Sunday, April 29, 2012

Caring to Care (and to Daven)

I am reading and rereading Seth Godin's manifesto Stop Stealing Dreams on transforming education.  I have previously commented on this but on a more meta level.  Now, with tefilla education on my mind, I wanted to share the following two excerpts:

41. Judgment, skill, and attitude
Those are the new replacements for obedience.

We sometimes (rarely) teach skill, but when it comes to judgment and attitude, we say to kids and their parents: you’re on your own.

Here’s what I want to explore: Can we teach people to care?

I know that we can teach them not to care; that’s pretty easy. But given the massive technological and economic changes we’re living through, do we have the opportunity to teach productive and effective caring? Can we teach kids to care enough about their dreams that they’ll care enough to develop the judgment, skill, and attitude to make them come true?

42. Can you teach Indian food?
It’s not easy to find young Anglo kids in Cleveland or Topeka who crave Tandoori chicken or Shrimp Vindaloo. And yet kids with almost the same DNA in Mumbai eat the stuff every day. It’s clearly not about genetics.

Perhaps households there approach the issue of food the way school teaches a new topic. First, kids are taught the history of Indian food, then they are instructed to memorize a number of recipes, and then there are tests. At some point, the pedagogy leads to a love of the food.

Of course not.

People around the world eat what they eat because of community standards and the way culture is inculcated into what they do. Expectations matter a great deal. When you have no real choice but to grow up doing something or eating something or singing something, then you do it.

If culture is sufficient to establish what we eat and how we speak and ten thousand other societal norms, why isn’t it able to teach us goal setting and passion and curiosity and the ability to persuade?

It can.
I think this is a powerful confrontation for every educator to consider and specifically for those preaching/modeling a moral and religious practice. The point in 41 is of paramount importance - are we really teaching kids to care or to model/mimic that they care?  While teaching the skills and history of a performative act, we must also channel energy into how to own the act out of school and without grades, or parents, or peers.

Godin's point in section 42 is a clever framing of a cultural inheritance and the challenge of choice.  Following the argument, perhaps educators need just to sharpen their goal setting and passion involved in teaching tefilla. Sounds almost easy.

No comments:

Post a Comment