Learning, Responsibility, and Power – Rory Miller


“From my place at the front of the room I have complete responsibility to speak clearly and with fearless honesty. I accept full responsibility for communicating with my students and for seeing to it that the message does get through. 

But that 100% responsibility on my shoulders does not lighten the student’s responsibility at all.The student has a responsibility to actively participate in the learning process, which can include making the instructor explain unclear ideas, or challenging questionable concepts, or asking how to integrate apparent contradictions. No matter how dedicated the instructor, in the long run, self-education is the only kind of education there is…”
Yes. Here’s the way I see it.  I will assume 100% responsibility.  If I am the teacher it is 100% my responsibility to be understood.  And if I am the student, it is 100% my responsibility to understand.  These percentages and the concepts of teaching and learning, the relationship of teacher to student are not exact realities.  A huge amount of every interaction you have with other people is being created in your head. Humans don’t deal, almost ever, with objective reality.  We ascribe meanings from our own histories, and interpretations from our own internal connections to everything we hear and everything we see.You can and do control this process. A fairly large amount of it you can control mindfully, consciously.  And some you can only influence.
Can I learn anything perfectly, 100%?  Of course not.  And are there teachers that can affect how much I learn?  Absolutely.  So is shouldering 100% responsibility even possible?But here’s the thing.  If I delegate responsibility, if I say I’ll meet the teacher halfway, I now become dependent.  If the teacher only gives 25% I will fail.  I will be waiting at the halfway point and he will be waiting at the quarter point and we will never meet.  If I commit to making the journey all the way, with or without the teacher, I will get there.  I will get there very fast with a good teacher and slow with a shitty teacher, but I will get there.And there is both what Kai would call ‘agency’ in this and power.  Agency is your autonomy.  As described above, anything you delegate, any responsibility you shirk creates a dependency. It removes choices from your hands.  If you don’t procure your own food, you don’t get to decide what to eat.  If you can’t procure your own food, you have given up 100% of your agency and other people get to decide whether you eat.

It’s a mental trick, assuming 100% responsibility, but there is power in it. Agency is control is power is choices.  Like the concept of “100% responsibility” there is no absolute power.  You cannot prevent bad things from happening and most aspects of your life are influenced profoundly by other people you cannot control… but that makes it more, not less important to assume control.  The less power you have the more you need to use it wisely, the more foolish and dangerous it is to give some away.

One last note, for the self-defense world.  I occasionally hear that “Women should not be taught to be cautious, men should be taught not to rape.” I agree with the last part. But the entire thing is phrased as a false sort, as if there are only two options. Moreover, the first part of the statement… for someone to not be taught anything is to assume you have the right to remove or deny someone power.  Never let anyone take your power, no matter how well-meaning they might be.

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