Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Wednesday with Words: To Know As We Are Known (Part 2)

We are surviving through some type of bug/ flu thing around here.  This is made more frustrating by the fact that we celebrated a 5 year old birthday and today celebrate my husband's 40th.  Not feeling very festive but fortunately the grandparents have stepped in to help out.  I did finish To Know As We are Known by Parker J. Palmer and it is GOOD.  I really can't explain all that it says well, so I will just pick some of my favorite quotes to share.
In Christian understanding, the gap exists not so much because truth is hidden and evasive but because we are.  We hide from the transforming power of the truth; we evade truth's quest for us. 
Throughout the scriptures knowing and obedient listening are linked . . . but he also connects obedience with freedom.  This connection is not simply a quirk of Christian teaching.  The idea that freedom is achieved through obedience to truth is also at the heart of a liberal education, whose aim is to liberate us through knowledge.  
He spends a whole chapter explaining our common practices that reinforce an objective approach to learning and life.  I liked this insight best
By keeping students passive and feeding them a steady diet of facts, we try to kill off their passions. Conventional education strives not to locate and understand the self in the world, but to get it out of the way.
But we find it safer to seek facts that keep us in power rather than truths that require us to submit. 
In the end he says

So, what is the alternative?

He talks about classrooms that have "openness, boundaries, and an air of hospitality."  His descriptions are helpful but the main idea is to allow people to realize that they don't know things, give them time to think and worthy things to think upon and allow dissenting opinions.

Readings are an important part of this discipline and he explains
There is often need for longer reading assignments to gather background information and perspectives, but a shorter text can become the arena of focused exploration. . . The key to this approach is to keep the students firmly within the boundaries of the text, to keep them from fleeing into ungrounded opinion, wishful thinking, or irrelevant facts.  
He speaks often of allowing silence - even if it is uncomfortable - to be a part of the classroom and conversation.  I need to hear this - daily!  We also must admit and deal with our feelings towards the subject - not that they rule us - but, because they are discussed openly, they cannot rule us.  As he explains, "But as I create a space for feelings, I find that the group's capacity for tough mindedness grows."

He then spends a whole chapter looking at the issue of obedience.  This is his definition

I know I am guilty of reading, thinking something is a good idea, but doing NOTHING about it.  I am not being obedient to truth.  I am not acting on what I have heard and therefore my education is incomplete - or possibly not even begun.  As he explains, "that however accurate a teaching may be it is not truthful until we follow it with obedience."  He ends by discussing humility in the teacher, other spiritual graces, silence and solitude.  This is something we have to fight for as he explains
This is the vacuousness of mass society and of mass education: our lives alternate between collective busyness and individual isolation but rarely allow for an authentically solitary or corporate experience. 
It is a short but meaty book with both philosophical and practical thoughts.  It is worth your time if you are interested in creating true learning communities.  What he is calling for is not easy - for the teacher or the student - but it is worth it.  

See what others are reading at Ladydusk.  

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