Tuesday, March 21, 2023

"Education Is A Process Of Living"

Recently, one of our toilets stopped flushing: the chain that connects the tank lever to the flapper had broken. I cycled to the hardware store and located the replacement part I needed. Back home, I turned off the water to the toilet, flushed the tank dry, removed the old part, installed the new one, and turned the water back on. Then, although I was confident I'd set things to rights, I gave it a flush, taking satisfaction in watching the tank empty and refill as it ought to.

I've made this simple repair a number of times in my life. I remember my roommates and I panicking a little when it first happened in college. We were all slightly afraid of our landlord, plumbing repairs were not in our budget, and the internet didn't yet exist, but between the five of us young men we figured it out. I've not asked any of them, but I expect that the world is today populated by dozens of flappers that we have collectively replaced with our own ten hands.

I'm not a plumber, but I've learned repair a toilet. I can also snake drains, replace faucet handles, and know when to put my tools away and call in a professional. 

As a boy, I admired my elders' knowledge about the world. They knew how to fix things, cook meals, drive cars, grow vegetables, chop wood, fold laundry, and operate lawn mowers, vacuum cleaners, washing machines, and can openers. They inspired me to want to do those useful things myself.

Rudolf Steiner, the founding philosopher of the Waldorf school pedagogy, built his approach upon the idea that young children ought to be be immersed in environments in which they are surrounded by adults engaged in practical day-to-day activities and projects. Rather than assigning tasks to children, the adults' role is simply to go about their business of living, including children when they wish to be included and answering questions. Not only do children learn the basic skills of life in this way, but they also see that participating in practical day-to-day activities and projects are desirable acts of belonging, of community.

Parents often complain that their children refuse to tidy up their rooms or help out around the house, something most of them do, even eagerly, around our preschool classroom. I expect that's because we parents so often expect them to do it alone, which is unnatural, or we treat it like something undesirable, chores to be done grudgingly as an interruption to, rather than as a part of, our lives. 

As the great John Dewey wrote, "Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself. Education, therefore, is a process of living and not a preparation for future living." I'm happy to be an adult who can do things for himself, but that was never my goal, nor is it the goal of our youngest citizens. They are motivated by belonging and doing which is what makes life worth living.


"I recommend these books to everyone concerned with children and the future of humanity." ~Peter Gray, Ph.D. If you want to see what Dr. Gray is talking about you can find Teacher Tom's First Book and Teacher Tom's Second Book right here

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