Sunday, March 19, 2006

Learnin' Teachin'

Education is a structure which is never completed; like a house, there is always decoration, or redecoration, or additions and occasionally subtractions. At each stage, responsibility shifts to a different trade.

The Christian educator, Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556) said, "Give me the child for the first seven years, and I’ll give you the adult.” It is inescapable, the first seven years are normally given to the parents.

It is in those first seven years that the foundation to the house is laid, and the sills set. It is during those years that the prep-work is done for the carpenters – the teachers – who will work under the watchful eye of the owners – the parents.

As with the construction of a new home, occasionally an architect is involved. But they are there to interpret, and seek to achieve, the owner’s conception of what the resulting structure shall become.

The parents are the designers and ultimate builders of the adult they brought into the world, and/or the child they decided to bring to adulthood.

However, once in school, the child becomes public property – it is a defender of the nation, engine of national economic growth, and a potential taxpayer. As public property, it is the duty of the state to provide it with the necessary tools to fulfill its full potential.

Like the house, which is an it that becomes a home, our children become “its” when they are in the public arena. If you doubt that, look at the dead from, and in, Iraq; at best they have become numbers.

The parent, like those who build their own home, has the ultimate responsibility for the end result; and thus must hold the craftsman responsible for their incompetence, or malfeasance. Modern society has created an interesting problem – the craftsman must conform to rules set by the government, and if they comply, liability is not theirs.

As parents, we are responsible for the role Loyola commanded, we are the ones who shape the adult. Our genetics provide the material, we, individually, select the genetics which we will use to bind and build the foundation.

At one level, we are delivering tempered metal – we create the environment, create the cauldron, or the forge, and provide that which will tempering the metal – like a good smith, the strength or weakness comes from our efforts; if we judge wrong – at any stage – we produce something that is less than what we might want ...

Of course, if we judge right, and possibly even underestimate that which is the source of binding agent, we find we possess a Samurai blade – sharp, beautiful, functional and decorative – the true work of art.

Good teachers, like great Samurai, are skilled masters of the sword – knowing how to bring out the best it can offer, and respecting it for itself.

A complex mix of analogies, of similes, to describe the importance of the parent, the teacher, and the State, in creating citizens.

What role can I impose upon the teacher, other than to teach, to make available that knowledge, and the techniques to acquire it, which will be of possible use to my child?

What does the teacher owe me? To make best use of that which I produced and provided – to fill the chalice with quality wine, and the plate with the most nutritional fare available.

However, it remains to me, to the parent, to provide that which can benefit from what is available. It is the parent who must teach the child to learn, to deal well with others, to see through the foolish and respect the wisdom of the wise.

Ultimately, however, with the job done and doing – being done – it falls to the State to provide the resources and respect the product that is produced.

It is the role of the State to provide the funds, the base resources, to meet the needs of producing an adult who has a bond to the State, to the community, and to society as a whole. For there is one thing which is inescapable, if that bond does not exist, the adult will seek it elsewhere – or worse, turn on the State as a scorpion might, and sting with a venom that can be quite deadly.

Why do the children leave the community of their birth, the place that should provide them nurture? It is because the State has failed in its obligations – or succeeded too well. If too well, the child shall carry the state with it, in its heart and sole, and so enrich the world.

Why do children become criminals? First, because the parents failed, and then because the schools and state contributed to that failure; but mostly because the parents failed.

The delight ... the pleasure ... comes when we see what we had hoped would emerge ... and yet wonder how. The culmination comes when the child goes off on their life’s adventure – and then returns, or communicates, all that they see and experience ... because they want the parent (and/or teacher) to continue to be a part of the journey.

We learn and we grow, for learning is the nutrient of life – cease learning, thy spirit shall diminish and death will sit at your feet awaiting your final fall. Cease learning and the house will decay from want of care. Cease sharing, and it will be your parents house which falls to decay.

Sigh ... random thoughts ...

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