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    Educational Philosophy, Home Education, Other Thoughts

    Honoring What is Worthy of Honor

    April 13, 2009 by Brandy Vencel

    Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.

    Romans 13:7


    There has been a bit of a controversy in our town. I’ve been observing it as an outsider, since the debate deals with details within the government schools, and we are homeschoolers. But the issue points to a larger principle that I have been thinking about over the last three weeks or so.


    Honoring What is Worthy of Honor



    What got me started was a short blog post by Andrew Kern over at the Quiddity blog:


    Technically an honor roll can’t be a “classical concept” because they didn’t give grades in the classical world so there was nothing to build it on.

    However, they made a huge deal out of honoring what was worthy of honor {they never would have considered honoring students who didn’t demonstrate virtue in their work just to make them feel good} knowing that “what is honored is nourished and that which has no honor is neglected.”


    I’ve never met a homeschooling family that has an honor roll, a valedictorian, kindergarten or eighth-grade graduations, or other such “honors.” Most of them seem to have a graduation ceremony {some big, some small} when the child graduates entirely from the family’s school, meaning when they become an adult.

    Now, I’m not saying that, for instance, a valedictorian shouldn’t happen in an institutional school setting, because I think it is worth honoring the school’s top student.

    What is up for debate in our area is eighth-grade graduation. This graduation is a tradition here. In talking with older folks, I have discerned that there is a good chance this graduation began back in the days when many families considered graduating the eighth grade the end of formal, institutional schooling. There wasn’t much the four years of institutional high school could do to prepare children for a life of labor on the family farm.

    And also eighth grade was a lot harder back then.

    So when we look at it from this perspective, eighth grade graduation should have simply been replaced by high school graduation when California began to require attendance in high schools because high school then replaced eighth grade as the end of the child’s formal education. Because eighth grade is no longer the end, eighth grade graduation has been emptied of its former significance. My father explained this to me when I was in eighth grade, but I disagreed with him then because I really wanted him to buy me a pretty dress.

    I am oversimplifying here, and I know there are a few other issues to be considered, but this is basically what it boils down to.

    What I found fascinating was Kern’s idea that Honor Roll is not a classical concept. As I started thinking about it, I began to wonder if Honor Roll isn’t another instance of the modern desire for efficiency playing out. It is easier to have a mathematical scale and then churn out an honor roll quarterly or annually or whatever the school decides than it is to honor individual virtue when and if it is appropriate.

    I made the honor roll a time or two in my day, and I can say that I didn’t have to work that hard to do it, and I certainly would have worked harder had it been required of me. But honor roll was enough.

    If we maintain that only the things which are honorable should be honored, then we have to admit that some kids work harder for “honor roll” than others. Some kids cheat their way to honor roll. If it is virtue which should rightly be honored, then we need to recognize that the honor roll system in the way it is now administered is likely to be consistently rewarding both virtue and vice, and it has no method of discerning between the two.

    The children are therefore not learning, in this instance, to distinguish between what is good and noble and what is evil and shameful.

    I think that when David Hicks wrote that the goal of modern education is not to produce virtuous citizens, but rather to help students learn to get along in this modern world, this is part of what he meant. We do not always honor what is honorable, and we also sometimes honor what is dishonorable.

    Now, because we run our own school, we have to figure out how to apply this in our home. And since this is a lesson which transcends school, we have to figure out how to apply this in our life.

    As I considered this, I was surprised to find that this was something we had done in the past once or twice, though I need to make a better habit of it.

    Once upon a time, I had a little boy who had to conquer a fear in order to be potty-trained. He had been trained in about a week, and then we went to a party. At the party, a man who shall remain nameless {you know who you are} joked with my little boy: “Don’t fall in!”

    And my boy became terrified of the toilet.

    It is sort of amusing in retrospect, but at the time it was irritating because I thought I had gotten off so easy in the training aspect.

    To make a long story short, it took nine months to complete his daytime potty training. He didn’t just have to learn to control his bladder; he had to learn to be brave.

    And when he did, we threw a party. I made a cake with a toilet on it {I kid you not}, and family came over and other family made phone calls and he received a lifetime supply of Big Boy Underwear.

    And there was great rejoicing.

    Our second child potty trained in a week, easily. We didn’t throw a party. But we did throw a party for her a couple weeks ago when she had finally mastered recognizing her capital letters. This was a hugely difficult task for her because her brain is still healing and catching up from her delays due to allergies. I have never seen a child work so hard at such a young age. She wanted to learn her letters so badly, and she quizzed herself constantly throughout the day.

    She was using mainly Tasha Tudor’s A is for Annabelle and specifically requested an Annabelle cake. Thankfully, I already had the right cake pan!

    So, again, family came over and celebrated an accomplishment.

    And soon, Si is taking our son E. on his 100 Books Trip.

    So we have the form of the thing, I think.

    However, comma.

    I don’t think we fully have its power. When we celebrated potty training for our son, we made a bigger deal out of being trained than we did bravery. With our daughter, I made a bigger deal out of knowing her letters than I did diligence.

    The power in honoring lies in honoring that which is honorable. This is what I have been learning. My hope is that, as we move forward, we don’t forget to give honor where honor is due, and in correct proportion. And I hope that we remember to highlight virtue above all.

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  • Reply Karyn April 14, 2009 at 7:04 pm

    Very well said (as usual). I agree completely and you’ve given this mommy-to-be a lot of great ideas and things to think about as I help God mold Hayden into the person He wants her to be.
    I also LOVE the cake! It reminds me of the one my Gma made for my birthday one year (except her dress was orange- my favorite color at the time). 🙂

  • Reply Brandy April 13, 2009 at 9:38 pm

    Gracie, I would be honored (ha ha) to make you a cake! Let me know what you want. I would go into business except I’d have to become a perfectionist about it and I’m just not motivated to do that. The reason this one came out so nice is that I actually got the frosting the correct consistency on the first try!

    Mystie, you are right that it is easier. I can see why it’d appeal to institutions, especially big schools with a lot of students. Smaller schools and home schools should be better able to implement a true honoring-of-the-honorable sort of system. Perhaps this is an argument for keeping schools smaller.

    Ellen, I loved what your mom had to say. I really respect the moms who were the frontrunners for us. I keep hearing that Moore book quoted over and over. Google books doesn’t have it, so I will have to break down and find a real copy to look at.

  • Reply Ellen April 13, 2009 at 9:32 pm

    Awesome cake! Oh, and my mom is tickled pink that you linked her words in the sidebar of your blog. Thanks for making her feel special. She’s already one special lady for attempting to hammer some knowledge into my hard noggin… =)

  • Reply Mystie April 13, 2009 at 9:18 pm

    That’s a great distinction, Brandy!

    Lots to think about….

    The mathematical figuring of honor is so much simpler and does not require paying attention and knowing your students. And, you can’t plan ahead for honoring achievements of bravery or diligence; you have to wait for those struggles to manifest, then set a goal, and see how things go…it takes much more patience and time.

  • Reply Gracie April 13, 2009 at 9:18 pm

    Ummmmm…wow…the cake…did you actually get it up? Bran: Can you make me a birthday cake or just a cake just because? I’ll let you know what I want! You should go in business. 🙂

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