To Know as We Are Known: A Spirituality of Education

To Know as We Are Known: A Spirituality of Education

by Parker J. Palmer

This primer on authentic education explores how mind and heart can work together in the learning process. Moving beyond the bankruptcy of our current model of education, Parker Palmer finds the soul of education through a lifelong cultivation of the wisdom each of us possesses and can share to benefit others.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Education
  • Rating: 4.17
  • Pages: 160
  • Publish Date: May 28th 1993 by HarperOne
  • Isbn10: 0060664517
  • Isbn13: 9780060664510

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His definition of teach is to create a space in which the community of truth is practiced (p. -Declares it an ethic of detachment and manipulation (p.51) He also takes a close look at how this belief has shaped our classroom: -The focus of the classroom is looking outward (at historical events, a theoretical approach in action,), and not how we are affected by or engage these things -The teachers is put forth as the only one in the class who can transcend their subjective bias, that is why students cant actively participate in knowing but rather they are to observe the teacher (hence the lecture format). Palmer asks why teachers & students so often continue in these patterns of objectivity. One major reason is safety: it is known, it gives the teacher authority and control, it also means less is expected of students, and it simplifies our lives rather than revealing the true complexity that exists and the vulnerability that comes from engaging things on a personal level. Have learning be motivated by compassion, and to obtain this by seeing knowledge as a means to be in relationship with someone/something else. Midway through the book he acknowledges Bubers work (p.49-50), and he seems to be saying a very similar thing, calling us to an I-Thou relationship and even community, rather than an I-It dismissal. With this word one person enters a covenant with another, a pledge to engage in a mutually accountable and transforming relationship, a relationship forged of trust and faith in the face of unknowable risks (p. -Parker points out the connection between the biblical concept of knowing and loving even the way to know can also mean a sexual relationship -Truth is not inert, but active. The one-way movement of objectivism, in which the active knower tracks down the inert object of knowledge, becomes the two-way movement of persons in search of each other (p. He points out 3 ways that we can maintain this relationship based on the monastic traditions: 1) the study of sacred texts, 2) the practice of prayer and contemplation, and 3) the gathered life of the community (p.17). -Interview others who have personal experience with the topic -Even with nature or things that are inanimate draw the lines of how our lives our connected with that thing -Find ways to listen to that topic Truth is found as we are obedient to a pluralistic reality, as we engage in that patient process of dialogue, consensus seeking, and personal transformation in which all parties subject themselves to the bonds of communal troth (p.68). 76), use it to create a common space, for example give students Martin Bubers The Angel and the Worlds Dominion story (p.77), -Make lectures active (like including false information and having students test you on what is true and what isnt (p.78) -Use silences to teach: at the start of class, as a way to pray, as a break to discussion. -At the end of some class sessions take 10-15 mins for a brief corporate evaluation of how the class went (p.86) Palmer describes the importance of acknowledging the present moment of the reality of life in the classroom (rather than the objective approach where this is ignored and reality is out there). 105) and students then may feel constrained to approach the subject only as the teacher does. He also describes some specific acts that he has practiced that he also finds to act much like spiritual disciplines for teachers: -Studying outside ones field of expertise, which helps to provide new perspectives and insights -Teach in fields outside ones own expertise, which causes one to need to do more listening -Become students again, putting oneself in the students seat and practicing displacement -Displacing oneself via research: ex. The ultimate lesson silence has to teach is that God and the world have not absented themselves from us we have absented ourselves from them (p.121) The book ends with a strong case of how we need to learn to live in solitude at times, and that this doesnt mean not living in community.

And I have feared the misunderstanding that love in the classroom is really taboo. Palmer misses that love is not only the solution to the problem of an objectivist pedagogy, it is also part of the problem. Love of routine, love of slavishness, love of the sources of our affection -- family, friends, nation, such love stops the student from moving into a spiritual community of knowing. I understand that these are two aspects of love: the one that creates a learning community is rigorous and demands deep listening. But equally powerful, if not more, is a second kind of love which promises us warmth and comfort when we do NOT move towards certain types of critical knowledge. This love keeps us from moving towards our greater curiosity, deeper community, and truth. A second problem is what I take to be Palmers emphasis on consensus, harmony, and reconciliation (111). But I think we might need to excavate how and why it is that our estrangement and alienation was once the solution to the problem of primitive knowledge. Fourth, I think Palmer wants to believe that he can still be the good teacher, the good person, the good Christian. Even the teacher who lives up to Palmers highest ideals must still perform a kind of love that students will inevitably experience as a kind of loss and violence. So many that I want to list them: -His emphasis on healing the world (8); -The powerful work he derives from the monastic tradition which gives us: the reading of texts as a kind of sacred activity, the practice of reading and thinking as a kind of prayer, and the goal of creating communities of learning (17); -That the link in all epistemological chains are not ideas and theories, but rather a teacher, a mentor, a guide (29); -That the foundational unit of teaching, learning, and knowing are relationships (53); -The essential relationship of truth to troth a kind of fidelity and faithfulness (31) -That in knowing the world, we are also coming to be known by it (36); -That learning is about transformation and not-learning is about the fear of transformation (54); -That we cannot learn without being in love (58); -That as we read texts, they also read us (59, 62); -That the classroom is, in fact, necessarily within the world (88); and, -That we cannot begin to know ourselves without knowing the Hitler within us (102).

You be the judge: To speak of the classroom as a place "in which obedience to truth is practiced" is to break the barriers between the classroom and the world--past, present, and future.

He speaks of truth as neither fully objective nor fully subjective, but somewhere in between. It made a lot of sense to me when he said that people who see truth as something completely objective will see people and the world as something outside of them to be manipulated and controlled, leading to literal and figurative fragmentation of our teaching.

I feel that Palmer's model of becoming teacher only through a sense of calling and a lifetime of self spiritual work (and that doesn't mean being 'religious') truly could and should change education systems worldwide.

For Christians Truth is a Person, and can't only be studied like a history book, but experienced and reflected on like a sunset.

This was a wonderful read, and one I will keep coming back to as I continue the ongoing process of evaluating and refining my own teaching. This book was assigned reading in a Morals in Education course I am taking.

I read this book as a part of my graduate course, so it is probably not one I would have picked up on my own.

What difference did you notice in yourself or your students from making these changes?" I felt like the book was one large rhetorical question with him assuming I would arrive at the same answer.