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    Another Poetic Knowledge Recap

    July 8, 2008 by Brandy Vencel

    I still have quite the collection of quotes. Reviewing them all, typing them up, reflecting on them one last time…the whole process helps solidify what I’ve learned. It’s a process that I’ve performed many times before, only once upon a time it was done in a private journal.

    Because blogs hadn’t yet been invented.

    That’s an interesting thought.

    Anyhow, here are some more quotes from Poetic Knowledge: The Recovery of Education. Did I mention I love this book?

    I love this book.

    [E]xistentialism, now so widely invoked by theologians and atheists alike, begins with a radical subjectivism that, under the terms of the form is always in danger of “creating” a God so personal as to become private and indistinguishable from man…

    Just something that made me say hmmmm.

    Rousseau’s passionate desire for self-sufficiency in the learner leads to alienation, asserting…that we learn alone and exclusively in the subjective mode…One of the natural results of Nature, growth, is that men form societies, no matter how crude and primitive, and pass on knowledge one to another as teachers and students within families, societies, and schools.

    A possible danger I see in homeschooling is that children might perhaps think that knowledge is always and absolutely best acquired through the reading of books in solitude. This is not only contrary to logic, but also to the Biblical ideas of education as taking place through conversation within the family in Deuteronomy 6 and also instruction from the Teacher to the student {as the Teacher serves as mediator between the student and the world} in Proverbs, just to name a couple examples. I find myself wanting to make sure that my children are exposed to various sources of knowledge over the coming years so that they do not become too dependent on any one method of learning.

    “A man should have a farm or mechanical craft for his welfare. We must have a basis for our higher accomplishment, our delicate entertainments of poetry and philosophy, in the work of our hands.” {Taylor quoting Ralph Waldo Emerson}

    This is quite a counter-cultural assertion. Our society disdains the labor of the hands. Those of us who are educated are expected to pursue specializations and leave manual labor to others. There is no sense of a balanced man, a man grounded by intimate knowledge of real things–of trees, whether this be growing them, pruning them, or making from them something beautiful. I think Charlotte Mason understood the necessity of the real in learning, and this is why she encouraged the life out-of-doors and also the teaching of handicrafts to even the very young. If we are not intimately tied to the world about which we think and ponder, we are in danger of thinking about said world in ways which are entirely wrong, for we cannot possibly understand the nature of the thing.

    Thus, under modern education,

    the child…is introduced to a kind of intellectual work which, all things considered, is rather easy: reading books and compiling facts. At the end of his studies he is not capable of doing any other work than reading books and compiling facts. So, he becomes a bureaucrat, an employee, a professor, or tax collector. He doesn’t even realize that he can do anything else…he himself thinks only of leading others on toward the same routine. {Taylor quoting Henri Charlier}

    I remember that after I graduated college I was keenly aware that I knew how to do absolutely nothing. I had no ability to produce anything tangible. Graduate school had always appealed to me, for I have a love of learning, but it also was a “safe” route–a route of the familiar books-and-learning routine. I wasn’t fit for much else. Mothering has been a gift to me in that I have acquired actual, useful skills. It has grounded me in reality in a way that my school education never did, and probably never could.

    “The majority of things made today are not made by men at all. The majority of men today do not make things. They only do what they are told.” {Taylor quoting Eric Gill}

    It is true, that men today are mostly fit for taking orders. It is my belief that government education is specifically tailored to the production of men with a slave mindset, which is why there is very little crying out against the elimination of the liberal arts. Liberal arts, being fit for free men, have a limited audience, and the size of that audience dwindles with each generation graduated.

    I remember once hearing Dr. Voddie Baucham speaking and he marveled that whenever he told folks that he homeschooled his children, one of their first questions was whether or not such a thing was legal. He declared that this was a question asked by a person with a slave mindset, not a free man. He himself was determined to think and to act as a free man. If you have ever heard Baucham explain his background, then this statement becomes particularly profound.

    “[T]hese crafts are superior in a way that can never be taken away from them, that is, they teach there is a nature of things. A professor can have fallen into great error, can be mistaken, and he can stay there his whole life destroying thousands, ten thousand intelligences, but nonetheless will continue to have a good job and will have a very comfortable retirement afterward. But if a peasant fails to plant his fields two times in a row, he’s ruined.” {Taylor quoting Charlier again}

    And so I learned that one value of crafts is that they anchor the soul to reality, regardless of which craft in particular is practiced.

    The Bible refers to the law of sowing and reaping. Ideas have consequences, it is true, but it is hard for us to understand when we reap what we have sown with our minds, and we are never able to fully identify when something is a consequence of our thought and when it isn’t. Couple this with the fact that many ideas sown into the culture take longer than a generation to reap, and we begin to see why we thinkers can have a reality-disconnect.

    With the crafts, there is a direct result that can be reaped in only a year or two. This is good for the soul in that we understand that what we do impacts the world around us. The crafts tie us to community in this way.

    “Mistake me not: wonder is no sugary sentimentality, but, rather, a mighty passion, a species of fear, an awful confrontation of the mystery of things.” {Taylor quoting Dennis Quinn}

    Wonder is akin to reverence, I think.

    Curiosity belongs to the scientific impulse and would strive to dominate nature; whereas, wonder is poetic and is content to view things in their wholeness and full context, to pretty much leave them alone.

    Interesting distinction.

    If education does not cultivate the natural desire for union with reality with the understanding that the poetic and gymnastic modes are real knowledge, then it delivers something profoundly inferior to the reality and powers of the human being. For desire of the real to rise up, there must be something real to arouse it, and gadgets, computers, and gimmicks used to hold attention, all taking place in classroom environments technologically insulated from reality, are simply parts of the generally unlovable atmosphere of modern education–unlovable because they are all efficiency, utility, and no longer beautiful.

    And that’s a good place to conclude. Things that are real will hold no interest if a child isn’t introduced to them in the first place. This is why we have a low-tech {no-tech?} approach here at the homeschool. We do not wish to be distracted from the good, the true, and the beautiful which it is our aim to pursue. As was the moral in our Aesop for Children reading yesterday:

    Do not let anything turn you from your purpose.

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