Monday, May 30, 2011

Inspiring Learners

Three more ideas from The Student Whisperer-- and now I must clean my house! More later.

1. We learn more effectively when we are inspired by love than when we are forced or manipulated: This is a difficult concept to delineate, because sometimes we are easily manipulated when we love someone or something. But real love of learning is a love of truth. It is turning away from ignorance because we want to know the truth, as much of it as we can possibly grasp. It is a sort of repentance. We realize we don’t know, we wonder, and we want to learn. In this book, there is so much focus on formal mentoring and the mentee’s purpose in life that I see two dangers-- 1) of thinking the mentor’s inspiration is all-in-all, and 2) of focusing solely on the student’s desire to become his “real self”. The focus should not be the mentor OR the mentee—it should be our love for God, manifested in our desire to know the truth of whatever we are learning. I agree that our own gifts, talents and passions should be considered. I agree that we can be and are inspired by others in our search for truth. But the focal point should be God, not ourselves and not someone else. I have witnessed people completely swallowed up by the big personalities of others. The only Person that ought to consume us is the Lord. And those of us in positions of authority (either official or conveyed by the trust of another person) must be wary of exerting undue influence.

2. The government cannot legislate education: “The educational system seeks a quantifiable, measurable system, while year after year parents, students, teachers and observers leave frustrated that schools so often fail to deliver that spark, that flow, that light that defies virtually all types of measurement…Great education is not about institutions or bureaucratic policy. It is about individuals, one by one, becoming who they really are.” Ms. Earle says in another place that the best thing legislation can do is secure a proper atmosphere for learning, ensure the freedom to learn. CM quoted the Gospels to illustrate this code of education: “It is summed up in three commandments, and all three have a negative character, as if the chief thing required of grown-up people is that they should do no sort of injury to the children: Take heed that ye OFFEND not––DESPISE not––HINDER not––one of these little ones.” Where public (and private) school systems fail is in trying to legislate the learning part. That would best be left to wise teachers “on the ground”, so to speak. They can see what is needed and will provide it naturally if they are allowed, something a system or bureaucracy simply cannot do. This begs the question of teacher education. I think the homeschooling movement shows, anecdotally at least, that even ‘untrained’ teachers can learn to ‘stand or fall on their own efforts’. And more often than not, when unhindered by regulations, they find their feet and passionately stand. (And here is a caution for homeschoolers as the movement matures: Do not desire to return to Egypt, and do not lay grievous, legalistic burdens on young families. As long as we can, let us educate with all the glorious, inefficient, individual liberty God gave us.)

3. Great mentors inspire by example: Passion and devotion are catching. What are you passionate about? What are you devoted to? ;o) CM called this Mother Culture (we have buzzwords too) and encouraged moms and teachers to keep up their own studies. I have seen my kids take something up simply because I am keenly interested. For example, my 10yo has an excellent ear and has been known to 'sound out' entire sections of piano pieces I am learning. Sometimes I stop her because she hasn't gotten far enough in her technique to execute those pieces properly. She mustn't develop bad habits. But I also have an obligation to help her on her way, as far as I can, and as quickly as she would like to go. Okay, maybe not quite as quickly as she would like. I want her to have a well-rounded education, and not work on music to the exclusion of other things she ought to know. This means we have to moderate her music learning so that, even if it is a large part of her learning, it is not the only thing she learns.

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