Sunday, May 28, 2006

Chesterton, Covey and Efficiency

I read the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey when my oldest two were quite little - around the toddler years. One of the things I appreciated most from his book was the idea of "effectiveness" vs. "efficiency". The quote that particularly struck me was this:

You [should] think effectiveness with people and efficiency with things… I see many parents, particularly mothers with small children, often frustrated in their desire to accomplish a lot because all they seem to do is meet the needs of little children all day. Remember, frustration is a function of our expectations, and our expectations are often a reflection of the social mirror rather than our own values and priorities.
although this one is also good, and I think patience is a related concept...

Patience is faith in action. Patience is emotional diligence. It's the willingness to suffer inside so that others can grow. It reveals love. It gives birth to understanding. Even as we become aware of our suffering in love, we learn about ourselves and our own weaknesses and motives.
These were very helpful concepts to me - just the things I needed to hear back then (and be reminded of occasionally now as well!).

Well, now, here I am reading Chesterton's Heretics and one of his themes seems to be efficiency (perhaps I could say the fallacy of efficiency). The concept comes up in a few places, but this is on of my favorites...

It is not fashionable to say much nowadays of the advantages of the small community. We are told that we must go in for large empires and large ideas. There is one advantage, however, in the small state, the city, or the village, which only the wilfully blind can overlook. The man who lives in a small community lives in a much larger world. He knows much more of the fierce varities and uncompromising divergences of men. The reason is obvious. In a large community we can chose our companions. In a small community our companions are chosen for us. Thus in all extensive and highly civilized socities groups come into existence founded upon what is called sympathy, and shut out the real world more sharply than the gates of a monastery. There is nothing really narrow about the clan; the thing which is really narrow is the clique. The men of the clan live together because they all wear the same tartan or are all descended from the same sacred cow; but in their souls, by the divine luck of things, there will always be more colours than in any tartan. But the men of the clique live together because they have the same kind of soul, and their narrowness is a narrowness of spiritual coherence and contentment, like that which exists in hell. A big society exists in order to form cliques. A big society is a society for the promotion of narrowness. It is a machinery for the purpose of guarding the solitary and sensitive individual from all experience of the bitter and bracing human compromises. It is, in the most literal sense of the words, a society for the prevention of Christian knowledge. (Heretics, XIV)

It seems to me that homeschooling has some of these beneficial non-efficient qualities. The "inefficiencies" in study CAN end up leading to discovering and developing a child's unique gifts and talents and to a greater love of learning. I think it's true that some, perhaps many, homeschoolers don't cover as much material as traditional schoolers cover - but often times the material covered is learned more throughly (and oftentimes enjoyed more) because the homeschool doesn't have to be as efficient. Our homeschool co-op (six families) is just small enough to force the children to make friends with all the others in their class or age group rather than just choosing to hang out with the ones they're more comfortable with.... (still stewing over this one some more - it's a somewhat new concept for me)

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