There are two competing views regarding the responsibility students and teachers have for the education of the former. One places primary responsibility on students; the other, on teachers. In fact, they are two sides of the same coin, and they are both mistaken. Before I get to the third way, let me just summarize the two.
According to the view championed by students, teachers have the largest part of responsibility for the students’ lack of success: teachers do not know how to teach, they do not give students enough information, or the tests are unfair. The list can go on.
According to the other, more traditional view, it is entirely the students’ responsibility for their own success. The professor, being an expert in the field, shows to students the content of the course, where they can find further information, or how to use methods to gather and interpret that information.
Both views stem from a punitive, legalistic concept of responsibility that results in fear of failure, anxiety, and guilt for both students and professors. It also harms the educational system as a whole, and it leads to the mentality in which students write for their professors, mentality I mentioned before: see here. This kind of responsibility establishes an outcome and finds an individual responsible for the outcome.
But there is one other possible view that goes beyond this dichotomy. This view says: placing blame for one’s lack of success for something makes sense only as long as we work with a notion of individualism that separates the individual from his or her community, and so inevitably transforms the individual and the community of which it is a part into enemies. There is a different notion with which we need to begin, and this comes, after all, from health sciences. If we consider that students go to schools because they want to be “educationally healthy,” then the cause for everything that takes place within such institutions is the future person that the students want to be. The future person is a cause in one of Aristotle’s senses of causation (the final cause): both students and teachers work together so that at the end of their schooling students are able, all things being equal, to live the life they want to have. It is actually a view based on love: students and teachers are in love with those human beings who graduate universities. In some situations, these human beings will never come to life (they don’t graduate). Of course, we can find “blame” by looking at various events from the students’ lives, incongruity between students and teachers or anything you may think of, but all of this matters not. What matters is the love that makes all things move within an educational institution, and this love is for future beings. Sometimes, regardless of how much doctors do their best and regardless of how much a patient is willing to work for his or her health, the outcome is not positive. But this is life: we all fail in different moments of our existence. What sustains us is the love we have for the beings that wait to be born.
This love does not deny responsibility: it rather gives it dignity. It is no longer about guilt and merit, but about doing our best to be what we can be, knowing fully well that we may fall on the road.