Monday, November 14, 2005

Test Everything: Hold Fast to the Good

"Test everything; hold fast to what is good."

These are some "unschooling" principles I've found to be compatible with Catholic principles:

--One, the child is the primary agent in his own learning.
--Two, no teaching method should be contrary to human dignity.
--Three, each learner is individual. Consequently, though education has an objective aspect, we as learners approach it subjectively.
--Four, methods and approach are more important than content per se in learning.
--Five, family and community are core bases of learning and schools are secondary at best; they were conceived to *support* the efforts of the family and its network, not displace or work against them.

There are probably more. Unschoolers didn't invent these truths. And some unschoolers distort them. But to the extent that they worked to re-affirm and protect these principles against pretty strong government and social forces, they were on the same page as Catholics fighting for the same things.

Contra: General Concerns with Educational Methods

--a method that uses discurve, syllogistic guidance
--that emphasizes the teacher-student relationship
--and the objective, hierarchical, "not-purely-utilitarian" nature of learning
--and the fallen nature and ignorance of children, who need training and guidance and the benefits of the experience of their elders.
-- and the orderly nature of things, which ought to be reflected to some extent in our approach to learning.

So, it seems parents should be active in teaching and they should have a broad view of their objectives in educating their children. They should have some order in their approach, not just follow the inspirations of their children's interests.

The unschooling literature seems to back off from these aspects of education, yes. There is sometimes an undercurrent that any kind of authority or guidance is a power ploy. I find that troubling. It's possible that with some well-meaning Catholic unschoolers, it might lead to a hesitancy in parenting and educating that could cause great harm.

In some cases, also, the weight of one's own education completely on one's own shoulders could be crushing to some kids, and to others, lead to a kind of pride and autonomy that would be incompatible with the humility that's an important aspect of "studiousness" and Christian teachability.

Studiousness (from the Summa)

"It is written (Proverbs 27:11): "Study wisdom, my son, and make my heart joyful, that thou mayest give an answer to him that reproacheth." Now study, which is commended as a virtue, is the same as that to which the Law urges. Therefore studiousness is properly about "knowledge."

"Properly speaking, study denotes keen application of the mind to something. Now the mind is not applied to a thing except by knowing that thing. Wherefore the mind's application to knowledge precedes its application to those things to which man is directed by his knowledge. Hence study regards knowledge in the first place, and as a result it regards any other things the working of which requires to be directed by knowledge. Now the virtues lay claim to that matter about which they are first and foremost; thus fortitude is concerned about dangers of death, and temperance about pleasures of touch. Therefore studiousness is properly ascribed to knowledge. "

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