Tuesday, September 01, 2009

A Little Encouragement for the First Day of School

As Matt and the children were chauffeuring me around on my endless list of errands yesterday, we passed this amazing thought posted on the local elementary school sign.
The highest result of education is tolerance.

Matt shouted in my ear, 'Reason number 5,556 why we're not sending our children to public school.' Besides agreeing wholeheartedly with him, I thought to myself, 'what a miserable reason to get up in the morning. I couldn't possibly motivate myself to educate my children, to get out of bed, to do any work at all if the reason for that work was to be more 'tolerant' myself and produce it in my children. Honestly, I can't think of a more boring reason to learn anything.

Apart from pursuing knowledge of God, which is really the goal of all education, as far as I see it, what about Truth, Beauty, the fact that there are so many interesting things to learn? What about being educated for its own sake because otherwise you can't do anything interesting in life? What about wisdom and understanding? What about being able to read books because they're Wonderful books and it would be heartbreaking to go through life Not having read them? But 'tolerance'? Of what? sin? mediocrity? What are we to be tolerant of?

Oh I know, I know, its each other. But not really. The local elementary school isn't really interested in total tolerance of everyone. They want the children filling those rooms to be 'tolerant' of some things, maybe I even agree with some of them. I don't want my children to be 'tolerant'. I want them to be respectful and honoring. When they meet other people they don't agree with or understand, I want them to make good eye contact, listen carefully and take that person seriously, not just 'tolerate' them. How unloving! How boring! How miserable a reason to engage in so important a task as learning something.


Episcopaliann said...

Amen!!! Thank you for so beautifully articulating this! I have always been annoyed and even offended by the word 'tolerant.' It doesn't even begin to scratch the surface of the love and honor and respect that we are called to offer as God's beloved children to all the rest of God's beloved children (of all ages), created in God's image and likeness.

May God bless all of you as you enter into a shiny new school year! ~Ann

Carrie said...

Lately I have been more interested in the idea of civility than tolerance. Civility allows for difference and even passionate disagreement, but it does so in a context of listening, care and respect. There's a book on my list to read called Uncommon Decency about this very thing.

r said...

"It is easy to be tolerant when you do not care." - Clement Rogers

Anonymous said...

Here's an instance when we both agree, Ann. But, in all fairness, I'm wondering if this is not a reaction to what happened in your town just a few months ago?

Even so, I couldn't agree with you more. The highest result of education should be the stimulation of intellectual curiosity and inspiration to a life-long commitment to learning.

My family has been having fairly intense discussions for the past two years about home schooling for our five grandchildren. A huge concern they have about home schooling is one about religion.

That's not what you think. The concern is that, in public school, at least, the children are exposed to the realities of living in a pluralistic society. The question that is struggled with is how to prepare them as Christians for the multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, religiously pluralistic world in which they will be living.

While I share that concern, I'm more troubled by the fact that, in my experience, most public education is as mediocre as the standard of "tolerance" - as opposed to respecting and honoring the other person.

So, rather than have you review all 5,556 reasons not to send your children to public school, I'm wondering if, perhaps, you might simply list the first 10. And, if you could spend a few moments of your precious time just talking a bit about how it is you prepare your children for the challenges of living in a wildly diverse religious world? Thanks.

Phil said...

Anonymous, you can assume Ann's children are prepared in a more robust way than are the children of white, upper class, left-wing, elitist parents to deal with the challenges of living in a wildly diverse political and intellectual world. See "Kael, Pauline."

Anonymous said...

Phil - I have absolutely no doubt that Ann - and Matt - are providing excellent education for their children. A commitment to a standard of excellence is a commitment to a standard of excellence, despite differences such as race, class status, political affiliation and religious persuasion. Of course, those issues make the difference to individual parents in the fullness of their understanding of what constitutes "excellence".

My children got an "excellent" academic education in RC schools, as did I before them. I had to work harder to undo some of the "religious" parts of their education, but I elected to do that because, in my estimation, the academic standard of excellence made up for what was lacking in their religious education.

Ann and Matt have chosen another way. They are doing what they feel is best for their children. That is not only their right as parents, it is their responsibility.

My question is one of sincere curiosity - no judgment implied or intended: how does one prepare one's children for the realities of life given the admitted "shelter" (and I use that term in its positive sense) of home schooling? I'm sure I'm not the only one to have asked this question and I'm sure Matt and Ann, being good parents, have also at least entertained the question as they considered giving their children an 'excellent' education. I respect Ann enough to ask her the question and await her answer.

Good Shepherd Weekly said...

Hi anonymous,

I think that we "are" preparing our children for engagement with the wider culture through homeschooling.

I suppose this goes to the question of what it means to prepare or train.

I went to airborne school during my 6yr stint in the national guard because my unit was one that routinely jumped out of airplanes.

We trained for three weeks--learning about parachutes, about planes, about really bad things that can happen in the air...and most importantly how to execute a perfect parachute landing fall. We did all of this "before" we strapped on parachutes and jumped out of the side door of C130s

We did not actually jump until we were prepared. It would have been madness to make us strap on parachutes and jump on day one. Without knowing the dangers and the correct methods for jumping, steering, and landing most of us would've broken our legs, backs, or worse.

So training meant, well, training--not jumping.

It seems to me that those who suggest that teaching children to engage with secularists is best done by sticking them in public school at age 5 are putting the cart way before the horse.

Children do not belong on the secular/Christian battlefield. You do not train kids by simply throwing them into government schools where they will be spoon fed fed secularism and relativism 6 hours a day and then come home for, at best, two hours of face time with parents any more than you train recruits by handing them a rifle and throwing them into battle.

They need to prepare for that kind of engagement. Homeschooling prepares Christians to meet the world in a transformative way--rather than being corrupted by the world they will be innoculated against harmful philosophies and equipped to defeat vain arguments while sharing their faith and spreading the gospel...and they will be doing so with very good educations.

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much, GSW, for your very careful answer. While I am uncomfortable with the metaphor, I understand your point which is well made and very helpful. I can't wait to bring it up with my children the next time with have this conversation and home schooling my grandchildren. Thanks again.

tdunbar said...

There are some just plain logistic advantages to homeschooling.

For example, the Congressman in our area recently had a townhall meeting and a family I know brought all seven of their children.

Yes, could have been done if the children were in public school; however, would have been much more complicated. Moreover, the public system could not have taken advantage of the opportunity to teach regarding American government nearly as comprehensively.