The FYB liked this school book so well he wanted his own copy. It qualifies as an ‘informational text,’ as it is an account of alphabet and where it came from. It begins with the Phoenicians and then the Egyptians and their hieroglyphs, followed by the Greeks and Romans, and the building of our own lettering system on those that went before. It chronicles the development of our letters and changes in lettering styles.
It inspired his imagination and had him working on his own secret alphabet and letter-based code.
You never know where and how this will happen, this flame of interest sparked by some outside source. This is why I believe in a wide and generous curriculum, Charlotte Mason style, which means several things. Here are two of them:
1. You do not limit your subjects on the basis of what you or they already like, on the basis of what *already* interests you or your children. You want to broaden their interests. You want to spread a wide net so they can find new interests. You can’t predict this, but it’s a beautiful thing when it happens. It always makes me think of the first line from Gerard Manley Hopkins poem, “as Kingfishers catch fire…” Something throws out a spark, and their quickening hearts catch that fire and throw it back.
2. A generous curriculum implies, to me, that other CM phrase- living books. Nonfiction books definitely can be and are living books, but just as not all nonfiction is living, neither is all nonfiction. Much of it is dead, dessicated, and drier than dust. Nothing can catch fire from it. Such lifeless, and even life-sucking, texts might be called ‘informational texts.’
A Charlotte Mason education can and does include science experiments, science texts (her students read Huxley and Faber, to name just two), biographies, geography books, and well written history books. It wouldn’t include books such as Recommended Levels of Insulation by the the US Environmental Protection Agency, and the Invasive Plant Inventory, by California’s Invasive Plant Council, as recommended and approved by the Core Curriculum council. Alexandra Petri shares some excerpts from these recommended texts:
Oh, “Recommended Levels of Insulation.” That was always my favorite, although “Invasive Plant Inventory” was a close second. (What phrases in literature or life will ever top the rich resonance of that opening line? “The Inventory categorizes plants as High, Moderate, or Limited, reflecting the level of each species’ negative ecological impact in California. Other factors, such as economic impact or difficulty of management, are not included in this assessment.” And we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past has nothing on it!)
“It is important to note that even Limited species are invasive and should be of concern to land managers,” I frequently tell myself, in moments of crisis. “Although the impact of each plant varies regionally, its rating represents cumulative impacts statewide.” How true that is, even today. Those words have brought me through moments of joy and moments of sorrow. They are graven on my heart. I bound them as a seal on my hand.
My dog-eared, beaten copy of “Recommended Levels of Insulation” still sits on my desk. I even got it autographed. Their delay in making a movie of this classic astounds me. That was where I first learned the magic of literature.
“Insulation level are specified by R-Value. R-Value is a measure of insulation’s ability to resist heat traveling through it.” What authority in that sentence!
70% of the reading material our nation’s 12th graders will be required to read will look like that. In grade school it’s only 50%. Maybe less, if their teachers and administrators are bold, brave, driven, and loaded with spare time to pool their reading lists, do the paperwork and buck the system and fight through the bureaucracy.
Assuming they understand it. That’s not me being insulting, That’s the explanation/defense given – educators at a local level are misinterpreting the wording of the code. Well, if the teachers who are supposed to implement your plan don’t understand it, maybe you have a really poorly written plan or we have really dumb teachers. Which one are you saying?
I could write a whole other post on how any educational plan which focuses on assigning and proportioning out ‘informational text’ reading and fiction on the basis of percentage points reflects another serious issue with our educational approach. We have the souls of technocrats.
Elllul in his book The Technological Society describes one of the symptoms of a society of technicians:
‘resolving in advance all the problems that might possibly impede the functioning of an organization instead of leaving something to inspiration, ingenuity, or even intelligence to find a solution at the moment some difficulty arises, it is rather in some way anticipated both difficult and solution from then on.’
“The technical man…. above all… is committed to the never-ending search for ‘the one best way’ to achieve any designated objective.”
The technical man (or mom) wants rationally arrived at methods in order to obtain standardized results.
Educators, as differentiated from educationists, seek relationshis, connections, those moments where kingfishers catch fire. Educationists or technicians view education as a commodity to be bought and sold and they seek a perfect method to achieve absolute efficiency, and that perfect method “eliminates or subordinates the natural world.”
We implement these tools in the name of efficiency without ever, as Ellul says:
evaluating the danger of what might happen to our humanity in the present half-century, and distinguishing between what we want to keep and what we are ready to lose, between what we can welcome as legitimate human development and what we should reject with our last ounce of strength as dehumanization. I cannot think that choices of this kind are unimportant.At best, they would cease to be good technicians.” In the end, technique has only one principle, “efficient ordering.”
As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies dráw fláme;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell’s
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves – goes itself; myself it speak and spells,
Crying Whát I do is me: for thatI came.
Í say móre: the just man justices;
Kéeps grace: thát keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is -
Chríst – for Christ play in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men’s faces.