Saturday, April 05, 2008

intelligence grows and bears fruit in joy

From a very thoughtful article Curiositas and Studiositas -- Matters for Self Examination by Alice Ramos(pdf):

Simone Weil also writes about the development of the mind’s power of attention through school studies and exercises. Along with contemporary educators, Weil realizes that attention demands a great effort and that twenty minutes of concentrated attention is already an accomplishment. The mind’s attentiveness to whatever school task is presented to it is not, however, according to Weil, due to an exercise of willpower, understood as a kind of muscular effort which only tires and is entirely barren no matter how academically successful the student may be. There is rather an affective and appetitive component to the life of the mind, which makes possible the sort of attention that Weil considers necessary for all academic work. Her concern is thus for the whole student. As she puts it:

The intelligence can only be led by desire. For there to be desire, there must be pleasure and joy in the work. The intelligence only grows and bears fruit in joy. The joy of learning is as indispensable in study as breathing is in running. Where it is lacking there are no real students, but only poor caricatures of apprentices who, at the end of their apprenticeship, will never have a trade.

Kim at Starry Sky Ranch wrote a series of posts on perseverance and how it works in her family:

She points out the virtue in learning to do what you don't necessarily want to do.

I have reflected upon this before.

Here I am not planning to reflect much, just put the links up and keep it as an open question for now. While I do believe that free volition (using one's will rightly and by choice, not through coercion) is key to true virtue and true learning (the two are intertwined for me), is there a place for exhortation and imposed discipline?

I am so much like Tevye sometimes.

"You're right!"
"You are also right!"
"How can you both be right?"
While I debate this in my head, in practice I tend to come down between the two. I look for the consent of the heart, which is my goal, but I do direct. Direction from outside, without the corresponding internal consent of the heart and mind, is not complete or as the philosophers say, it is "imperfect". Yet, I see it sometimes having its benefits. I even see my children seeking it out and using it as a power for their own self-direction. Kim mentioned this:

Mercy and gentle guidance are hallmarks of our faith. It is possible to plant in our children's hearts some seeds of understanding and to ensure their cooperation, although we may not have their complete comprehension until they are much, much older.
Leonie wrote about it too:

All the boys have studied at least one year of Latin, since dh and I think it is important - for language, for logical thinking, for beauty, for the Church.

So, with Latin, I am hoping to inspire and I definitely require the study. Yet, despite the element of requirement , last weekend, while making a roleplaying game, Anthony pulled out his Latin book .He perused the book, using Latin words for characters, places, items in the game. Anthony said it was fun!

My introducing a subject, my requiring a subject, did not kill a love of learning but enriched Anthony's play.

I decided that we are not aiming at perfection - just happiness and progression. So, some have tos and some want tos work for us. :-)

I also found a few other articles which are related to the subject of "Studiousness" -- I'm noting them down here:

If anyone has thoughts about either side of this question, I sure would love to hear them. Are there really two sides? I am not even sure of that. There is probably one goal -- children who grow up to be adults who are prepared to reflect upon their lives, live well, and learn throughout life, not just when "school is in session" or "when someone is supervising".


Us! said...

Crazy busy day here...but I would love to comment on this after I hava minute to peruse the links.


Willa said...

Thanks, Kristie!

Laura A said...

I don't know the answer. I only know that in practice, we do a bit of both. My heart is with the delight-led end, but I am convinced of the value of several studies that don't come naturally (Latin is one of those here, too.). Often the difference can be reconciled by the method of study, or perhaps by reminding the (teen) student of the ultimate value of steady practice, but not always. So I try to create a sort of groove of routine and an atmosphere conducive to study, which is not the same thing as an invariable schedule. And sometimes, when I see a certain interest developing, we drop everything and run with that for a while.

Compounding the difficulty in introducing any outside requirements is that sometimes my daughter will resist and resist a subject, only to suddenly spring forward by light years all in one day. This happened yesterday with algebra, of all subjects. But I confess to often needing at least slightly more predictability than that.

I guess the only thing is to nurture the relationships, listen, try to form steady but not stultifying habits, and be ready to strike when the iron heats. Clear as mud?

Love that Simone Weil quote!

Willa said...

"I guess the only thing is to nurture the relationships, listen, try to form steady but not stultifying habits, and be ready to strike when the iron heats. Clear as mud?"

More like an enchanted mirror, perhaps ;-)! This is exactly what I aspire to, and your whole comment reflects my own experience with homeschooling my kids. Of course, the reality -- where I am now and what I do-- is often something else again, more's the pity. Nurturing, habits, quick and accurate activity -- if I could do those consistently I think I would be, well, a lot closer than I am now to the mother I'd like to be.