When The Gurus Change Their Minds

I wrote a post called Whose Your Guru that got a lot of attention back when, maybe more than it deserved. Something happened in guru-land last week that made me think, “hmm, maybe I should revisit that theme.” And then I thought, ‘nah.’

Then the same thing happened a few days later, only with a different guru, and I thought, “Maybe I should blog about this.” And then I thought, ‘nah.’

Just a few minutes ago I read something else along the same lines, and I think I should blog about this.

Last week is that somebody sent me a link to this– and this is why I didn’t really want to blog about this. I really, really like Reb Bradley and his ministry. I know he’s helped a lot of people. I like what he says here- I agree with probably 85 percent of it. But I have to tell you there is one small paragrath that just about made my hair stand on end. He is writing about a temporary but serious breach in his relationship with his 18 y.o. son. It was so serious he had to ask his son to leave the home. And this is what happened:

I remember speaking the words to him – “Son, you’ve ruined my dreams.” You see, I had a dream for my family… But now, my son had gone and “messed up” my perfect dream. Nothing is wrong with dreaming of good things for your children, but the truth was, my dream for my son was mostly about me.

I read that and was genuinely shocked. How, I wondered, could it be possible for Reb Bradley not to have known that this was a problem? He says it took years before he was even able to see what role he had played in damaging that relationship (which I believe is now healed). How could he not have shocked himself when he blurted out something like “How could YOU do this to ME?” I thought everybody knew that this was the wrong thing for a parent to say to an errant child, because if a child is truly errant what he is doing to himself is so much worse than what he is doing to the parent that the parent should be too grieved to even think about himself. But apparently, everybody doesn’t know what I took for granted. We should never assume that even ‘experts’ know everything, even if it’s something we do know.

He went on to say,

“However, when we begin to see our children as a reflection or validation of us, we become the center of our dreams, and the children become our source of significance.”

I was stunned. I had made a bit of a guru of a man who learned piece of common knowledge after over twenty years of parenting? And of course, that is the problem- not Reb, but me. I shouldn’t need to be told that he is a human with human failings. I should assume that and should not be shocked. I shouldn’t assume that what I think is common knowledge really is. I should also assume whenever I read or listen to ‘ a guru’ that I am getting a filtered picture- and this isn’t even necessarily deliberate. Quite often we do not even realize where our thinking falls short of God’s word until something heartbreaking shakes up our complacency.

I do not want to be misunderstood, I am not saying ‘don’t listen to him,’ and I am not dismissing him. He has some important thoughts that we should all give thoughtful consideration to. My point is really about those of us who make gurus of normal human beings who perhaps have a gift for communication, or for explaining things well, or for expounding on the Bible, or for wisdom, or whatever. Admire them. Respect them. But do not let what they have to say replace your own careful, prayerful judgment. This is especially true if the only way your know these people is from what they write. Or, yes, blog.

The second instance is similar. The details aren’t that important- it was just yet another homeschooling guru who has written books, sold material, done a lot of public speaking, and advocated certain things for years, and now is selling more materials basically saying, ‘Disregard the other things I said, this is the way to do it now.’ The guru sounds just as confidant and sure about this new idea as the guru once did about the old one. Who’s to say which guru is right- version 1.0 or version 3.0?

And just today I read an interesting post by Chad Degenhart (his blog picture makes me drool, but not in that way. Go look and see what I mean), writes:

Gary North recently wrote an article on Why Home Schools Are Superior to Private Schools”. It’s a good one to read, and worth commenting on. In the past, one of Gary’s criticisms of home schools has been their inefficiency.

Basically Gary believed that what a child could learn at home was limited to what the parents, primarily the mother, knew. He thought that if several families got together they could support a professional and thus make sure the offspring were really learning hard stuff. He acknowledges that he underestimated parents. He now realizes, he says, that:

Parents are more interested in their children’s performance than salaried teachers are. Teachers must concern themselves with a room full of other people’s children. A mother concerns herself with a room full of her children. It is a smaller room.

