Monday, November 30, 2009

David Brooks and how we learn

The C-J is running a David Brooks column about our "other education":
We don't usually think of this second education. For reasons having to do with the peculiarities of our civilization, we pay a great deal of attention to our scholastic educations, which are formal and supervised, and we devote much less public thought to our emotional educations, which are unsupervised and haphazard. This is odd, since our emotional educations are much more important to our long-term happiness and the quality of our lives.

In any case, over the next few decades Springsteen would become one of the professors in my second education. In album after album he assigned a new course in my emotional curriculum.

This second education doesn't work the way the scholastic education works. In a normal schoolroom, information walks through the front door and announces itself by light of day. It's direct. The teacher describes the material to be covered, and then everybody works through it.

The knowledge transmitted in an emotional education, on the other hand, comes indirectly, seeping through the cracks of the windowpanes, from under the floorboards and through the vents. It's generally a byproduct of the search for pleasure, and the learning is indirect and unconscious.
That may be how Mr. Brooks does it. For myself, it's been three decades since I engaged a scholarly book without weighing it against the Boss's deeper wisdom.

When I wrestled with Harvard's John Rawls and his political philosophy built entirely around individual choice, my objections rooted in family and community found their best voice in song:
I come from down in the valley, where mister when you're young
They bring you up to do like your daddy done.
Everything I read about Thomas Friedman's take on the global economy gets filtered through the losses that that flat world brings with it:
From the Monongaleh valley
To the Mesabi iron range
To the coal mines of Appalacchia
The story's always the same
Seven-hundred tons of metal a day
Now sir you tell me the world's changed
Once I made you rich enough
Rich enough to forget my name
Every new set of numbers on the current recession echoes for me off the early Reagan economy:
I had a job, I had a girl
I had something going mister in this world
I got laid off down at the lumber yard
Our love went bad, times got hard
Now I work down at the carwash
Where all it ever does is rain
Don't you feel like you're a rider on a downbound train
Whether I'm reading about learning styles or brain research or teaching that closes achievement gaps, I measure excellent teaching by whether it could stand its ground against this:
We busted out of class, had to get away from those fools
We learned more from a three-minute record, baby
Than we ever learned in school.
Most of all, my standard of engagement--my understanding of work worth doing and the energy it deserves--was learned from a single mighty scholar of life well lived:
You hear the voices telling you not to go,
They made their choices and they'll never know,
What it means to steal, to cheat, to lie,
What it's like to live and die
Prove it all night, prove it all night girl and call the bluff,
prove it all night, prove it all night and girl,
I prove it all night for your love.

The cards I've drawn's a rough hand darlin'
I straighten my back and I'm working on a dream
I'm working on a dream

Tramps like us, baby we were born to run.

1 comment:

  1. I also discovered the piece in the CJ this a.m. and must say I was pleasantly surprised to see such an article. Your addition in Prichblog complimented the read..... the Boss would be impressed!

    P.S. A 60 + year old friend of mine recently caught his act last week in Nashville and said he rocked for 3 hours straight. It's all about the passion!


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