warning, this is going to get wordy:

The best way to earn to respect is to show respect, so if you want respect you have to respect those that you want to respect you that they might earn your own respect to fulfill the objectives of showing respect.

If they are still failing to earn your respect, then I'd exercise caution but still at least outwardly show signs of respect, because one of the partners in a mutually respectful relationships must be the first to show respect if showing respect is a pre-requisite for earning respect.

Maybe I'll come back and edit the wordiness on this down after I've had some time to break it down a bit, but for now I would just encourage you to try to treat all others with respect at all times as this should be aligned with your own best interests.


Okay I slept on it and think I may have a better wording here. I'll leave the old one in case that is easier for some people.


Four related conditions as follows.

X is showing respect to teachers.

Teachers are not showing respect to X.

X doesn't want to show respect to those that don't earn respect.

X believe respect is earned by showing respect.

So X either wants a license not to respect teachers, or the teachers to respect X.

What X can control:

X can show respect or not show respect.

Strategy 1: X does not show respect.

As X does not show respect, by X's own philosophy teacher's won't show respect. Therefore no respect is earned and no respect is shown.

It is possible teachers may take initiative to show respect. I'm not going to cover that possibility as we know X has already taken initiative in this example.

Strategy 2: X does show respect.

As X shows respect, X is worth of respect.

Case 1: If teachers operate under X's philosophy or similar they show respect to X. Mutual respect earned and shown.

Case 2: If teachers operate under another philosophy, they may not show respect to X. X has earned respect but does not receive it, teachers have not earned respect but do receive it.

Determining the optimal strategy then requires understanding pay-offs. Now, as the purpose of interacting with teachers is education, you could, for example, place a value of infinity on teachers receiving respect and a value of zero on teachers not receiving respect, as this should maximize educational potential. This would make strategy 2 optimal. If, however, education is not the aim, and minimizing cost is where respect confers a non-zero cost, then strategy 1 is optimal.

I don't know X's utility curve, but this is the game theory beyond my recommendation. I do assume a non-zero value on education and a zero cost on showing respect, because that is the curve I operate under and was how I determined my own actions when I was in a circumstance akin to X's, and that is why I will always recommend strategy 2 as optimal.


Posted 2014-08-28T21:10:11.217

Reputation: 563

I do respect people. But how come i respect a person who is doing it for money. And also isn't being nice to me. – Avan – 2014-08-28T22:04:17.423

It's pretty hard to find people that never do anything for me and are always nice to everyone. We respect them just the same. It is in your own best interest to be maximal respectful to be maximally respectable, at least, as far as I can reason with what I believe to be your understanding of respect. – Calvin – 2014-08-28T22:07:23.567

I will respect people if they deserve to be respected. And same goes with me. Teacher's don't like to hear our side of the story [Most of them] which i finds disrespectful. – Avan – 2014-08-28T22:17:46.410

The teachers, however, are also the ones operating from the position of authority. The onus is on you to take the first step for that reason. If you can't stomach showing respect for whatever reason, that's your prerogative, but I don't think you can argue it is either the moral high ground or in your own best interest. It seems to be the same behavior you fault them for. But that is just what I'm able to understand from the little knowledge I have here. – Calvin – 2014-08-28T22:20:59.807

If i don't find my dad's tone nice enough. i stand up and say it to him ..I would rather do that to my teacher too. And I am treating both of them equally. But they find it offensive. – Avan – 2014-08-28T22:31:24.670

@x-x: Lets say that I decided that I am God, and all mortals are less than me. Now no human tone can be respectful enough, but since I've decided that I deserve more, I'm going to be rather angry. Most likely, no one believes that I am God. They consider me to be an insufferable jerk. This is why respect is a two way thing. – Magus – 2014-08-29T17:07:07.227

Agreed. what should i do ? – Avan – 2014-08-30T03:17:55.053

@x-x You should treat everyone else with the utmost respect at all times. – Calvin – 2014-09-02T14:26:56.717