After the boys of summer have gone…

It is summer time, so excuse me if the blog gets weird.  During the school year, my thoughts stay pretty focused on the direct aspects of my teaching, but summer lets me take rabbit trails.  In fact, this is about my thoughts of education and Summer.

harvest-time

  • Summer vacation in schooling is a mixed blessing. On the one hand, it is nice to have time off, but on the other, it flies in the face of good teaching.
  • Having summer off has not always been a thing. It derives, as best I can ascertain, from an agrarian culture long since lost in America.  You had to give kids time to help their families get the harvest in.
  • So why have we held on to it after its purpose has gone? I think it is correlated to the rise in the factory school system right as we moved from farms to town.  So while we no longer need time to get the grain in, we need time to recuperate from the increasingly difficult and repetitive work we now call school.
  • School, schola, used to mean leisure. I wrote on this already, so I won’t repeat myself, but leisure is different from work.  Leisure is revivifying, work takes it out of you.  Leisure may not need two and a half months of the year for recovery; something like factory schooling may.
  • Given the cultural perniciousness of having summer off from class, it would be good to use it to further our lifelong pursuit of truth rather than to waste it. I do this through reading, writing, thinking about school, the subjects I teach, meditating on the nature of things, etc.  I would invite others to do the same.
  • It is sad that we continue to make school harder with the continuance of so long a vacation each year. It makes a good teacher have to review and remind and cajole up through and into October before they can really attack new material.  Education is a long series of dominoes.  If you place a large gap between any two of the dominoes, you will have to restart it all after the gap.
  • Almost all the reasons given for continuing to have summers off say way more about our poor conception of learning than any positive humane considerations for the teacher or student.

Not sure if these wandering thoughts help anyone else, but as this blog’s readership increases, the comments section is a wonderfully easy way to discuss these things.  Feel free, and be free during the summer break.

Agriculture and Education

fall farm

Agriculture is the culture or paideia that grows up when living on and from a farm.  It is opposed or at least contrasted most obviously by the culture or “lifestyle” of those who dwell in cities.  Education is, if kept to its etymological roots, the drawing out of a person, ostensibly being led out from “the cave” of Plato, or ignorance, or one’s self, or what they were to what they should become, or out of darkness into the light.   So how is agriculture then related to education?  Without writing the paper that this deserves, at least yet, here and in following posts are some of the more obvious ways these two are related.

  • Understanding Life.
  • Understanding Death.
  • Understanding Rhythm and Cycle.
  • Understanding Earth, soil, humus, humor.
  • Understanding Food.
  • Understanding Man’s Place in Nature.
  • Relating Cause to Effect.
  • Relating Margins to Productivity.
  • Relating Man to Environment.
  • Forming a Grounded Natural Theology.
  • Forming an Ethic of Work.
  • Forming Faith, Hope, and Love in the heart of the student.
  • Ordering the Affections.

I am sure more will come as I go along, but these are a great start.  Why do I believe that one excellent location for a school would be on a farm?  Because of what I mean by each phrase above.  I will develop each individually in future posts.  Most of this meditation has pulled together the basic point of Jamie Smith’s book, “Desiring the Kingdom” with my own thoughts about how education is best accomplished.  Smith asserts that “place” is important.  W. Berry of course stands on this knowledge as well.  I am convinced that education can occur anywhere, but that the farm offers a unique and powerful context for education to be done well.