Master Farmer Part 12




WESTVIEW PRESS                       1986



Chapter 11: Teaching Competencies

  • Why is it necessary to teach competencies?
  • How should they be taught?
  • What is the basis for deciding which skills to teach?


Hodja story #12

In Hodja’s village there was a Greek community with a priest who enjoyed playing chess but had no one with whom to play. One day the priest decided to teach Hodja the rudiments of chess, following which they started a game. Before they began he crossed himself and checkmated the Hodja after a few moves. The next time they played the priest crossed himself and again won. After several games in which Hodja always lost, he turned to the priest and asked him whether if he crossed himself before each game he too might win. “Yes,” replied the priest, “but first you have to learn to play chess.”

Teaching competencies ensures that peasants acquire the skills to deal with their problems rather than wait passively for prayers or outside experts to solve them. No single maxim is more useful to those working in development than one attributed to Confucius:

I hear, I forget.

I see, I remember.

I do, I understand.


Chapter 12: Changing Attitudes

  • Is it possible to organize short courses that distinguish between the technical, financial, and social concerns of the trainees?
  • What should be the major considerations in choosing course content?
  • Is it advisable to integrate men and women in training programs?


Hodja story #13

One day a big argument split the village into two groups. They called Hodja to resolve the dispute, but his wife warned him that they might turn on him. As Hodja felt a responsibility he could not shirk, he put on his robes of office and set off with his wife to the square, where the villagers had gathered on opposite sides. The leader and a chorus of voices from the first group shouted to him to make sure that he understood their point of view. After listening awhile he stopped them and said, “Hey, you are right,” and set off across the square with his wife trailing behind him. The second group shook their fists to convince him of the validity of their point of view. He listened and finally replied, “Hey, you are right, too.” His wife pulled on his robes from behind and whispered that they could not both be right. He turned to her and said, “Hey, wife, you are right, too.”

Chapter 13: Problem Solving

  • How does problem solving relate to development?
  • Why is this skill important for the development worker and for the peasant?
  • Can problem solving be taught in training programs?


Hodja story #14

One day a man in Hodja’s village died, leaving seventeen donkeys for his three sons. According to his will the oldest son would receive one half of his donkeys, the second one-third, and the youngest one ninth. When the sons were unable to divide the donkeys according to their father’s wishes, they came to Hodja to resolve their differences. “You are fighting over nothing,” said Hodja. “I will lend you my donkey and everything will be in order.” Adding his donkey made the total eighteen, so that he gave one-half, or nine donkeys, to the eldest son; one-third, or six, to the second, and one-ninth, or two, to the youngest, making a total of seventeen. He bowed to the three young men, climbed on his own donkey and headed for home.


Chapter 14: Building Self-esteem

  • How can villagers be helped to understand themselves?
  • Can development workers help them develop better self-images?
  • Do training programs broaden their outlook?


Hodja story #15

One day Hodja’s apprentice said, “Hodja, everyone says you’re good. Does that mean you really are good?” Hodja replied that this was not necessarily so. The boy then asked whether if everyone said that Hodja was bad it would mean that he was bad, and again Hodja replied negatively. When the apprentice enquired how he could tell, Hodja told him that if the good people said he was good and the bad people that he was bad, then he was good. He paused for a moment scratching his beard, and then continued, “But you know how hard it is to tell which are the good people and which are the bad.”

Dr. John Henry House founded the Farm School primarily to inspire self-esteem among village youth. He felt that the most important part of development was to help young people become aware of and accept themselves for what they were, by recognizing their shortcomings as well as their positive qualities. He was convinced that with guidance they could learn to overcome their negative feelings about themselves and reinforce the positive ones. In short, he felt that people could change. His goal was to encourage his students to understand their potential and identify themselves, in Hodja’s phrase, with the “good” people. His goal was closely akin to the Socratic concept of “Know Thyself.”

Chapter 15: Metamorphosis

  • Is there a dimension to development work beyond management?
  • What personal qualities in a development worker can inspire people?
  • What stumbling blocks can a development worker anticipate?


Hodja story #16

One day the Hodja was resting at a crossroad on the edge of the village. A stranger stopped to ask for directions. When Hodja asked him which village he was heading for the stranger looked hesitant and said he was not really sure. “Then it doesn’t really matter which road you take,” said the Hodja, with a trace of a smile on his face.

The process of metamorphosis, defined as “change in appearance, character, circumstances,” has been the source of fascination down through the centuries. For most people it has a mystical as well as a physical aspect. Writers as diverse as Ovid in the first century and Kafka in the twentieth, as well as a variety of artists, have attempted to interpret the concept of transfiguration. Biologists think in terms of larvae spinning their cocoons and turning into butterflies.

Which of the many roads to development is more rewarding? Very few of those working in rural communities have really thought this question through. Agricultural experts speak in terms of per acre yields. Others press for industrialization. Population experts press for family planning. Economists stress scarce resources and factors of production. Ultimately the answer grows out of the Irish concept of helping peasants do what they want with what they’ve got. The quality of village life can best be improved by better management, but this is only a part of the total development process. Peasants must be helped in their search for new directions, while at the same time retaining pride in the traditions of their culture. Distinguishing between enduring values and those that can be discarded is one of the most challenging tasks of the development worker.



Appendix A

New technology and practices are continually being introduced at the Farm School, usually for the first time in Greece. The following list has been compiled from the Farm School’s records dating back to 1912.

Appendix B


Thessaloniki, Greece

Teacher’s instruction for Use of Teaching Package

The teaching package is a guide for the teacher’s use in teaching a lesson.



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