The beginning of the second essay in the Denma translation of Sun Tzu's Art of War addressed the nature of the "sage commander." In essence, this character is not a historical person, but rather a personified form of idealized wisdom. The act of personification makes it easier to relate the ideas of the Sun Tzu to our daily lives.

The idea of a personified form of idealized wisdom is powerful, and we find it everywhere. In Aesop's fables, in the classic hero's journey tales, in books of philosophy that choose to show their ideals through stories. Stephen Covey, in his 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, talks about living a principle-centered life, and how we derive security, guidance, wisdom and power from the center we create for our lives. Personifying our life's principles is a metaphorical leap that makes it much easier for us to live those principles. We embody them in a figure we can see ourselves following; a dependable Alpha creature who, no matter what, will always hold our allegiance.

We can understand the religious figure of God in this metaphorical way. God is a psychological catalyst (albeit an abstract, conceptual catalyst) that continually renews our perpetual refinement of the values inherent in the belief system He inhabits. Values like loving kindness, self-reliance, generosity, personal growth, commitment to longer term objectives, engagement in the community (and spreading the ideas to others), and honesty. In this case, the metaphor of these idealized concepts as, collectively, a "person" is incredibly powerful, since it enables us to interact with these ideas in a very tangible and natural way. When we pray (and have a conversation with an omniscient being), it holds a mirror up to our own lives and reveals the myriad ways we can improve. The stronger our belief in the existence of this personified set of universal values, the more powerfully they shape our lives. 

In a very different vein, much of the materials written about the Reggio Emilia schools are utopian in tone and rhetoric. This observation is explored at length by Hall et al in their discursive analysis, one part of which explores how Reggio Emilia schools are seen both as exceptional and yet paradoxically transferrable to other contexts. The exceptionalism of the Reggio schools - the utopian way their teachers run their classrooms, how they interact with parents and students - is understandable, since generally only the proponents of their practice will bother to write books on it. However, they often gloss over the practical challenges (different in each classroom) which make it hard to transfer these ideas into each local reality. 

This is a fine psychological exercise if we acknowledge that the role of "teacher" being presented in these works is a personified version of an idealized wisdom. These are godlike characters, stories of utopian applications of these principles, which are wonderful as inspirational guides.

However, teaching will invariably be carried out within complex realities of funding, resource decisions, teacher/ student ratios, curriculum requirements, parent involvement, student interest, and far more.  Let's keep exploring the finer points of our inspirational guides, just so long as we don't apply them as impossible measures of successful teaching.