As a teacher and an amateur philosopher I find it more than a little interesting to stop and think about this undeniable fact: the most important goal of my job is something I have no direct control over… whether or not a student actually remembers something.
I can sing, dance, show slides and films or sermonize and make it relevant to every stage of history and still utterly fail at getting some of my students to actually LEARN any of it. It quite simply is not in my power to implant ideas or knowledge into another brain and make it stick. I can show that brain things, even show that brain how to keep and maintain ideas and knowledge, but I cannot make it CHOOSE to try and retain any of it.
Learning, real learning, is only done by the learner herself. Two occasions are the most common reasons for learning, the first is when something strange or wonderful happens and we can’t help but to remember it. The second is the deliberate choice and diligent effort of the learner.
Responsible and talented teachers work very hard to make as many things as possible fall into the former category, but if you’re dealing with a classroom, it’s impossible to make the same things strange and wonderful for everyone. So a few will be captivated and in turn never forget what happened that day, but the least motivated and hardest to excite will still be slouching in the back row, giving marginal attention to the day.