Friday, March 31, 2006

Chesterton on Education and a Little about Roadblocks

from What's Wrong with the World (1910)...

I mean the responsibility of affirming the truth of our human tradition and handing it on with a voice of authority, an unshaken voice. That is the one eternal education; to be sure enough that something is true that you dare tell it to a child.


Education is violent; because it is creative. It is creative because it is human. It is reckless as playing on a fiddle; as dogmatic as drawing a picture; as brutal as building a house. In short, it is what all human action is; it is an interference with life and growth.

This last quote especially, reminds me of the piece I came across a little while back about a different way of looking at the word "artificial". So we work with nature (or perhaps with the best of what comes naturally), despite or against fallen nature, but to a certain extent, mastering something and learning to do it with diligence is artificial "in the best sense."

It also reminds me of a conversation I had with my youngest brother a few weeks back. Helping children learn to overcome "roadblocks" is an important goal of education and parenting, we decided. Isn't there sometimes a point where nature says "enough" but determination (and perhaps artistry, creativity and just plain stubborness, not to mention necessity) proceeds a little farther? Life as a grown-up is filled with all sorts of challenging "road-blocks." It seems to me that some practice in overcoming some reasonably-sized road-blocks (with lots of loving encouragement and sometimes just a little shove from their parents) helps build confidence, self-esteem and an important skill for the child's future.

I remember this being important to me as a young child. It always took me a number of tries at a particular type of math problem before I really "got it". Until then, the lesson was a bit of a mystery and I felt sort of lost. Left to my own devices I would have given up - at least some of these times. I didn't know ahead of time that if I had a little patience and plugged through two or three more problems or whatever, things would get a little easier. That's the sort of thing parents and teachers are there for - to help you keep the pace even when you don't think you can keep on going and help you get through that toughest stretch just before the point of success.

Of course, one of a parent's most challenging roles is to have a sense of when you should help your child go a little farther, and when they really need to stop and pick things up again later (I even test the waters sometimes by offering a treat if they get to such-and-such a point rather than threaten a punishment if they don't). Here is a place where homeschooling can have a huge advantage - parents have a better idea of where the children are and what they are capable of. Homeschooling also allows you to set your own pace so that you can take the time to do*a little* really well rather than plug through *a lot* too quickly.

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