Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Homeschooling Quote from Susan Wise Bauer

Tangential to several discussions hosted on this blog and elsewhere in the blogosphere, I came across this quote reading today. I thought some might benefit from it.
In the effort to offend none, the public schools have managed to offend practically everyone--either by leaving religion and ethics out of curricula altogether or by teaching them in a way that satisfies neither believers nor skeptics. In sympathy, we'll say that the public schools are in an impossible situation. They are legally bound to avoid the appearance of promoting one religion over another. And in a mixed classroom, how can you take one religion seriously without antagonizing those who don't share it? The inevitable result is summed up by a character in P. D. James's mystery Original Sin:

"There were a dozen different religions among the children at Ancroft Comprehensive. We seemed always to be celebrating some kind of feast or ceremony. Usually it required making a noise and dressing up. The official line was that all religions were equally important. I must say that the result was to leave me with the conviction that they were equally unimportant."

When you're teaching your own child, you have two tasks with regard to religion: to teach your own convictions with honesty and diligence and to study the ways in which other faiths have changed the human landscape.
Mrs. Bauer's comments are balanced and fair. She does not treat each and every faith as valid pathways to the same God. Neither does she promote neglecting (or avoiding altogether) teaching about other faiths. What she does affirm is that our children should know how to respond to those of differing faiths and convictions and how to address them with grace and humility. That cannot be done if we know little to nothing about other faiths and convictions.

Also, she does not ignore the simple fact that people of faith have influenced history at every turn and to avoid the study of religion and ethics is catastrophic. Until a student is able to soberly and comprehensively address the influence various faiths have had on the history of humanity, his study will be woefully incomplete.

Source: The Well-Trained Mind, by Susan Wise Bauer, p.414.

8 comments:

Streak said...

Also, she does not ignore the simple fact that people of faith have influenced history at every turn and to avoid the study of religion and ethics is catastrophic. Until a student is able to soberly and comprehensively address the influence various faiths have had on the history of humanity, his study will be woefully incomplete.

Just curious. Is this suggesting that "secular" history doesn't study the role of faith in history?

Les Puryear said...

Sorry to be off topic. I was just wondering if you received the CDs.

Regards,

Les

Tony said...

Streak,

No, no, no, no!

That is not what I am implying...well, really I am not implying anything.

I just found this quotation intriguing and that most history I have studied and learned has been devoid of the influence various religions have played. It was only until I was much older that I really began to get a handle on these things.

Like, what led a statesman to make a particular decision, not just that the decision was made; why was a particular war fought; why did the Crusades dominate much of the religious life of medieval Europe; how did faith play in the drafting of America's primary documents; etc. and so on?

Les,

I did receive them and I thank you. I planned on emailing you. I will let you know what I think of them.

Streak said...

Hey, Les. How are things?

Tony, I am just curious. And I fully understand that often there is a huge disconnect between what we talk about at the college level and what is taught in grade through high school. But historians grapple with those questions often. In grad school I read as much on the First Great Awakening as I did on the ideas behind the revolution.

Tony said...

Streak,

Yes--I knew you were asking out of curiosity.

Honestly, in all my studies, I really did not grapple with the faith question and its influence on history until seminary.

I took twelve credit hours of history and the basic gov't class in college (I was a science major). And honestly, religion and ethics were never addressed, except in the comparative religion course and only remedially then. We were taught what different faiths believe, not why nor how it influenced history's decisions.

Now that I'm homeschooling, I look back and see how woefully unprepared I was for college and how incomplete my knowledge of history is. I did not get out of my college career what I should have; not to the detriment of my profs, because I had really good ones, but the coherence just was not there. When I went to history, I went to history, you know?

Susan Wise Bauer's books have proven fair, coherent, and balanced. She is currently working on a four volume history of the world.

Les Puryear said...

Streak,

Hey, man. It's good to see you alive and kicking. :)

Les

Streak said...

Yeah, Les. I am still around annoying people. :)

Tony, let me clarify, though you may not need it. One of the things that tends to cross up some of my evangelical friends is how we study history and how that effects the study of the faith. As historians, we are limited, obviously, to certain forms of evidence. We can certainly address how people of faith understood their world (or as close as we can get) and how that understanding informed their approach to other issues (public policy, slavery, family, constitution, etc., ). We are obviously inadequate at judging the sincerity of the faith or what God has to say about the subject.

Probably not important to point out to you, but something I have grappled with in the past.

Tony said...

Streak,

I think I understood, but thanks for the follow-up. Judging the sincerity of a historical figure's faith is difficult; I mean, take Constantine for instance. I also addressed this in my latest post about Einstein.

However, Mrs. Bauer's texts are refreshing because they are indeed balanced; no revisionism there.