And Chad Degenhart points out:

Of course, what was an epiphany for North was likely self-evident to the average homeschooling Mom, even if she’s never heard of Mises.

If you’ve never heard of Mises, go read the post for the reference. My point is simply this- what was an epiphany to Gary was self-evident to me, and that’s why he didn’t even make me blink when I read, maybe a couple of decades ago, that he thought private schools were much better. There were several reasons, but that was certainly a key point in my decision not to read much of his stuff anymore. I knew that what he preferred was wrong for our family, and fortunately the HM and I were in agreement about what we knew.
But I wonder… how many less confidant (or simply less bullheaded) parents out there dutifully put their kids in a private school because Gary said it would be best and they thought he was wiser than they? How many of them set aside the fairly light and easy (and fun) work of homeschooling and picked up the much heavier burden of trying to work with other families to start a private school? I wonder what they are thinking now?

The entire post at Degenhart’s place is a great read on self-education, real learning, and homeschooling. I’m kind of yanking it out of shape a bit to make my own point, and I hope nobody misses out on the really interesting things Chad says about education. But Gary says:

It’s obvious, isn’t it? Yet it took me 20 years of watching the home school movement develop to come to this conclusion.

This late conclusion may be an example that runs counter to my theory of child pedagogy. I wish that someone had pointed it out to me earlier. It might have saved me two decades. But I might not have believed it. Self-education is the best education as a general rule.

And Degenhart points that the truth, as always, was out there, and in this case not even so very far ‘out there,’ as North and Robinson of Robinson’s Curriculum have been friends and colleagues for twenty years (almost as long as we have been homeschooling). Robinson, for those who do not know, is a staunch advocate of self-education. For some reason, Degenhart says, Gary North is just now seeing the light. Too bad for those who believed he had already seen the light for the last twenty years.

Gary North is not one of my favorite authors- far from it. But I do not want to be unfair. We all make mistakes, learn, grow, change, improve our reasoning, come to different conclusions, change our minds. And that’s why we should not put our trust in men or gurus. By all means we should be humble enough to glean and consider what the ‘experts’ have to say. But in the end, it’s our family we are talking about, and Gary never met us. He can’t make the best decisions for us.
We all need to take heed how we stand and remember that it is to our own Master we stand or fall- not to a guru who writes well.

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3 Comments

  1. lady laura
    Posted July 1, 2006 at 4:21 am | Permalink

    Very interesting post, DHM. As usual. Though, I do not consider you a guru. Really I don’t.

    And I know what the drooling is all about. I wonder if it’s his or just an image. It makes my heart go pitter patter.

  2. Anonymous
    Posted July 1, 2006 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    I wonder why we humans are so intent on lionizing other humans and then being surprised/appalled when that human turns out to BE human? In the homeschooling culture this happens on a regular basis. Now, I happen to know you and know that you are reasonable in this area, but I have also known others who practically lost all their faith in people because one fallible person fell off the pedestal. I think the bigger surprise is that anyone looks good long enough to be put on a pedestal! And it bears repeating that those who write well and look good in print may not look so perfect if we live with them 24/7.
    All that said, there is nothing wrong with admiring and respecting a person highly–just need to remember that humans are imperfect. OTOH, love does cover a multitude of sins, doesn’t it? For, while you may or may not have a *multitude* of sins, you look pretty perfect to me.
    Judy in TX

  3. jdavidb
    Posted July 1, 2006 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

    I saw that Reb Bradley article recently; it seems to be making the rounds. And I didn’t think much about it, but I kind of skipped reading the rest of the article because of a vague feeling I couldn’t articulate. I now realize that vague feeling was, “Shouldn’t everything he is saying have been obvious?” I didn’t even feel it necessary to hunt down the second part of his article to see if there was any value there.

    I may have had a bit of an advantage in that I didn’t know Reb Bradley from Adam.

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