Lest I Lose Perspective

As I've been focusing this past week on reading, spelling and writing and feeling a bit of the sting from comparing my kids' progress in these areas to others their age (I should know better!!), I was glad to find the following section in Vol. 6 today. It reminded me to 'major on the majors'. In this quote, CM is quoting Alexander Paterson who is condemning "the schools for the rapidity with which their best boys run to seed."

The syllabus was designed to leave a boy at fourteen with a thoroughly sound and practical knowledge of reading, writing and arithmetic and with such grounding in English, geography and history, as may enable him to read a newspaper or give a vote with some idea of what he is doing. But these are all subsidiary to teaching the three 'R's' which between them occupy more than half the twenty-four hours of teaching in the week. It is certain that the present object in view is dispiriting to master and boy alike for a knowledge of reading, writing and arithmetic is no education and no training but merely the elementary condition of further knowledge. In many schools the boy is labouring on with these mere rudiments for two or more years after all reasonable requirements have been satisfied.

The intelligent visitor looking at the note-books of an average class will be amazed at the high standard of the neatness and accuracy but he will find the excellence of a very visible order. The handwriting is admirable, sixteen boys out of thirty can write compositions without a flaw in grammar or spelling. Yet it will occur to him that the powers of voluntary thought and reason, of spontaneous enquiry and imagination; have not been stirred. This very perfection of form makes him suspicious as to the fundamental principles of our State curriculum.

In Public Schools boys are not trained to be lawyers, or parsons, or doctors, but to be men. If they have learned to work systematically and think independently they are then fit to be trained for such life and profession as taste or necessity may dictate. But at our Elementary Schools we seem to aim at producing a nation of clerks for it is only to a clerk that this perfection of writing and spelling is a necessary training.

Is he talking about schools in London in the early 1900s or is he talking about our Public schools today?!

This reminded me of a story I'd read years ago in John Maxwell's book Developing the Leader Within: (For those of you who may not know, my husband and I were hot and heavy in the Amway business for years and read several of Maxwell's books during that time.)

Here's how Maxwell tells the story:

One of my favorite stories is about a newly hired traveling salesman who sent his first sales report to the home office. It stunned the brass in the sales department because it was obvious that the new salesman was ignorant! This is what he wrote: "I seen this outfit which they ain't never bot a dim's worth of nothin from us and I sole them some goods. I'm now goin to Chicawgo."

Before the man could be given the heave-ho by the sales manager, along came this letter from Chicago: "I cum hear and sole them haff a millyon."

Fearful if he did, and afraid if he didn't fire the ignorant salesman, the sales manager dumped the problem in the lap of the president. The following morning, the ivory-towered sales department members were amazed to see posted on the bulletin board above the two letters written by the ignorant salesman this memo from the president: "We ben spendin two much time trying to spel instead of trying to sel. Let's watch those sails. I want everybody should read these letters from Gooch who is on the rode doin a grate job for us and you should go out and do like he done."

Maxwell goes on to say that surely they would have preferred someone who could sell and spell, but in any case, it's a silly story to remind us to keep things in perspective. And like Door in the Wall (YR2 free read) it also reminds us that our limitations are not necessarily closed doors.