Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Thoughtful responses

Recently, this discussion surfaced on a home education message board regarding the tension between giving our children a rigorous education while, at the same time, instilling a love of learning.

Consider Banner & Cannon's thoughts on learning from The Elements of Teaching:

Learning justifies learning. A teacher’s confidence in the intrinsic worth of knowledge is fundamental to all instruction. Such deep-rooted belief makes a teacher able to relate knowledge to life, to all human experience.

To students’ typical questions, “Why do we have to learn this?" or "What good is such knowledge?” the typical instrumental answers come to mind easily:

“Because it’s required by the school board.”
“Because you will do better on your licensing exam.”
“Because you’ll need it.”
As home educators, are these not similar to the answers we give to those whining "Why do I have to do this" type of questions? Often we do not take the time to think through the answers we spout back to the children. Afterall, we are trying to get through our plan-of-the-day or our designated page numbers and simply want our children to comply with the plan.

But life just doesn't follow our plan much of the time. (An aside: This reminds me of the quip "If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans.") Maybe what we need are ready answers that soon became a mantra. After hearing these responses repeated time and time again, students will feel rather empowered by at least repeating them to a younger sibling. Over time, most children will adopt the action behind the mantra.

Here are some thoughtful responses from
Banner & Cannon:
The teacher with deep learning answers with conviction and authority more pertinently:

“Because acquiring this knowledge is difficult.”
“Because you will feel triumphant when it no longer confuses you.”
“Because you will enjoy what you can do with it.”
“Because in learning it you may discover new perspectives on life, new ways of thinking.”
“Because its possession will make you more alive than its alternative, which is ignorance.”
Aren't these responses more substantial than the typical ones?
Are they not true and good?
Do they not seem to provide an enjoyment of successful learning?


“To scale the uppermost heights, we often must come out of the lowermost depths. The way to heavenly joy usually leads through hellish travail.”
~Herman Melville


1 comment:

Carol in Oregon said...

"Because acquiring this knowledge is difficult." I LOVE IT!! Thank you for posting another thought provoking message, Janie. You are a jewel.