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The Teacher and the Thief
A Traditional Tale From Japan
There was once a great teacher named Benzei. Children from far and wide came to study at Benzei’s school. Benzei loved his students and promised to do everything possible to help each one of them learn.
One day, a new student named Taku came to the school. Shortly after that, things started to go missing. The other students suspected that Taku was stealing. They decided to watch him and see if he really was the thief.
Before long, the students caught Taku stealing a pen. They went to Benzei and told him what they had seen. Everyone expected that Benzei would expel Taku from the school. Benzei did nothing. Taku continued to come to school each day.
Soon, Taku was caught stealing again. The students went to Benzei. Still, Benzei did nothing. Word of the thief at Benzei’s school soon spread throughout the village.
“What is wrong with Benzei?” asked one parent. “How can he allow a thief to stay at the school?”
“He does not punish the thief for stealing,” said another parent. “He is setting a bad example for our children. They should learn that if they steal, they should expect to be punished.”
“Benzei is now an old man,” said the village doctor. “Perhaps his mind is starting to go. We must keep an eye on him and see if he is still fit to teach the children.”
One man spoke up to defend Benzei. “Benzei was my teacher when I was a child, and I still visit him once a week. I can assure you that Benzei’s mind is as strong as ever. There must be a reason why he does not punish the thief. Let us wait and see.”
Once again, Taku was caught stealing. One of the students drew up a petition saying that if Taku was not expelled from the school, all the students who signed the petition would leave and go to another school. Every student except Taku signed the petition. Everyone was sure that now, finally, Taku would be expelled from the school.
Two of the older students presented the petition to Benzei. Benzei asked all the students in the school to gather together.
“I am proud of the students who signed this petition,” said Benzei. “I can see that you have learned your lessons well, and you know right from wrong. Any school would be glad to accept you. But what about the student who has not learned right from wrong? What school would keep him for long? If I do not teach him, no one will. That is why I have not asked him to leave. I want all my students to learn.”
Taku burst into tears when he realized how much Benzei cared about him. Taku never stole again.
None of the other students left Benzei’s school. They knew that they would never find a teacher who cared more for his students than Benzei.
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1. The beginning of the story tells a promise that Benzei made to his students. Does Benzei keep his promise?CorrectIncorrect
2. Why did the students suspect that Taku was the person who was stealing?CorrectIncorrect
3. The man who spoke up to defend Benzei said that Benzei must have a reason for not expelling Taku.CorrectIncorrect
4. Benzei did not want to expel Taku. How else could Benzei have tried to deal with the problem of Taku’s stealing?
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5. Taku never learned right from wrong.CorrectIncorrect