Saturday, March 17, 2018

sevice and community

One purpose of "formal" education is that of assisting the child in forming a sense of self within the larger communities we live within. First family, then community, then state, nation, and world. Within those communities are overlapping communities. We have the world of man, but also the natural world of plants, animals, physics and stars.

If you make an attempt to extract a person from within the matrix of communities in which we live what you would find would be protoplasm incapable of long term self-support. No man is an island unto himself. We are interconnected with all things whether we take all things consciously into consideration or not.

On Thursday, in addition to launching our boats, we delivered canes to our local medical center, where they were graciously received by Dr. Kresse. The event was covered by Jacqueline Froelich, reporter for NPR. Over a month ago Jacquie had interviewed our students in our workshop as they were crafting the canes. During the interview it occurred to me that at some point one of our students may be at the grocery store and see one of the canes they've made in use by someone either elderly or disabled. It is an important thing to know that you are an essential part of something larger than yourself,  that who you are matters to others and that there are inward rewards for being of service.

The following is from Froebel and Education through Self-Activity by H. Courthope Bowen describing a conversation between Adolph Diesterweg and Friedrich Froebel:
The night was clear, bright, and starry, as they drove home from Inselsberg to Liebenstein, and the beauty of the heavens had set them talking. "No one of the heavenly bodies is isolated; every planet has its centre in the sun of its system. All the solar systems are in relation and continual interaction with one another. This is the condition of all life — everywhere mutual relation of parts. As there above, in great things, unbroken connection and harmony rule, so also here below, even in the smallest thing; everywhere there are the same order and harmony, because the same law rules everywhere, the one law of God, which expresses itself in thousand-fold many-sidedness, but in the last analysis is one, for God is himself the law." "That is what people call pantheism," remarked Diesterweg. "And very unjustly," rejoined Froebel; "I do not say, like the pantheists, that the world is God's body, that God dwells in it, as in a house, but that the spirit of God dwells and lives in nature, produces, fosters, and unfolds everything, as the common life principle. As the spirit of the artist is found again in his masterpieces, so must we find God's spirit (Geist) in his works."
Have you not yourself, walked with friends along a pathway in a starry night and wondered at the billions of stars and the interrelationship between all things? You need not be religious to do so.

These days the concept of God no longer plays much role in secular educational thought. In fact, Adolph Diesterweg was an early advocate of the separation between schooling and religion. So the conversation between Froebel and Diesterweg is relevant even today. The idea that learning must lead beyond ourselves into feelings of connectedness with human culture and with the world of nature and of all else should be a simple matter of material concern in education. It is not necessary that schooling be tied to and utilized as a means of indoctrination in particular religious faiths in order to lead students to a sense of their own connectedness.

The child must learn to get along with others. The child must learn to be respectful of human rights and be led to shoulder the burdens of adult responsibilities. The child must learn to see self in others and discover his or her place in the wholeness of all life. The child must learn to care for the planet on which we all live. And so whether or not a school is secular or non-secular, the responsibilities are the same, and even without reliance on the concept "God," children can discover both morality and what Froebel identified as "connectedness."

Make, fix, and create. Assist others in learning likewise.

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