For many years I have been growing in my conviction that we have forgotten what education is about. I know am not alone, so this blog, and my venturing out into other social media, is an attempt to connect with others who share this conviction and would like to have a conversation about it.
I am a qualified teacher who worked for a number of years full time (and later part time) in primary education before having my own children. When my first child came along, I began to reconsider what education was really for in a way I never had time to when working as a paid teacher. My P.G.C.E. training did not involve any discussion of philosophy or pedagogy. I was told what the National Curriculum required and how to “manage” a class of children. That was it. However, the responsibility for the outcome does not finally rest with my lecturers. At no point in that process did I ever ask the question, “What is a true education? What is it for and therefore what should it look like?” I bought into the utilitarian nature of the system lock, stock and barrel without ever stopping to think.
So what changed?
After going part time, I had a couple of opportunities to begin to reflect a bit more: I completed the Effective Early Learning Project as well as attending a Study Week at Reggio Children, Italy. This was the first time I was encouraged to consider how philosophy impacts methods in education: Ideas have consequences.
Then when my first child started school I had a bit more time on my hands and began reading blogs, lectures and books on parenting and education. I began to realise that to make a separation between school learning and the rest of life was unnatural. If education was for anything, it was for everything. Education is for all of life. It isn’t about filling brains with facts, but nourishing minds with truth, goodness and beauty. It isn’t about passing tests and getting jobs. It is about feeding and nurturing a whole person – body, mind, heart and soul, in order that that person might grow up delighting in the feast of knowledge the world has to offer, and using the wisdom gained for the common good, for living well.
And so I was hooked!
Since then I have spent many hours reading, reflecting, listening and discussing educational philosophies and their associated methods, with a particular interest in the classical tradition where a philosophy of human nature clearly underpins the methods used. My first post looks briefly at what we can learn (or maybe what we need to remember) from their view of personhood.
My imagination has been particularly caught by the philosophy and methods of Charlotte Mason and so I would like to share some of her common sense principles and practices.
Finally, I would like to (humbly) engage with some of the great ideas out there – people whose speaking and writing is contributing to the conversation going on in our culture and who, like me, want to see us do the best that we can in our homes and schools to feed and nurture the children in our care. As Charlotte Mason said,
“…we do not presume to do this as critics, rather as inheritors of other men’s labour, who take stock of our possessions in order that we may use them to the most advantage. For the best thought of any age is common thought; the men who write it down do but give expression to what is working in the minds of the rest. But we must bear in mind that truth behaves like a country gate allowed to ‘swing to’ after a push. Now it swings a long way to this side and now a long way to that, and at last after shorter and shorter oscillations the latch settles. The reformer, the investigator, works towards one aspect of truth, which is the whole truth to him, and which he advances out of line with the rest. The next reformer works at a tangent, apparently in opposition, but he is bringing up another front of truth. Then there is work for us, the people of average mind. We consider all sides, balance what has been done, and find truth, perhaps in the mean, perhaps as a side issue which did not make itself plain to original thinkers of either school. But we do not scorn the bridge that has borne us.”
(Karen Glass in “Consider This”, quoting School Education, p.49 by Charlotte Mason.)