Sunday, March 07, 2010

Going Back to the Beginning

I have been rereading the book, _Postmodernism_, by Gene Edward Veith, in preparation for a study with Aravis, and for some reason it was important to me to search Cindy's blog for any posts containing that word. I was not disappointed.

She quotes Andrew Kern, another one of my favorite bloggers and a very thoughtful educator, as saying that the tools used for assessment can actually change the learning that is being done (my very general paraphrase of his words), and not in a good way. Cindy talks about recognizing the tension between what she intrinsically knows to be right in terms of education and the "proof" society expects from us, then she gives her wise-woman advice, which I love:

How do I deal with reality? I do what I want in my homeschool and then I have the students use study guides for the various tests they take and also take sample tests.

Savvy homeschoolers learn to translate what they do in their homes to the institutional world without having to compromise too much.

Mr. Kern does utilize standardized tests at his private Christian school, and he gives a run-down on the benefits of standardized testing here. And here is an interesting post in which he thinks through standardized testing in terms of the Christian classical tradition. A quote:

The Christian classical educator embraces his ignorance too. He recognizes perfectly well that he can know almost nothing about what the tradition is doing right here and now in the child. He can certainly measure whether a child is developing in a healthy manner, but that is more easily done by particular observation of a particular child in a human relationship. He recognizes the danger that measurement will distract from what really matters.

Ironically, of course, by tending to the health of the child’s soul and body, the Christian classical educator produces a child who scores higher on the standardized tests. Which leads the school to celebrate these scores more than they merit, thus distracting the activities of the school from the tradition and gradually converting the Christian classical school into a hollow shell.

Unless it is led by men and women of clarity and courage.

Standardized testing can be very intimidating to homeschoolers, and it is quite easy to sink your family into "the modern trap of assessment" after experiencing some success, rather like the monkey with his hand in the coconut gripping the peanuts: he doesn't want to let go of the prize, but his liberty is lost until he does.

Ask me how I know.

As I continue to delve into these ideas, I am comforted to realize a truth that Francis Schaeffer expressed in _The God Who is There_. I cannot find the quote at the moment, but if I am remembering correctly, he said that no matter where you are, returning to the biblical Christian system of thought is as simple as going back to the beginning-- "in the beginning, God..."

I am a big goof, but that makes me think of Inigo in "The Princess Bride": "I am waiting for you, Vizzini. You told me to go back to the beginning, and I have. This is where I am, and this is where I'll stay. I will not be moved. I do not budge... I - am - waiting - for - Vizzini!"

**We may be confused on whether to seek some pre-Enlightenment ideal or postmodern Christian resurgence, or whether to simply make sure the house is clean and the kids are respectful-- but in the midst of this chaos of mind, these Martha-thoughts, it is good to remember that Mary has chosen the better part and it will not be taken away from her. Like Inigo, she goes back to the beginning. She brings her children and sits at the Lord's feet, drinks in His words, and lets the philosophies fall where they may.

**Edited to change the last paragraph back to the way it was before I hit publish the first time.

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