Sunday, April 28, 2013

Chester Cricket on School vs. Education

from June 2009

So by Thursday Chester Cricket was the most famous musician in New York City. But now here is a strange thing: he wasn't really happy--not the way he used to be. Life didn't seem to have the fun and freedom it had had before.

For one thing, although he thought that glory was very nice, Chester found that it made you tired. Two concerts a day, every day, was an exhausting program. And he wasn't used to playing on schedule. Back home in the meadow, if the sun felt nice, or the moon was full, or if he wanted to have a musical conversation with his friend the lark, he would chirp because the mood was on him. But here he had to begin performing at eight and four-thirty whether he felt like it or not. Of course he was very glad to be helping the Bellinis, but a lot of the joy was gone from his playing.

In this excerpt from The Cricket in Times Square, I see a metaphor for something I think about often: school vs. education. Chester's concert schedule in the city reminds me of school. It's tiring, scheduled, restrictive, rigid. School demands 180 days, specific subjects, standardized tests, daily logs, medical records, and, and, and.

Education, in contrast, is a meadow of fun and freedom. It doesn't care whether it's fall or summer, Sunday or Tuesday, 10:30 am or 10:30 pm. It can happen whenever and wherever, alone or with company. It needs no curriculum or grades. Motivation comes from within not from without.

School can teach us these lessons.

  1. Do the bare minimum.
  2. Learning means pleasing the authority figure.
  3. Learning, schooling, and studying are no fun.
  4. Playing is when you don't have to learn.
  5. To be a good student I have to study somebody else's interests.
  6. My own interests must be pursued on my own time, and they aren't as valuable as the "accepted" topics of study.
  7. If nobody is making me study, I'd rather be entertained than learn.

Education gives us different lessons.

  1. There is so much to learn and it is so exciting.
  2. Learning is more fun than almost anything.
  3. I can learn on my own, in a group, or with help from a teacher or parent.
  4. All I need is a book and I can learn.
  5. In fact, I can learn even without a book.
  6. I love learning!
  7. I am passionately interested in.....
  8. If I do more than is assigned, I'll learn more and have more fun. The assignments are just minimums.
  9. My thoughts and ideas are as valuable as anybody else's. 

School is not inherently confined to buildings with whiteboards and desks (although it does exist aplenty there). Similarly, education doesn't automatically flourish in a home with a mother and her children. Some classrooms encourage education; some homes dispense school; some have a combination of each.

In my ideal world, our home would be a meadow of inquisitiveness, exploration, and excellence. By God's grace, it is much of the time, but always ready to encroach on our fun and freedom is the yoke of school. I know it has us in its grip when I hear (or say) comments such as:

Does this count?
Was that a full day?
How many weeks of school have we finished?
You counted THAT?
You need to do your math first.
Can I go play now?

It's then that I ponder the school/education tension so intently that I find myself identifying with a cricket.

We are taking a brief break from school (oh, there it is again!), but I am so glad education continues. I've captured some of those moments on the camera.

Rebekah making gravel cakes for a doll she's sewing.
Janessa drawing and painting on the computer.
Rebekah dying socks in tea for the doll she is making
Michaiah laying out the pieces for a quilt she designed
The girls dancing the "Cha Cha Slide"
Janessa in bed knitting while listening to The Hiding Place
Michaiah reading

Rebekah playing piano, with her makeshift microphone next to her
I'm fully aware that tension will remain for me. Realistically, the pull toward school will only increase as we march toward the high school years. But as much as possible, I want to encourage the girls toward the meadow, where they can enjoy musical conversations and chirp as they so please.

The numbered lists are taken from A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-First Century by Oliver Van DeMille.

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