Friday, September 18, 2009

Still Grappling with Method vs. System

In the first place, we have no system of education. We hold that great things, such as nature, life, education, are 'cabined, cribbed, confined,' in proportion as they are systematised. We have a method of education, it is true, but method is no more than a way to an end, and is free, yielding, adaptive as Nature herself. Method has a few comprehensive laws according to which details shape themselves, as one naturally shapes one's behaviour to the acknowledged law that fire burns. System, on the contrary, has an infinity of rules and instructions as to what you are to do and how you are to do it. Method in education follows Nature humbly; stands aside and gives her fair play.

CM Volume 2 p. 168

Systems are to method as television is to life. It looks like life is going on there, but it is calculated, measured, only acting like life. Systems take the spirit right out of even living books. So sad. Instead of studies serving for delight, learning becomes dry. The children fret, or finish their assignments stoically. I become Casaubon, whom I do not admire. The atmosphere become thin and brittle with tension. Dislike, dislike, dislike!

Sometimes I fall into the other ditch and try so hard to avoid systems that I lose method, and any learning that takes place is haphazard and incidental. We become cheerful and enjoy ourselves, taking learning as it presents itself-- or not, as our feelings dictate-- and dancing about like grasshoppers with no provision for the morrow, which can take care of itself. But Like Mr. Gary Thomas says about Christians who are all grace and no discipline, our efforts turn into all yolk and no eggshell-- oozing all over the place, much promise of good, but in actuality good for nothing-- a mess!

Then there is that golden mean, when plans and nature, discipline and grace, come together and the Lord blesses our learning. Joy wells up and minds and hearts meld into wonder, and, sometimes, even understanding. Sister Lynn calls that 'teaching in a shaft of light'. I love it when that happens. She wrote a post on it, and on Plutarch and repentance and Dr. Grant-- and wanting tea in the late afternoon, and continuing a lesson anyway and receiving a much better refreshment. You should read it. She just nails it to the wall. I love Sister Lynn.

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