Book Club

Poetic Knowledge, Chapter IV, Part I

I enjoyed this first part of the fourth chapter much, though that doesn’t mean I have a decent grasp of all the points exposed in it. All that Taylor writes about the implications of Descartes, Dewey, and the view of modern education, I found it totally in agreement with my perception of schools, colleges, and the layman’s view of education that we have, I dare say around the globe, as well as many other aspects of the world we live in.

The best example that comes to my head that represents in simple terms Taylor’s description of  how modern education thinks, is the phrase “why do we need to study this for?” We tend to think that anything that has not a straight pragmatic use or validation is not worth to be learned or considered. And the problem in my opinion is partly that we can’t maintain the humanities in schools as long as we have systems that operate with a pragmatic view. In Charlotte Mason schools I’m sure children did not get bored and said, “why do we have to read Plutarch?” Mystie asked how pragmatism influences us personally. I think more than I’d like to admit. I’m realizing I’m scared of poetic knowledge. And this is because,

1. I do not find myself versed on this “new” concept that I sort of know about, and I doubt my abilities to take the plunge. (See what Descartes has done to us?)

2. Because around me, anyone that hears of something that has not a concrete, scientific, measurable outcome, it’s looked at suspiciously, and though we in my family are very different to the prevalent view of life and education, maybe we are still more similar than we want to admit. In other words, I do fear being an outcast, and I have this different goal in mind for my daughters but the pull of society and them conforming enough as not to be miserable still haunts me. OK, this was a lame attempt to blame “society”. No, I’m truly scared to take the plunge. It helps to know I’m not alone. And at this point my daughters are becoming advocates themselves. It is truly a blessing to be able to freely homeschool.

I don’t know if Descartes caused the rupture or was the medium to birth the new modern philosophy and era. What I know it’s that the heritage he left it’s not the world I’d like to live in. And Dewey, who as Taylor says, it’s another example of not being that horrible himself in his view of the classics and the tradition, but who by embracing that pragmatism and his love for the scientific and mathematical method to be applied to all areas of learning, really left us a hideous legacy. I guess transitional individuals as both Descartes and Dewey, open a Pandora’s box, and they are still with one foot on the past and the other in the future they sketch. Still today I sort of childishly dislike both men. (As if we could blame it on an individual, right?)

I was thinking about fun and the contrast with true joy, about entertainment and leisure again. When Taylor speaks about what it means that children dream and our current educational model not understanding what true dreaming is, I thought this is a big problem for me at home. I tend to think that the value of something is also pragmatic and that we have to work hard to get an education. Do  all the “educational toys”, and the activities ad nausea that offer soccer classes where the children will enhance their gross motor skills, activities for babies, toddlers, young children, teens, etc, that all prick and home on this utilitarian concept come to mind? I dislike this industry of education. I had to vent. But Brandy, I’m not camping here, I’m also moving on and not just criticizing but doing my part, for small or insignificant that it is. So this view of what it’s not work to produce and progress as being useless and vain is not true, but if we only understand the opposite of “working” as entertainment and empty fun, we better work, even if we remain in a pragmatical view of life. For the opposite to this obsession with work and productivity for this secular world is entertainment or fun, which are external, and that’s worse to me than working for pragmatical reasons. But if we understand that the true opposite to this scientific or pragmatical approach is leisure and joy, which rest on the Truth and Beauty that come from God and on the permanent or eternal, then give yourself a “break”, stop working (which is also consuming, buying, being efficient, crossing items in lists, and living a type A life). In other words, you don’t have to be Supermom, but once more, know that the antithesis to Supermom is not Superselfishsloth either

And I believe this is part of the answer.The tradition rested in these known truths, absolutes. Modern man places himself in God’s position, thus doubting, and with science as its new religion or god. Education becomes materialistic, political, without meaning but market value. Berman, again, comments how he was once part of a college totally based on this utilitarian values. But the paradox is that an education that includes or rests on poetic knowledge, doesn’t “produce” useless individuals, but wholesome persons.

If we educate with Charlotte Mason in mind, and we don’t allow the external pressures to bring us down, we will be on the right path. I remember her dislike for teaching young adults a trade, “specializing them early in life” in a profession (which doesn’t exclude learning skills but warn us not to focus solely on them). And like her, I do not like these schools that say, well, if Johny wants to be a trash man, or a farmer, as long as he is happy… but Johny has the right to meet minds like Shakespeare, to be fed poetry, to listen to music, to enjoy art. Pragmatism is castrating and alienating. Just look around and see for yourself. The more I read the more I understand why I felt an immense pull to Charlotte Mason.

Answering also another of Mystie’s questions, what can we be if not rationalists, empiricists, or pragmatics. Whatever Charlotte Mason was! Seriously, I don’t know, sometimes I see me as a Platonic (I’ve been called that), but I see Plato’s limitations, and I love Aristotle, what little I know from him. Definitely whatever you do, do not be gnostic, ladies.

Follow the rest of the discussion at Mystie’s blog.


4 thoughts on “Poetic Knowledge, Chapter IV, Part I”

  1. Yes, I realized a few weeks ago when I read “Seek first the kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you.” That that was a principle that applied across the board in our lives.

    If we seek hard after good test scores and good colleges and good jobs, we will burn out and become deadened. But if our eyes are on Jesus and in God's Word and if we get our wisdom from Him, then that does not necessarily exclude ending up with good test scores, et al. Somewhat like Solomon. He asked for wisdom first and sought it, and God gave it to him along with wealth and fame a worldly king would wish for.


  2. Oh, and I think there's a difference between wanting scientific reasons and having philosophical reasons. I mean, we do want to have reasons for choosing Plutarch or Latin or anything else, it's just that the line of reasoning will not be at all what would persuade a typical curriculum board, since they don't care about souls.

    I wonder if part of the draw of scientific & pragmatic reasoning is that it then gives the impression of being objective. So, my reasons make my choice The Right One, The Best One, if I can prove them scientifically.


  3. I am also seeing many, many validations of a Charlotte Mason education while reading this book. I think you make a very good point about busyness and commercialism. There is lots to think about here!


  4. So much to think about here. I appreciate your post, Silvia! I wish blogger wasn't down for so long…the original comment I wanted to write has left my brain forever, it seems.

    Oh well.

    I shall sit and learn in silence…it's like poetry, right? 🙂


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