Friday, May 27, 2011

Narration II: The Student Whisperer

This book has got me thinking. I am now almost through Chapter 4. Honestly, I think the book is valuable for the journals alone. But some of the educational philosophy stuff has set off warning bells in my mind.

Her idea that every student ought to study for eight to twelve hours per day by the age of twelve or thirteen bothers me. It seems to focus on books to the exclusion of all else. I can’t be happy with it. There needs to be time to take walks, to serve with your hands, to develop relationships with the people around you. I do think teenagers should do hard things, and have rigorous studies, but I’m kind of on the side of the parent who pulled her student out of the school because he was studying too much. It sounded like his life was out of balance.

Just because the Founding Fathers went to university at the age of twelve or thirteen doesn’t mean it is the right thing to do. There were some flaws in the thinking of the Enlightenment, such as the idea that rationality was supreme, Reason was everything. Imho, their emphasis on rationality and reason is one of the reasons philosophy went off the deep end in the 1800s with Transcendentalism.

Ask John Quincy Adams about his family life. He was an amazing person, and I am so glad the U.S. had him, but his life was not healthy. Can a person be a statesman and have a healthy life at the same time? For some reason, I think of Theodore Roosevelt when I ask this. I have only read a couple of his biographies, but he seems to have had balance as well as passion. He DID study and read and write a lot, but he disciplined his body so he could get up early and have plenty of time for other things as well, including exercise, family life, nature, music, art, service to others, developing practical skills, etc.

I think this kind of life has to be built up gradually. Teddy Roosevelt did that, beginning with physical exercise and study as a young man. I don’t have a problem with my students studying eight to twelve hours per day when it is necessary (and my high schooler does study that much at times), but there has to be time for the development of the rest of the person.

Back to the danger of deifying reason-- I do think that reason is important, but it is a servant to the ideas we embrace, whether those ideas are good or bad. The student’s job is to accept right ideas and reject wrong ones, prior to letting reason loose on them. (I am a little sketchy on how this can happen prior to reasoning them through, but it has to do with emotional attachment and making sure your assumptions line up with your belief system.) I can tell that Tiffany Earle understands this from her discussion of philosophy in her academic journal excerpts. However, I think there is a danger of ‘book learning’ being emphasized too much

Again, The Student Whisperer assumes knowledge of TJEd, and I haven’t read the book. I am speaking from a position of ignorance. I am going to ask a friend if I can borrow it.

Also, after sleeping on the first three or four chapters, I wonder how far a mentor can go before his or her inspiration becomes the ‘suggestion’ that CM denigrated. We don’t want to be manipulative. We are to feed the student on books and things (ie., nature objects, etc.) and then draw out what is already in the student that is capable of relating to those ideas and objects. I am wary of a mentor disrespecting the personhood of the child. It is too easy to become a guru. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of mentoring. I want to inspire students to something better. And I want someone to inspire ME. But I want us to think of the Lord first when we hit a roadblock. Tiffany Earle does talk about getting on your knees when you are unsure what the next step is, so I think she agrees, but this book places such importance on mentoring that it would be easy for a person to read the book and get the wrong idea. Again, I speak in ignorance of TJEd. I’ve got to get that book.

Can a person be a great mentor and avoid becoming a guru? Where is the line between inspiring and controlling? (I am using the term’s negative connotation, such as the leader of a cult.)

It does seem as if the students own their process of education in this method, although Tiffany Earle’s high school success (pre-TJEd) was motivated by emulation. Her biggest “award” on graduation day, although she received more scholarships and recognition than any other student at her school, came from the realization that one of her teachers had treated her with cordial respect not because she was smart, but because of herself. She told this story for a reason—it is important to her that students be respected not for their academic achievements, but because they are persons. I agree with that.

I may simply be responding to the possibility that this much power is capable of corrupting the mentor. Anyone in a position of profoundly influencing another person’s life has to be wary of their own weakness, of the possibility of corruption.

On the other hand, lack of wise guidance leaves young people at the mercy of their own desires, whether for good or ill. They need mentors to stand for right and model goodness. This book further illuminates how challenging it is to love and counsel teens. I was hoping it would help, not raise more questions! (It probably will. I'm only on Chapter 4.)

First narration here.


Javamom said...

Thankfully, students who choose to make this commitment are not expected to study 8 or 12 hours a day in the early stages of the process. They only make the choice in order to find and execute their life's mission; whatever God supplied them for in life (my own words, there).

Also, when you get to chapter 7 and read "The Student Whispers Creed" you may feel much better.

There are seven types of mentors (which you got a taste of when she was talking about her manuscript being read and discussed in her class).

I am trying to find where I read that mentors also have mentors.

She grapples with the irony of the problems with systems, and yet without a system, will inspiration happen?

Now I need to get blogging to keep up with you!! LOL!!

KayPelham said...

Here's a few things that occurred to me dealing with a focus on reason and rationality. I thought about the apostle Paul telling Festus that he speaks "the words of truth and reason." And I thought about God, through Isaiah, telling Israel to "come and let us reason together." I don't think that reason and rationality are opposed to God and spirituality necessarily. God built us to reason and deduce and such and I think it is to his glory for us to use those faculties. I think a lot of error happens because people are not intellectually honest. Regarding the Adams family, that family just makes me sad. What a waste. After reading a few books and articles and watching the John Adams series, if he is at all portrayed accurately, I think the he suffered a great deal from insecurity (to put it mildly.) What a waste to have had such a great relationship with his wife, but to have lost his children.

Regarding mentors --- I understand your hesitation. I sometimes think I need to be careful with Charlotte Mason and know she wasn't the be-all-end-all. And that brings me to something that she taught -- that we should have many teachers and read from many books (also our teachers) and set out that full banquet before us and our children.

Not having read the book you are reading, I don't know at all what is being said or the spirit in which it is being said. These are just thoughts that came to my mind as I read your post.


Katie said...

Kay, I love, love, love what you said about CM recommending we have many teachers. That is a great point to chew on while I consider the rest of this book!

And I agree with you about reason and rationality. The 'ideas in the air' are erring in the other direction now. Christians are becoming the ones accused of too much rationality.

It seems to me true Christianity is more in the center, understanding the balance between reason and faith, while the culture moves from one extreme to the other.

Katie said...

Yes, Kim, I need to see your thoughts on this book... Have you posted yet? :D

I'm excited about gleaning some new tools from the book for my relating-to-teens toolbox, even though the 'system' thing turns me off a bit. I work better with preschool/elementary than with jr high/high school kids. But that's no excuse. I'm around teens most of the time now! I have to learn.

Javamom said...

I keep getting sidetracked with other things. I had to write up something for my Dad for Mom's Caring Bridge post, as well, and you know, this book emboldened me to be more direct on there, hoping that some of their friends will take them prepared meals. 2/3 of the way through her treatments, ppl are not around as much to help. Our daughter-in-law is in town now, as well, but I may have some snatches of time over the next 24 hours, so stay tuned!

Ah, life!