What is Education? Chapter 5


Chapter 5. Two more chapters to go!

I enjoyed this chapter, thought I may not have fully grasped everything Jackson was trying to say. I imagine it will take much more rumination for me to get to the point where he is. I really liked what he said about “subject matter.” The subject has to matter. This requires a certain degree of passion, of zeal, of something–some kind of impetus that will be contagious and cause others to take an interest, or for it to matter to them as well. For me, this is part of what I think is important to being a teacher. It has to matter; you have to care. I agree with him that students will not love everything that they’re taught, yet as educators, we should aspire to make it matter to them. This goes along a little bit with a couple chapters ago on the grounding of educational effort. The students are not studying a subject to fulfill an outward obligation, but something has to be internalized within them that they will care for the “intrinsic worth” (56) of the subject.

As I considered this, I had a short discussion with my husband about what mattered to him and to me. I wonder if there is a personality component, because a lot of things matter to me–deeply, fiercely, passionately–but for him, he likes his vocation, but it doesn’t matter to him in the same way history matters to me. And as teachers we do have to take into account thing differences in personalities in our students. But still, we have to try, don’t we? We have to try to get their interest, make them care–to some degree, at least.

Wallace Stevens’ poem, “Pastoral Nun,” at a first read was slightly confusing (poetry is not my strong point), but as I read Jackson’s discussion of it afterwards, I thought it was very apt to what we are doing as educators. Teachers do have to see the positive in their students (although there are many who don’t) in order to see the potential that is there. Yet, there does need to be the balance where there is the criticism that the students need to grow a little more, be stretched a little more. This requires a kind of care from the teacher that goes beyond mere affection. Jackson ends the chapter with the word “lovingly.” I agree.

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