Sunday, October 23, 2011

Sunday Afternoon Lesson Planning And Musing

Andrew Taggart wants to return education to the Renaissance.  I agree with him.  Taggart writes,
This is one place where public philosophy as a form of public education can and should stake its claim. The Latin word educare retains the agrarian sense of “rearing,” “bringing up,” and “leading forth.” One task of public philosophy, I submit, could be to lead us in a certain direction without pandering, bullying, or nannying. “Leading forth” is neither hand-holding nor forcing your hand. It’s not florid rhetoric or hard-nosed criticism, both of which are concerned with getting us to admit the flaws in our arguments, to make up our minds regarding our deepest commitments, or to change our positions about public affairs. Instead, public philosophy as educare urges us to follow a certain line of thought, to strike out on a path and see where it takes us. From there and throughout, we would ask, “Does this bring us greater clarity about ourselves and our world?”
Assuming that this is a worthwhile endeavor (and I think it is), I’m not entirely sure how to go about it. One essay in educare could be to reinvigorate the commonplace book tradition—to reintroduce it with a twist. Commonplace books, popular from the Renaissance up through the seventeenth century, were scrapbooks of maxims, drawings, lists, inspirational quotations, and marginal notes. By design, they were meant to be hodgepodge: a recipe here, a line from Horace there. In this serendipity there was exquisite beauty. However, insofar as they were unsorted collections of curiosities and wonderments, they didn’t seek to develop the collector’s mind in any one direction. And, my God, how many collages, mélanges, bric-a-bracs, shards, and fragments are lying about us today?
I wonder whether we could retain something of the magic and surprise of the commonplace book but also order the bits and pieces so that they appear as if they were making an argument, giving us a better, more holistic way of seeing things, or leading us down a path toward higher understanding? I wonder whether the parts can be gathered together into a synthetic whole
First, I love the idea that education's goal should be "leading forth" without "pandering," " bullying," "nannying," "hand-holding," or forcing others' hands.


I also like the idea of a directed common place book.  I've used a quotation book as an assignment in the past; Taggart's post may lead me to resurrect and modify it.  I had students write down quotations from the reading and react to them. The quality of those reactions varied greatly.

Using Taggart's principle of gather parts into a "synthetic whole," I'm considering having them pull quotations from the literature we're reading and try to find connections from the "real world"news stores.  I'll also have them add items from other academic disciplines.


All of us live in an increasingly disconnected world, and learning to make connections may be one of the most important things schools lead students forth to do.

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