Part I is here.
We were in a small convenience store, very small, in fact, not much bigger than my living room. We were the only customers. When we walked in the only cashier was complaining about her job to the man delivering the carbonated beverages. She never left the 2X3 foot space behind her cash register, and she never stopped complaining until we came up to make our purchases.
When we came to her register she looked at my two children, then about 6 and 7, and asked why they were not in school. I explained that we homeschooled and this was our lunch break. She looked at me in shock, and exclaimed, “You stay home with them all day long! That would drive me crazy!” I smiled and said that I didn’t mind, they were pretty nice kids to be with. She said, “Oh, that’s not what I mean. I’m sure they’re great kids. I just couldn’t sit around at home all day like that. I need more mental stimulation than that.”
I was appalled, as I looked around the narrow confines of that tiny store, and realized that this offered more stimulation to her than her own mind. Not for her the words “My mind to me a kingdom is.”
Nearly an hundred years ago, a noble minded educator who objected to merely utilitarian education wrote, “our hope is that henceforth we shall bring up our young people with self-sustaining minds, as well as self-sustaining bodies, by a due ordering of the process of education. We hope so to awaken and direct mind hunger that every man’s mind will look after itself.” Instead, she feared for the children, concerned that “their future intellectual requirements will be satisfied by bridge at night and golf by day.”
I am reminded of a conversation I had some years back with a dear friend who asked me what point there was in knowing the names of the trees and flowers and birds- when would the children ever need it, why waste time doing it, what good did it do to know these things, what difference would it make if we didn’t know them… Yet at the same time she could not understand why I was not interested in driving 25 miles round trip three times a week or more so my children could participate on the city soccer, baseball, and swimming teams.
I want more than this from my children’s education. I do not want for them such a maimed existence. “We are filled with compassion when we detect the lifeless hand or leg… many a man has brought home as a consequence of the War. But many of our young men and women go about more seriously maimed than these. They are devoid of intellectual interests, history and poetry are without charm for them, the scientific
work of the day is only slightly interesting, their ‘job’ and the social amenities they can secure are all that their life has for them.”
Too many people must be spoon fed their intellectual food- left to their own devices they are as helpless as a one-month-old at securing food. As a friend once told me, she is “convinced that much of boredom in life is due to an appalling lack of interest in the wonders of human talents and creation around us!” The do not know how to entertain or educate themselves.
Now Erin, at Bearing Blog, thinks college is the way to go to get this ability to sustain the life of the mind. I agree that college is one way to leave the narrow restrictions of the mundane and attain the treasures of an intellectual kingdom, but I don’t think it is the only way. Education of this sort can begin and end at home and in the library so long as we learn that to know is delightful, and that ‘studies serve for delight.’