Thursday, October 27, 2005

A passage from Liberal Education & the Public Interest

"As students seek appropriate role models, they cannot do better than to emulate men and women who are idealists. Who are idealists? They are people who are inspired by an idea greater than themselves, who are driven by a moral imperative to imagine a world better than the one they found. They are people animated by principle, who dedicate their lives to fortifying the spirit and improving the lot of those on the brink of hopelessness. They are people who sail against the wind and persevere despite setbacks or ambiguous success.

Idealists are informed on political matters and involved in the civic life of their communities. They devote their energies to the debates that make wise and humane public policy, as all Athens did in the age o Pericles. Idealists care about those who need help and commit themselves to national service and to a lifetime of civic engagement. They care about the health and well-being of neighbors and strangers alike. They care about the legal rights of all, especially those without advocates. They care about the working poor who struggle to make their way and to preserve their families in a global economy of bewildering technological change. They care about children, who need the full support of society in order to achieve their potential.

Idealists remind us, by the way in which they advance the lives of others, that, as Matthew Arnold said, “Life is not a having and a getting, but a being and becoming.” And they invite us, through their generosity, to be open to the possibility that what they have been for us, we might be for others. Idealists are not mere dreamers. They are known by their deeds and by the pride and purpose that animate their altruism. They instruct us, by their example, in the best meaning of character. Idealists are not rare. But there are not enough of them, in this society or any other.


I have the feeling that many of us regard life as beginning, in the important sense, only after we pass some future milestone – after we have been graduated from college, or after we have settled into a prestigious job or a comfortable home or a proper marriage, or after we have achieved a measure of professional success or personal security. It is only then – several decades into middle age – that many people finally give themselves permission to live generously.

But life, of course, is not what happens after we pass some future milestone. Life is what we are doing now. And so the necessity of leading a life guided by ideals, a life that each of us is proud to lead, is present from the start and is always there. My message to students is that a life motivated by idealism promises the deepest kind of personal satisfaction. "

This is from the chapter Appraising Significant Lives from James O. Freedman’s Liberal Education & the Public Interest. (currently I am reading this book.)

Thursday, October 20, 2005

"Statistical evidence is overwhelming that millions of American children, including those graduating from high school, cannot read. When a disorder affects so many people, one calls it an epidemic. An epidemic is always caused by external forces, not by defects in the individual....When so many children are affected by the same disorder, the explanation cannot possibly be individual psychopathology." Dr. Hilde Mosse

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

When you educate on the road
Today Book the 12th of the Series of Unfortunate events came out and my guess is my kids were one of the first to get their hot little hands on their copies here in the northeast. Katie had pre-ordered and Michael said, Mum will you please take us in the morning when the store opens? (this book store opened at 8 am, well we weren't there quite at 8) So...we went.

The three of us were sitting at a table reading and there were these two older gentlemen sitting not to far from us. One said to the other, "my grandchildren never have any time, they're involved in Scouts, debate and whathaveyou, then of course they have school on top of everything else." The other one said, "my grandchildren are the same way," (I listened but didn't look up doing my best to look like I was reading, I was thinking do you see these two across from me, enjoying a book?) the second gentleman continues, "they are so busy that they do not have any free time. No wonder they grow up and don't know how to relax, they are not learning how to play and enjoy free time now." I thought they also don't have time for their grandparents either.
As I was relating this story to Grace this evening, she said that perhaps the one who spoke first said it because he saw Katie and Michael enjoying a book while they were sitting there. That very well could have been. Part of me was thinking, some of my associates in the homeschooling world would think this idea is too fun, you ought to make them do their work first well, I guess that would be true if we did school at home but as most of you know (or perhaps some of you don't) we EDUCATE our children at home and we wouldn't want schooling to get in the way of this more worthy endeavor. Then my true heart rose to the surface, it put a smile on my face as I thought that I could hear Katie and Michael saying 5 or 10 years from now, "remember when we lived in Quechee VT and Mum took us to the Dartmouth bookstore to get The Penultimate Peril." "And she gave us the day off to read the book."
I thank God every day that my children love to read and that I was given the great privilege to teach them how. Along with the continued blessing of cultivating curious minds.