Tuesday, December 13, 2005

more about education

Connecting Your Family with History
In his book, “The Restoration of Christian Culture”, the late Professor John Senior cried out for reclaiming the joy of our faith. He wrote, “I fear sometimes that conservatives, not just liberals, are like the Pharisees –Catholics, but with a strong, unloving determination to be right; whereas the Camino Real of Christ is a chivalric way, romantic, full of fire and passion, riding on the pure, high-spirited horses of the self with their glad, high-stepping knees and flaring nostrils, and us with jingling spurs and the cry “Mon Joie!” –the battle cry of Roland..” I want my children to be head over heels in love with their God and their Catholic faith. To want to cry out to the world, “My hope is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth!”
Restoration of Christian Culture

This is the thrilling romance of Orthodoxy. People have fallen into a foolish habit of speaking of orthodoxy as something heavy, humdrum, and safe. There never was anything so perilous or so exciting as orthodoxy. It was sanity: and to be sane is more dramatic than to be mad. It was the equilibrium of a man behind madly rushing horses, seeming to stoop this way and to sway that, yet in every attitude having the grace of statuary and the accuracy of arithmetic.

Chesterton, Orthodoxy

Why am I putting this under an "Education" category? Well, I believe it relates.... somehow. I have an ideal about Learning and indeed Living. It should be joyful, daring, romantic, and chivalric. No, I'm not saying we should only do things that give us a thrill.

A few years ago I wrote in Cay's book Literature Alive! about our family's experience with Tolkien's books. I wrote that when we were driving behind an ambulance with our infant in extremis, and when we were slogging through late nights and long days at the hospital in a strange city, we could identify with the little hobbits who struggled on under a crushing load not of their own making, but which they had been chosen to bear, though they were not sufficiently strong to do so.

My point here is that there are many times when we are dragging, carrying not only our cross but our own human weak response to that cross. Yet, somehow, "Mon Joie!" Joy, romance is not non-stop fun and games at all. It's something that lights up even the darkest corners. It makes misery somehow not less miserable, but like treasure. Like selling all you have, digging through the muddiest fields, to find the pearl of great price. You still hate plowing through that dirt but it's worth it and invested with meaning and value.

Chesterton said that education is at core a transmission and nothing else. Fagin will teach a child to love beer and burgling; a British officer will teach the child to love bacon and eggs and his country. Both are educators. Socrates will teach his students to love wisdom and to understand that they are not wise. ... eliciting the humility, the sense of "discrepancy", that makes learning possible. We call all these men teachers. The method of their teaching will probably vary according to what they are trying to teach. Fagin will offer the children treats, jesting and surrogate fatherhood; the British officer will offer challenges and strict routine; Socrates will offer time and attention and thought, what we call now "engagement" in sorting through things.

ST Thomas teaches that education is generative; that it is because the father is the generative principle in the begetting of the child, that the father is primarily responsible for the education, intellectual generating, of the child.

I need to think a bit about the different theories of education and what they are "transmitting". Unschooling seems to transmit a kind of ownership and active approach to one's own learning, and a respect for individuality. Sometimes I get an unpleasant aftertaste of "All teaching is bad teaching." I don't think there HAS to be that. I think what it comes down to is that people never complain about the teaching aspect of their role unless it is somehow breaking down, ie the child is resisting it. An unschooler would tell the parent to back off, not the kid to give in and be taught. But "teachability" is most definitely a virtue and not one that is easy to acquire. "teaching" is an art and also not one that is easy to acquire.

No comments: