Posts Tagged ‘ Not Gaming Related ’

The Blindness of Love?

From September 2012:

Last Friday, 21 September, we had our weekly Socratic discussion. Often, these class discussions are the high point of my week as a teacher. Best of all, the students enjoy them. They get a chance to talk about some important topics in a safe environment where the expectation is that everyone will be listened to and respected. For each discussion, I select a topic relevant in some way to the literature we’ve read that week. Our topic for 21 September was this: “Love is blind.”

This expression has been floating around the English language for a few centuries. Often, I pointed out to my students, expressions take on the appearance of truth after they’ve been used for a long time by a lot of people. Part of what we try to do with classical education is examine ideas that perhaps too often go unquestioned. With this in mind, I asked my students, “What does it mean to say, ‘Love is blind’?”

Hands shot up, and most of my students did a great job abiding by our class rules for discussions: only one person gets to talk at a time, everyone listens to every speaker, we get to speak in the order in which our names enter the queue, et cetera. The students not only offered their individual answers, but also responded to each other. After several minutes (and a few detours chasing off-topic rabbits), a few recurring ideas became evident. Among these ideas, the students reached a consensus that when one is genuinely in love with another person, then one sees good qualities in that person that others might not be aware of.

Next, I posed a hypothetical question to my students: If I went to downtown Houston during lunch hour with two pictures, one of my wife Katrina and one of Scarlett Johansson, and showed the pictures to strangers, who would most people say was the more beautiful? The students admitted (somewhat cautiously perhaps) that most strangers would pick Ms. Johansson.

“But,” I said, “in my opinion my wife is the more beautiful. Mrs. Chance is more beautiful than Scarlett Johansson. Why would I think this?”

More conversation ensued, and the students determined that I’d answer that way because I love my wife, and I see more than just what she looks like. I see my wife’s heart, as one student put it.

“So,” I said, “with all that we’ve said in mind, is it true that love is blind?”

None of the students agreed that the expression was true. Through their own examination of the expression, my students concluded that the opposite is true. They concluded that love isn’t blind, but rather that love sees with better vision.

April 25th, 2017  in RPG No Comments »

Virtuous Education

From August of 2012, now with some minor edits:

The purpose of a classical education is to teach children those things they need to know and to do in order to be both free and responsible. In the classical tradition, this focuses on the virtues of justice, temperance, courage, and, most importantly, prudence. The Christian tradition, when it adopted and baptized the classical tradition, added the virtues of faith, hope, and, most importantly, charity.

Once upon a time, there was an additional component to the education in virtue, namely the education in manners. Children were expected to learn and demonstrate the correct ways to behave in polite society. At Aristoi Classical Academy, we want to recapture this lost component of education. To help students learn how to behave in polite society, I cannot strongly enough recommend Ron Clark’s humorous, thoughtful The Essential 55.

Among the essential fifty-five is this rule:

“When responding to any adult, you must answer by saying, ‘Yes ma’am,’ or ‘No sir’. Just nodding your head or saying any other form of yes or no is not acceptable.”

I try to model this with my students in my interactions with both them and with adults. Often I’ve encountered people who object to me addressing them as “sir” or “ma’am”. I remember one lady in particular who attended the same church I did at the time. She bristled at being addressed as “ma’am”. I tried to explain to her why I did so. I’m not sure she ever bought into my explanation, but I think those reasons bear repeating here.

I try to address people as “sir” or “ma’am” as a sign of respect. This seems rather obvious, I think. Those two words are verbal clues, so to speak, that I view the person I’m speaking to as worthy of being taken seriously, of being appreciated. It doesn’t matter who the person is: a cashier at a fast food joint, a panhandler at an intersection, a door-to-door salesman, et cetera. Everyone deserves at least this modicum of respect.

“But not everyone,” I’ve heard people respond. “People have to earn respect, after all.”

Well, maybe they do, but there’s more to this rule. “Sir” or “ma’am” aren’t just signs of respect for that other person. They’re also signs of self-respect. I ought to value the quality of my character too much to speak to other people in a disrespectful manner, even if (or especially if) they seem to deserve it.

The trick is communicating this distinction to my students. When I answer a 5th grader with “Yes sir”, it’s not just a sign of respect for that student. It’s a message to others and myself that I am trying to be the kind of person who gives others respect as a matter of habit.

And that’s what a virtue is: a habitual tendency to behave in a manner that is aimed at the good.

April 11th, 2017  in RPG No Comments »

Learning Leadership

Originally posted elsewhere on 28 August 2012:

Today, I explained to my students the hows and whys of keeping a journal. Since I’m asking them to do it, I figured I should also. After all, it doesn’t seem fair for me to ask people to do things I’m not willing to do.

This principle of leadership was implanted into my brain while I was stationed at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. We had returned from a field exercise, and it was time to clean the equipment. Hawaii has a lot of red dirt which, when wet, turns into red mud that gets into everything. What’s more, it requires serious effort to clean the mud out of cloth and canvas.

We were in the motor pool. It was late, probably after midnight. Several of us had spread a large general purpose tent over the asphalt. It had rained during the field exercise, and the tent had changed color from olive drab to brick red over a large part of its surface. We crawled around the spread-out tent on our hands and knees, stiff scrub brushes in one hand and bottles of Simple Green in the other. The process was simple: spray the tent with Simple Green, scrub like maniacs, and then rinse and repeat until the tent was back to its original color.

While we did this, all the senior noncommissioned officers and commissioned officers stood around, drinking coffee, smoking, and laughing, but at least when they weren’t complaining about how slow we were in getting the tent cleaned.

That is, all except for First Lieutenant Freehill. Freehill was right there with us on his hands and knees, spraying and scrubbing and rinsing.

I remember a major telling Lieutenant Freehill that he didn’t have to scrub the tent. Freehill responded, “Yes, sir, but I’m not going to ask my soldiers to do something I’m not willing to do.”

My term of service at Schofield overlapped Freehill’s by about a year and a half. During that time, I don’t recall ever hearing any lower enlisted folks having anything other than words of praise for that young lieutenant.

March 31st, 2017  in RPG No Comments »