Monday, April 22, 2013

The Teacher as Naturalist

Passage by William Penn

For our next entry, I have a historical passage written by William Penn from the section on education, in “Some Fruits of Solitude,” originally published in 1693. This passage is found in a pamphlet by Elbert Russell, “Early Friends and Education,” published by The Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of Friends’ Committee on Education in 1925. In this excerpt, Russell points out Penn’s appreciation of the “importance of activity in education and of the experimental and ethical in true learning.”

From my experience in attending and working at Friends Schools, these two principles, ‘experiential learning’ and ‘Quaker ethical values,’ are a central focus of Friends schools’ missions. I was intrigued to see such early writings embracing this practice. And with so many schools including a focus on Stewardship, this passage also offers a historical context of learning from nature as a pedagogical practice. Enjoy reading and please consider sharing your thoughts and interpretations!

     We are in Pain to make them Scholars, but not Men [or Women]! To talk, rather than to know, which is true Canting.

     The first Thing obvious to Children is what is sensible; and that we make no Part of their rudiments.

     We press their Memory too soon, and puzzle, strain, and load them with Words and Rules; to know Grammer and Rhetorick, and a strange Tongue or two, that it is ten to one may never be useful to them; Leaving their natural Genius to Mechanical and Physical, or natural Knowledge uncultivated and neglected; which would be of exceeding Use and Pleasure to them through the whole Course of their Life.

     To be sure, Languages are not to be despised or neglected. But Things are still to be preferred.

     Children had rather be making of Tools and Instruments of Play; Shaping, Drawing, Framing, and Building, &c. than getting some Rules of Propriety of Speech by Heart: And those also would follow with more judgment, and less Trouble and Time.

     It were Happy if we studied Nature more in natural Things; and acted according to Nature; whose rules are few, plain and most reasonable.

     Let us begin where she begins, go her Pace, and close always where she ends, and we cannot miss of being good Naturalists.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Peace: Can It Be Enforced?

The final of our three youth submitted blog entries. Bryan offers his perspective of Peace and the trouble with enforcing it. I encourage you to read and comment – share your thoughts and stories with us too!

By Bryan Shipon, Sophomore at William Penn Charter School

I think that peace is something that is talked about a lot, but not always enforced. In defense of schools, it is almost impossible to actually enforce peace. For example, the other day I was at a club meeting at my Quaker school. Specifically it was a business club meeting. We were talking about something and a fellow student jokingly said "you wanna rumble?” (or something along those lines). I responded to this by saying “No, I don’t fight, this is a Quaker school.” The boy eventually engaged in a playful fight, as the two were laughing. But, it was a fight nonetheless. At school, we are often reminded of peace with quotes at meeting for worship, posters around campus, etc. I think that some kids at the school don’t care about the feelings of others, but only about being “cool” and fitting in. From what I have experienced, this is not just a problem at this school, but with teenagers in America as a whole. Enforcing peace with teens is a very delicate thing.

I do think that peace does exist at this school. It doesn’t get the attention that hurtful acts do. In this world, it does seem that nice people and nice acts don’t get the attention that the bad things do. Just turn on the news. Here in Philadelphia, you see news of murder, robbery, and rape on the regular rather than so many good things that happen here with nonprofits. Philadelphia gets a bad reputation in the country, especially when it comes to sports fans throwing snowballs at Santa Claus. This city has a lot of good people, and they tend to get lost through the acts of a few stupid people. For me, peace is almost like a handicap parking spot. You see it, but when you get close, there’s a reason why it doesn’t exist. Just a few people can mess it up for the masses.

Recently at school, we were called into a mandatory assembly at lunchtime. The head of the Upper School spoke to the students. He said that he “doesn't use this word often, but (he was) disgusted”. He certainly had reason to be that way with the way some students had been acting on social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, etc. Students were saying some hateful things to their own classmates on sensitive subjects like race, religion, and sex among others. Students and teachers alike later commented that they never had seen him that mad.

It is hard to know exactly what peace is. One of the definitions on on peace is “absence of mental anxiety.”1  Clearly, in modern society that is nearly impossible. You are always stressing about something whether it be school, work, relationships.

Peace does not have a single authoritative expression.2  So, it cannot really be enforced. What are you going to do to enforce peace, punish someone who is acting non-peacefully? Spank them? Throw them in jail? That’s not really peaceful.

1 "Peace.", n.d. Web. 26 Feb. 2013.
2 QICadmin. "Friends Peace Testimony." Quaker Information Center., 26 May 2011. Web. 26 Feb. 2013.