Monday, April 05, 2010

Re-Enchantment of Education

I'm still enchanted with this book - Beauty for Truth's Sake: On the Re-Enchantment of Education (though readers beware - it is VERY Catholic! His favorite people to quote so far are Newman, Benedict XVI, and Balthasar - all fine choices [though I've been linking on Facebook to more questionable activities and ideas of the second one on that list], but they do give the book a certain... parochial, narrow kind of tone. I'll be curious if that is overcome in the course of the presentation, as I'm underlining lots of his passages, and they're all resonating with my non-Catholic, inclusive, cosmopolitan view of education and faith. For me, education comes down to my personal experience of sometimes gradual, sometimes sudden, but alwyas unexpected transformations - the sense that the world is "enchanted" and the numinous and transcendent can break in and turn things inside out and upside down at any moment. For a poignantly ironic example, I think of my whole educational journey, and how my atheist father insisted (or at least, strongly encouraged) that I go to St John's College, where I found Christ and began my journey to become a professor and teach religious studies, which after I did for a while, I found my greatest satisfaction in writing zombie novels (that very much incorporate a lot of the ideas I learned in college, plus a bunch more stuff). Now, whatever you think of that, it wasn't how things were "suposed" to go - it was unpredictable and fulfilling (partly) because of its serendipity.

For a more light-hearted example, I got to the section in the book on teaching the choral arts as part of any education worthy of the name (this right after reading the hilarious article on GLEE in Rolling Stone!) and I was taken back to freshman chorus, where we belted out inept versions of such classics as "Hail to Mighty Pasha!" (I still have no idea to what that refers) and "Summer is a comin' in - [something, something, something] Cuckoo!" (ditto, no idea what that was about) and "Lo, How a Rose ere Blooming" (something about Jesus, I think). Now, Caldecott's a good enough writer that for a minute I thought "Wow, maybe that was a valuable experience and not just a bunch of young people wailing like cats in heat." Then I thought "Nah!"

But, yes, I do appreciate his analysis, even if I sometimes step back and remember the particular, flawed instantiation of it. Because, after all - I do remember that experience, 26 years later. I remember some of the songs. I keep in touch with some of the people I "sang" with. It did do something transformative, important, and liberating to me, even (or especially) if that wasn't exactly "training" in music, and none of us went on to become musicians.


Blogger Jeffery Nicholas said...

Thanks for this review. I'll look at the book, maybe this week. But what you write reminds me of Montessori education -- letting the student direct her studies in what she's interested. And, as I've always believed, we learn in a myriad of ways inside and outside the classroom. It's interesting to me, as well, how much of my educational background is influencing the writing of my vampire novel.

3:44 PM  
Blogger KPaffenroth said...

I'll be interested what you think, Jeff. He's talking more higher ed, I think, for the most part. Also it's funny how Monetessori is very popular with people I went to college with, when the college we attended (SJC) is ALL REQUIRED COURSES - NO ELECTIVES.

4:23 PM  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home


Triumph of The Walking Dead