phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Facebook  Twitter

Experience is the worst teacher

Posted by Bob on June 30, 2003

In Reply to: Experience is the best teacher posted by ESC on June 29, 2003

: : hi please help me with this assignment what is the meaning of the proverb experience is the best teacher?

: Most people learn more by doing something than by reading about it.

: EXPERIENCE IS THE BEST TEACHER - "The great Roman leader Julius Caesar recorded the earliest known version of this proverb, 'Experience is the teacher of all things,' in 'De Bello Civili' (c. 52 B.C.). Over a century later, the Roman author Pliny the Elder in 'Naturalis Historia' (A.D. 77) wrote, 'Experience is the most efficient teacher of all things,' and the Roman historian Tacitus said simply, 'Experience teaches,' in his 'Histories' (c. 209). The earliest English rendering appeared in 1539 as 'Experience is mother of prudence,' which was included in Richard Taverner's 'Proverbes or Adagies.'.the exact wording, 'Experience is the best teacher,' appeared in the 'Widow Bedott Papers' by Frances M. Whitcher." From Wise Words and Wives' Tales: The Origins, Meanings and Time-Honored Wisdom of Proverbs and Folk Sayings Olde and New; by Stuart Flexner and Doris Flexner (Avon Books, New York, 1993).

: Another source gives the meaning and a later date for the first English rendering: "One learns more from experience than from books. The proverb has been traced back to 'The Schoolmaster' by Roger Ascham and comes from the L*tin phrase 'experiential docent' meaning 'experience teaches.' Water Scott (1854-1900) disagrees with the proverb, saying that 'experience is the name every one gives tho their mistakes.'." From Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings by Gregory Y. Titelman (Random House, New York, 1996).

The old joke says "Experience is the worst teacher. You get the test first, and the lesson after." And that little jest has more than a grain of truth. Many people assume, as you do, that you learn by doing, that reading is a poor substitute. But reading allows you to learn how many people in many different circumstances have lived their lives and dealt with the complexities of life. You get to experience what it is like to be another person, to live in different centuries, to be old, or young. or dying or in battle. The really important lessons of life have been explored and re-told for centuries. Why should you blunder ahead and make the same mistakes others have made (for the "experience") when a thousand books can bring you the wisdom to make wiser choices. Learning trivial things (how to tie shoelaces) are probably best learned first hand - but the really big things, how to think or love or be kind or value what's important - first get some advice from Shakespeare and Moliere, from Dickens and Updike, from Frost and
Tolstoy and a thousand others.
Here's a practical suggestion: read "Catch 22" and "Red Badge of Courage" and "All Quiet on the Western Front" and you will never have to experience war first hand to know it.

Comment Form is loading comments...