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A blog dedicated to the Source of everything good.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Let the children learn

At Intellectuelle I wrote an essay on the absolute nature of human nature. It was prompted by a quote I read in the Buffalo Sunday News by young author Ned Vizzini:
I learned at Stuy [elite Stuyvesant High School in New York City] about competition and kind of the absolute nature of life. There are winners and losers...High school was a brutal social arena where you learned the way the world really works.

Vizzini “acknowledges that his frame of reference is narrow, limited to elite, highly driven students in New York City,” yet I find that his frame of reference isn’t terribly different from mine, a relatively small school district in a relatively rural area of the Northeast. Nor is it terribly different from what can be observed in nearly every arena of life. Vizzini’s book, It’s Kind of a Funny Story, is “ an indictment of zero-sum cultures,” he says.

I would like for things to be a little bit different. I would like for people to be able to explore their interests a little bit more as young people, as opposed to be thrown into a cutthroat social environment from the time they’re 8 or 9.

Or from the time they’re 4 or 5....

True, children should be guided through the perils of society rather than sheltered from them entirely, yet at the same time, why throw a kid into such peril before they’ve had a chance to grow, learn, and mature in a loving, supportive environment? There are ways to buffer and ease a child into learning the ways of the world while at the same time teaching them what it all means, so that they may become “wise as serpents yet harmless as doves.” Not that this is impossible with involved parenting and good teachers in a school setting, but by separating social challenges from the general learning environment (other than sibling and parenting issues, of course) as occurs with homeschooling, a child is free to learn, unencumbered by social issues. Social understanding can then be gained in a social environment. Certainly a homeschooled child may also take public classes such as Sunday school, sports, music, and workshops, or attend any number of other public events, so that s/he gains group experience as well.

Such an environment is a prime one for fostering what I’d like to emphasize here, which is that children be allowed, even encouraged, to discover and explore their interests. Their interests will likely be where their giftings are, which is why children ought be given opportunity to pursue them, within reason. Other types of skills and knowledge can be gained around or through them. For example, a child can write a report on something of great interest to him/her, so as to learn the art of writing unencumbered by the burden of writing about something they are uninspired by. (Doing that can come later!) They can learn the mathematical or scientific principles behind what they like as part of their schooling.

I suppose such an approach might be called “unschooling.” Not that I believe that a structured, methodical approach should be forsaken, for there is great, even necessary, value in this as well. But I think it’s great when a child can be shown how the structure or method, or content of same, applies or relates to their area of interest. In this way a child can be motivated to study the nuts and bolts in a structured and methodical way. Their education may then be truly relevant (concrete rather than an abstract) to where their minds and gifts are, and they may be prepared to make proper use those gifts in this world. (Their minds and gifts can be made relevant to where the world is as well.) This is practicality of a sort that truly honors all involved, minus the type of contrived or abstract social engineering and occupational training that may be attempted in other educational environments.


  • I agree that children should be allowed and encouraged to learn by pursuing their interests while, at the same time, being made aware that they need to learn how to study subjects they may not, at present, be interested in.

    My nitpick of the day: Try as I might, I've yet to find "s/he" or "him/her" in the dictionary. Why not simply use "she" and "her"? Or "he" and "him"?

    By Anonymous Rusty, at 2:32 PM  

  • Good question, Rusty. I'm honored to be chosen for your nitpick of the day.

    My answer, for what it's worth: there are no slash-joined words in the dictionary, but sometimes they are used (perhaps incorrectly?) to indicate a meaning that encompasses both words when neither is sufficient on its own. (Such as either/or)

    When faced with the need to use a singular pronoun representing a person of either sex, I'd rather not single out one sex, since the statement applies to both equally.

    By Blogger Bonnie, at 11:17 PM  

  • Well, I like the way J. Budziszewski states it in the preface to Written on the Heart,

    "One last word. Where pronouns are concerned, I follow traditional English usage, according to which he is understood as inclusive unless the context clearly indicates the masculine. The same goes for man and men. However, I also observe the traditional exceptions to this rule: for instance, nature, the soul and Wisdom (poetically personified and understood as an attribute of God) are spoken of as feminine. The reasons for my choices would take us far afield. Readers who choose differently may write differently; I ask only that they extend the same courtesy to me. In the meantime, since my language includes masculine, feminine, neuter and inclusive pronouns, any rational being who feels excluded has only him-, her- or itself to blame."

    (Nitpick concluded)

    By Anonymous Rusty, at 10:00 PM  

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