Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Learning Our Way Forward

A similar strain of thought from two disparate sources crossed my path in the past couple of days. Thus the impetus to share them as we flip the calendar in the coming hours. The first incident comes from a piece called Soul of a Teacher, that appeared in an email from the Community Works Journal, a frequent visitor to my inbox.

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In this piece veteran educator Cynthia Hughes relates this vignette.

     One day in the woods, walking up towards a stream, Alex (one of my students) suddenly said, "I love the sound of water". He said it with conviction, and I knew it was his own experience his own soul-taking, not something someone told him he should appreciate or learn about. To me, it is the small moment like this that measures a person's intelligence for living. A moment [like this] will matter a lot more twenty years down the road than one's ability to achieve a high test score. That is what I appreciate about school at its best.



The second source is from Arne Naess last book, Life's Philosophy, written when he was 90,shortly before his death. In this incredibly reflective look back at life through the eyes of a noted philosopher and logician he talks about the role and importance of emotion. I can't recommend this book enough.


Front Cover

  It's one of the few I have re-read and can see re-reading again and again. And don't be afraid that this is turgid philosophic meanderings. It is a gentle walk with him through some great landscapes of thought. The forward by Bill McKibben, and introduction by my dear friend, Harold Glasser, are also wonderful in their own rights. It is a small book in format and length, but holds many riches. Including this brief excerpt that reminded me of the passage from Hughes above.

     When I was about five years old, collecting big numbers meant a great deal to me. I obtained a lot of notepaper and wrote down all the big numbers that I came across. I had particularly pleasant feelings for the numbers on railway goods wagons. It was a true pleasure in abstract things and not in cars, for instance. This collector's pleasure was perhaps somewhat dampened when I heard that there were infinite many numbers. Consequently there was no point in writing them all down.

     Some children develop strong feelings for the fantastic and gigantic. And this brings me to teaching. I want wonder to be emphasized more in all education, and what is "certain" to be put more in the background. There is a connection, although a somewhat loose one, among big numbers, big waves, big intervals of time, big distances to the stars, and great goals and affairs. But at the same time we must encourage children to seek the great in the small, a feeling for greatness with a feeling for the tiny, tiny little pleasures, little ripples on the water.

     I believe more seriously than many others that it is beneficial as an adult to preserve the childlike, imaginative wonder about life. Children have a less defined, fuzzier attitude to the divide between reality and imagination, a divide that plays a decisive role among adults. If parents were to participate in imaginative wondering, the imaginative powers of their children would survive their school days better. But the parents would have to make it clear that they do not describe facts. (pp.17-18)

A better future must be possible and its starting place must be in our imaginations. Thought is the predecessor to action. May we take the next steps to a better world. It is possible!
One day in the woods, walking up toward the stream, Alex (one of my students) suddenly said, I love the sound of water”. He said it with conviction, and I knew it was his own experience, his own soul talking, not something someone told him he should appreciate or learn about. To me, it is the small moment like this that measures a person’s intelligence for living. A moment will matter a lot more twenty years down the road than one's ability to achieve a high test score. This is what I appreciate about school at its best.
- See more at: http://www.communityworksinstitute.org/cwjonline/essays/a_essaystext/soulteacher_cynthia.html#sthash.sVIAT1f9.dpuf
One day in the woods, walking up toward the stream, Alex (one of my students) suddenly said, I love the sound of water”. He said it with conviction, and I knew it was his own experience, his own soul talking, not something someone told him he should appreciate or learn about. To me, it is the small moment like this that measures a person’s intelligence for living. A moment will matter a lot more twenty years down the road than one's ability to achieve a high test score. This is what I appreciate about school at its best.
- See more at: http://www.communityworksinstitute.org/cwjonline/essays/a_essaystext/soulteacher_cynthia.html#sthash.sVIAT1f9.dpuf
One day in the woods, walking up toward the stream, Alex (one of my students) suddenly said, I love the sound of water”. He said it with conviction, and I knew it was his own experience, his own soul talking, not something someone told him he should appreciate or learn about. To me, it is the small moment like this that measures a person’s intelligence for living. A moment will matter a lot more twenty years down the road than one's ability to achieve a high test score. This is what I appreciate about school at its best.
- See more at: http://www.communityworksinstitute.org/cwjonline/essays/a_essaystext/soulteacher_cynthia.html#sthash.sVIAT1f9.dpuf
One day in the woods, walking up toward the stream, Alex (one of my students) suddenly said, I love the sound of water”. He said it with conviction, and I knew it was his own experience, his own soul talking, not something someone told him he should appreciate or learn about. To me, it is the small moment like this that measures a person’s intelligence for living. A moment will matter a lot more twenty years down the road than one's ability to achieve a high test score. This is what I appreciate about school at its best.
- See more at: http://www.communityworksinstitute.org/cwjonline/essays/a_essaystext/soulteacher_cynthia.html#sthash.sVIAT1f9.dpuf