Saturday, April 16, 2011

Thoughts on Poetic Knowledge, chapter two (part one)

I'm hopelessly late in this week's discussion of the first part of chapter two, but life is what it is. I want to join in this discussion, but finding the time to devote to it is tricky.

I read over the chapter, including my marginal notes, which made reference both to Charlotte Mason (of course), and also to Alfred North Whitehead. It's been several years since I read The Aims of Education by Whitehead, so I had to pull the book out and look over my notes there to recall the similarities. One thing that I think is important to understand about "poetic knowledge," as it is called by Taylor in this book, is called by other names from other authors. Thus, when you read about "romantic knowledge" in Whitehead or "synthetic knowledge" from David Hicks (Norms & Nobility), it's really important to realize that they are talking about the same thing. Taylor borrowed the word "poetic" from some older authors, and it is valid, but it is not the only term to describe what he means--what Charlotte Mason called "the science of relationships."

Poetic knowledge is very much the difference between knowing things, and knowing about them. Our information age has made "knowing about" extremely easy, and it is easy to confuse a second-hand familiarity with real knowledge. We mustn't. The real knowledge is the poetic knowledge of close association, interaction, and ultimately, love.

This poetic knowledge begins with a sense of wonder, and I really like the quote from Dennis Quinn:
Wonder, always considered a passion, was classified by Aquinas and many before him as a species of fear....There are, of course many kinds of fear..[and] it is helpful to distinguish wonder from some passions in its immediate family. When we do so, we see that wonder is the most rational form of fear.

This kind of wonder, that makes us approach some new and unknown with awe and reverence, is, I think, what the Bible means when it tells us that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.

It is, of course, closely connected with the sense of ignorance that makes us aware that there is something we do not know, and that we need to know, or want to know--a state of humility without which true education cannot take place.

The one author that springs to mind when I think about this is Jostein Gaarder. I have read everything he has written (that has been translated into English), and I have never encountered anyone better able to articulate this sense of wonder than he does--from The Christmas Mystery to Sophie's World. I don't agree with all of his conclusions, but there is no doubt that understands the right frame of mind for looking at one thing--a flower, an orange, a sheep--and understanding how truly amazing it is--how worthy of our awe, because it is such an amazing thing, "infinitely more than nothing."

Now that I've wondered all over the map, it's probably pretty clear why I didn't get any kind of post done earlier for this chapter. In the end, it was this or nothing. I've avoided reading everyone else's thoughts until I posted my own, so I'm to do that now. You may want to join me.


At 12:27 AM , Blogger Brandy @ Afterthoughts said...

As always, I like your thoughts and will continue to chew on them today while I work away at ordering my home.

I love that you called wonder "a state of humility without which true education cannot take place." We certainly attempt in this country a type of education (a perversion perhaps) that is devoid of wonder. I remember fearing that my children, if I really gave them everything I could, if I poured myself out to them, the result would be arrogance. I have met so many highly educated people who are so very prideful, homeschooled children among them.

Now, I do not know the outcome of my work (obviously), but it is my hope that wonder really is the antidote to pride that it seems to be.

I have been wanting to ask you a totally unrelated question, if you don't mind. I'm asking a few CM/classical type moms this question. Did/do you use a particular book as your "spine" book in modern (1850-1994ish) history? I am still sort of shopping around (I have a year before I need to decide).


At 2:08 AM , Blogger Silvia said...

I'm glad you did not read our posts before writing yours, this way we got all different and provoking thoughts from you.
I like how you made it clear that many other authors are going to refer to this with other names. And thanks for saying how it is called by Miss Mason.
And yes Brandy, I too do want to inspire wonder, not pride, which, as you say, it's present in homeschooled children as in any others. There is that thought of the blessed minds to think they are better than others. I fight at times with this too when in my stupidity I believe I know better than such and such... You said your initial reasons to hs were reactive... When I am in desperate need of recognition, I can look for it proactively (such as asking my husband to tell me some things I do that contribute to our well being), or pridefully (as when I compare myself to come out as the victorious one).
If we model this humility, our children will inherit it and most likely adopt it themselves.

At 8:56 AM , Blogger Karen G. said...

Brandy, sorry it's taken me a while to answer your question. You don't mention the ages of the children who will be studying the 20th century, but I've done it at both the elementary and high school level. (Have one doing it now, in fact.) We have used both of Ambleside's choices for the elementary years--Story of the World, vol. 4, by Susan Wise Bother and another book on the 20th century by Axelrod (that one was out of print and became scarce). Landmark has a history of the United States in two volumes, and the 2nd volume isn't bad, although it doesn't cover much of the 2nd half of the 20th century. Gerald Johnson's 3rd volume of American history--America moves forward covers from 1917 to the 1960, and is also good, as far as it goes, although it is just US history, not world.

At the high school level, I have two spines--20th century history by Martin Gilbert (Ambleside selection again), and Paul Johnson's History of the American People, which covers all of American History, and we've been reading it right along, and it will be finished (around 1000 pages) with the 20th century studies. Paul Johnson also has a 20th century book that is worth looking at, but it doesn't work as a stand-alone spine because it discusses a lot of cause-and-effect relationships, and assumes a basic knowledge of the events mentioned. Hope that helps by at least giving you something to look at

At 6:41 PM , Blogger Brandy @ Afterthoughts said...

Karen, That actually helps a lot! I'm sorry I didn't give you ages! I was asking because a friend of mine had tried using a different volume of Story of the World at some other point along the way, and she really did not like it, and this made her (and, as a result, me) unsure about the AO selection. But the other book is, as you say, hard to find and sometimes pricey because of that. I happened to find someone who owned Vol. 4 and I flipped through it over the weekend, and it looked okay to me. I feel more assured now that I know you have used it and have no complaints. Thank you!

Have you ever read Johnson's Modern Times? My husband loved it when he read it a few years back, and I noticed that Dr. Grant uses it for Modern History in the HS years. Hmmm...


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