How to pick a mule

The shed was open on that side and I could see that some mules were stabled there. Most of them were out, but there was still six or eight left.
‘Take your pick, but you stick with the one you choose.”
It was midday and I figured the better ones were already gone. They sure enough weren’t the best-looking critters, but I didn’t worry none either. I knew mules enough to know that temperament is more important than size or strength. You want one with spunk but at the same time ain’t too stubborn. Most people don’t know that and wouldn’t even take it into account.

This is from Life Is So Good, the life of George Dawson written by Richard Glaubman.

Craftsmen and people who worked on farms or manual jobs, have been truly educated, even when they couldn’t read. They had POETIC KNOWLEDGE, they were in touch with things, they had a true intellectual experience and not ready made formulas, their personality was harmonious and possessed the experience of complementary activities. This is a contrast with the ascetic cultivation of the intellect, as Taylor points in Poetic Knowledge in Chapter Five.

Reading about Charlier the resemblances with Mason are striking, but this is becoming an old adagio. You can read this free biography of Charlotte Mason to know it’s not just a writing crutch, though.

Fabre’s life of studying nature in context, alive, also directs me to Mason’s defense of the “real thing” versus abstractions, and to walk and sense, live and experience nature, even the way she understands crafts. But like Taylor I have to caution to not read this superficially, such as in “reconnect with nature”, or how he says, be all craftsy, or promote vocationalism. And surely abstain from thinking about “being authentic”, that word is the new fake (grin). We need to bear in mind these authors use words as experience, senses, joy, music, dance, crafts, with a meaning far from the McWorld, Dewey frame definitions of today.

Taylor explains some of the problems the modern system of education has, for example the ANXIETY that the focus on verbal and mathematical logic produces on students. Because the academic requirements become harder, which is not a sign of true knowledge or wisdom being acquired by the students. Since the system idolizes an empty ascetic cultivation of the mind, for which most students aren’t cut for and which does not include any experience or observation. And he and others since long ago, already knew that the sensory-emotional aspect of our learning has to be present without the ‘new brain discoveries’ or ‘new experts’ telling us this from a Cartesian point of view. This reminds me of my friend’s oldest boy, brilliant teenager who has not very good handwriting or spelling but who is so prepared for what he wants to study. Lucky for him there are places like Belgium where most of the admission exams are ORAL. Yes. Finally some understand that they need to see the whole of the person, not just the score of the test. If he could be “tested” for poetic knowledge, he’ll leave us all feeling very small.

I’m going to vent. I read an interview by a lady, ‘expert on education’, allegedly, and she talked about the crisis in education, about emotional intelligence, making children ‘do’ things, about how to motivate them, be sure they are ‘happy’, versus teaching this ‘old obsolete curriculum’ that is a 100 years old. I even commented on the site where they published her interview saying it is not the curriculum but the system which is around a 100 years old what’s obsolete, and that she was even in the same tradition, since she said the goal of education was that the boy or girl becomes a happy individual and contributes to society. That’s exactly Dewey’s goal, the obsolete system she is criticizing, and her ‘fixes’ are superficial because they lack a true understanding of education, tradition, history, and have no clue about Poetic Knowledge. And when I criticized this I was told very post-modernly that we all have our truths and our views. I do not say I know it all, but I am not paid or claim to be an expert and then know so little and spread all these error.

Machines. Machines nowadays are ‘dumbing us down’. I went to my friend’s classroom, a first grade classroom, and the hallways had an ugly gray brick, they were very impersonal. Her classroom as well as all, including kindergarten, has this ugly smart board, huge, intrusive, gray too. No quality books ever to be found, no beauty. All she has to do is press a button and find “smart board lesson”, and a robot talks to the children who, in turn, come to the smart board to press it with their fingers so that it can make noise that, in turn, produces squeals from the students. I was very shocked by how ugly it looked “to me”. But well, I find shopping malls ugly too, most of restaurants and stores in general, not to mention fast food places… I know many are impressed with technology and believe their children are getting the best education when they see cookie cut type of work on display, and leveled books in baskets in addition to a big gym. I was NOT. My friend is a great person. A committed teacher. She truly does her best. She is not the one who has picked this way of educating. She just makes the best she can.

And there is the music and dance. The screams and wild movements of today that would have terrified the ancients. This is part of why we don’t participate in any of that. Sometimes we’ve thought if folk dance and other types of dancing are modest, but if they WERE in the past, they certainly manage to do something today which makes them compromising to our conscience now. This is why we dance at home. I know my girls would be wonderful at ballet or any other type of dance or gymnastic, but sadly, we do not like what is associated to this, from the materialism that it brings, to the immodest orientation it soon brings in their innocent beings. As for sports, my father in law also laughs at us who go to gyms. As a mason and now a man who has some acres and cultivates many vegetables, and raises rabbits, he has never had to pay to stay fit!

This was such a treat to read. Even if you hadn’t read the first four chapters, you could understand chapter five, although now I also feel the urge to read the prior chapters, specially chapter 2, as Mystie also remarks, for a better understanding on the principles that these voices mentioned on chapter six based education on, and how they conveyed them in real life scenarios.

I was reading and saying to myself, “this is exactly how I want to be”. I want my girls to learn the Truth, and to be surrounded by beauty, and capable of producing it. I want to be modest, humble, teach by example, model habits, order, not based on mechanical behavior but inspire obedience and be joyful about it. (Not necessarily fun or entertaining, but joyous about fulfilling my duties). I again see I have much to learn and meditate. My mind is caught up in many of the modern views. At least now I know where my thinking is coming from.

I WANT MY GIRLS TO KNOW HOW TO PICK A MULE

 

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2 comments on “How to pick a mule

  1. I really enjoyed this post, Sylvia! I agree that machines don't make for education let alone poetic knowledge. We've been watching the local schools scramble with their budget short falls and the one thing they all agree on is that they can't skimp on technology or their students will be left behind. I feel this is so very wrong headed but have very little input on how my tax dollars are spent. Thank God I don't have to subject my own kids to what passes for education here. I, too, want my boys to be able to pick out a mule! (and be joyful about it!)

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  2. As you say, we don't have much input in how taxes are spent. And all money thrown into this system will be eaten up by the monster is become. Money without a guiding principle and a “change” in the core of the education, not just “changes” and “good looking fixes”, such as technology improvements, will not take students anywhere.

    My friend also said the atmosphere is tense, disgusting… it would serve them well to take all those machines, the coldness, the funds, the standards, the constant tests, and to start working on the relationships between directive and teachers, and parents… it needs a EXTREME MAKEOVER, ha ha ha. But I don't see that happening because if it's us and we are still trapped in some modern notions, imagine the ones who are insatiably rich from exploiting this system, or those too busy working in it as to take a turn or come to stop and refuse the modern race to own material goods versus the old poetic ways.

    At least there will be a few young people able to pick mules, plant veggies with love, cook and inspire, read and write (authentically in the true sense of what it means to be literate, dance and make music, and all that is forlorn, forgotten, despised, and neglected.

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