Ambleside Schools International Articles
Video Series Part 12.
Chapter Nine: How Much Does the Student Care?
“The question is not “how much does the youth know?” when he has finished his education but rather “how much does he care?”
Motivation is more important than information. The student who cares about spelling or science or mathematics will do well and learn these things to the fullness of their God-given ability. We care about those things with which we have developed a relationship; we care about those things which are valued by our community. The student who cares will do well.
In Part 12 of our video and discussion guides, Bill St. Cyr discusses how we bring children to care.
Limitations of Teachers. We wish to place before the child open doors to many avenues of instruction and delight, in each one of which he should find quickening thoughts. We cannot expect a school to be manned by a dozen master-minds, and even if it were, and the scholar were taught by each in turn, it would be much to his disadvantage. What he wants of his teacher is moral and mental discipline, sympathy and direction; and it is better, on the whole, that the training of the pupil should be undertaken by one wise teacher than that he should be passed from hand to hand for this subject and that.
Our aim in Education is to give a Full Life. We begin to see what we want. Children make large demands upon us. We owe it to them to initiate an immense number of interests. Thou hast set my feet in a large room; should be the glad cry of every intelligent soul. Life should be all living, and not merely a tedious passing of time; not all doing or all feeling or all thinking — the strain would be too great — but, all living; that is to say, we should be in touch wherever we go, whatever we hear, whatever we see, with some manner of vital interest. We cannot give the children these interests; we prefer that they should never say they have learned botany or conchology, geology or astronomy. The question is not –– how much does the youth know? when he has finished his education –– but how much does he care? And, about how many order of things does he care? In fact, how large is the room in which he finds his feet set? And, therefore, how full is the life he has before him?
I know you may bring a horse to the water, but you cannot make him drink. What I complain of is that we do not bring our horse to the water. We give him miserable little text-books, mere compendiums of facts, which he is to learn off and say and produce at an examination; or we give him various knowledge in the form of warm diluents, prepared by his teacher with perhaps some grains of living thought to the gallon. And all the time we have books, books teeming with ideas fresh from the minds of thinkers upon every subject to which we can wish to introduce children …
Children as they are. And children have not altered. This is how we find them ––with intelligence more acute, logic more keen, observing powers more alert, moral sensibilities more quick, love and faith and hope more abounding; in fact, in all points like as we are, only more so; but absolutely ignorant of the world and its belongings, of us and our ways, and, above all, of how to control and direct and manifest the infinite possibilities with which they are born.
Our Work, to give vitalising Ideas. Knowing that the brain is the physical seat of habit and that conduct and character, alike, are the outcome of the habits we allow; knowing, too, that an inspiring idea initiates a new habit of thought, and hence, a new habit of life; we perceive that the great work of education is to inspire children with vitalising ideas as to every relation of life, every department of knowledge, every subject of thought; and to give deliberate care to the formation of those habits of the good life which are the outcome of vitalising ideas. In this great work we seek and assuredly find the co-operation of the Divine Spirit, whom we recognise, in a sense rather new to modern thought, as the supreme Educator of mankind in things that have been called secular, fully as much as in those that have been called sacred.1
Questions and Thoughts to Consider:
- What does it mean to say that motivations are more important than information?
- What are the benefits to having one wise teacher vs students being ‘passed from hand to hand?
- How does “caring” in education now guide behaviors in 20 years?
- What distinguishes the student who uses his or her full God-given abilities?
- How does a child come to care?
- What are ‘habits of the good life’ and what are some vitalizing ideas that help form these habits?
- How does caring impact our relationships with God, man, ourselves?
1 Charlotte Mason, School Education, 170-173.