The Road and the Wheel

I have said many times that if you read Wendell Berry’s essays, substituting “education” every time you read “farming” you will have a great deal to consider about teaching well.  That being repeated again, I have been working through his essay, “Discipline and Hope” doing just such.  One major section of this long essay is entitled, “The Road and the Wheel,”  in which he examines the differences inherent in a linear view of life and a cyclical one.  I think there is much here worthy of thinking about on this blog.  So I am taking a chart of his on the two views and dividing it up into a series of posts over the next several weeks.  Jump right in with comments.

First, let’s get his basic points out there:

He sees there being two fundamental ways of looking at the nature of human life and experience — The Road and the Wheel.

  • The Road – this is the idea of progress.  The linear vision looks fixedly straight ahead.  It believes in discarding old experience as it encounters new ones. Quantity depresses quality, and thus we arrive at waste and disposability.  Its constant hunger is for better, now, without concern for past or future.
  • The Wheel – this is a much older view that includes death in the mix with birth and life.  What is here will leave to come again; in getting there must be a giving up.  This holds on to what is known even while adding to it what is learned, in hopes of passing it on to those who come after.

This basic comparison yields up a great number of specific contrasts.  I will blog on each of these in coming days.  For now, consider these two basic views in light of how we currently educate and how we have educated in the past.


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