Is Labor’s Love Lost?

My previous post today concerned itself with vacation, and I wondered aloud if we need vacation from school because we are so work oriented. If you have read Joseph Pieper’s Leisure: the Basis of Culture then perhaps you are anticipating some of this, but should true learning be viewed as labor? I am not asking here if it should be “hard” or rigorous: to be true, good, beautiful learning it must be difficult. What I am asking is should our study be viewed as work or leisure? Is school to more closely compare with adults who are in the office or in their den? There are competing views here that make my job as an administrator challenging.

On the one hand, everyone these days seems satisfied to view education in terms of productivity, measurable efficiency, and quantifiable ends (read, “product”) which translates in my mind into viewing schools as factories, at least from management’s point of view. On the other hand, many (most) parents today hit the ceiling if Johnny has any significant homework, standards, or work requirements. I suppose I should simply read our culture into this and know that just like John Sr. wants a job where he gets paid the most for the least amount of effort, so Johnny Jr. and his dad both want to see high test scores, brilliant progress, etc. with a minimum of personal cost in the classroom.

So how does the first thoughts connect to the latter? What would it take to move moderns from viewing education as a “job” to a “vocation”? What all is involved in resolving these issues? Can you tell we are about to wrap up a long year? Someone guide me to the nearest hammock!

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3 thoughts on “Is Labor’s Love Lost?”

  1. I should’ve read this posting before commenting on your previous one….

    I think one important issue closely related to this one is that of the nature of the community we want to see developed. Who will be the teachers and students? Are people either one or the other? Are there some who are simply working to win leisure for others? Are there some who simply embrace leisure won by others?

    I think the community should be composed of teacher-students and laborer-“leisurers” rather than other possibilities. This is because human beings are not ultimately different in status from one another, despite our gifts and experiences, and because fullness of humanity just might imply fullness of experience in some ways. This implies that it is relevant to consider the nature of “education as paideia within the community.” Is there something decontextualizing about institutionalized schooling, such that the picture of paideia is only partial when it becomes a “product” purchased by a student’s parents from a teacher or school, a sort of “upgrade” for a child?

    The historic phenomenon of mentorship/apprenticeship may need to be expressed more consistently in our communities for us to really potentiate CCE long-term. The very idea of mentorship/apprenticeship requires that some guide others in paths they themselves have trod. Mastery within the community may need to be the mark of faculty, not employment within the “vocation” of teaching, however noble. In that light, perhaps collective reorganization of the communities surrounding schools will reveal ways by which we can embrace education without creating an institutional enclave of educators.

  2. Perhaps a major roadblock in our understanding of the place of leisure in our lives is the loss of prominence of poetic knowledge among us. The distinction noted by James S. Taylor in his book Poetic Knowledge is useful here. The distinction was between the poetic and scientific ways of knowledge. Perhaps our acceptance of the paradigm of “vacation-based” leisure is an indicator that we’re trying to control the organic whole of education and that we think the best way to do this is to manipulate the time variable “scientifically.” Your observations may be a poetic reaction against the distortion that results from that manipulation.

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