An Exploration of Sacred Parenting and Education

Becoming a Creative Minority

In Education, parenting, Spirit, heart & soul on January 13, 2012 at 10:43 am

From Teachers to Educators – yes, that is the challenge, as you so rightly say. The role of spiritual community is also so important, for tarbiyah is traditionally understood as the totality of the educational process in family, school and religious or spiritual community. But there is also another dimension, and that is what might be called self-nurture. To move from teaching to educating requires that we foster the ability in our children to learn for themselves through the awakening and activation of their own faculties. I have referred to many of these faculties in previous posts and comments. The modern schooling process does not generally provide the opportunities to do so, partly because few teachers understand what those faculties are, and the curriculum has been progressively stunted, de-humanized and de-souled. The possibility that children may develop them are further diminished by a profoundly destructive popular culture in which they are increasingly saturated.

Given all this, there is a temptation to withdraw from the ‘system’ altogether and that is of course what drives the rise in home-schooling. This is understandable in many ways, and there is good evidence that can be advanced to contest the belief that homeschooled children run the risk of being socially inept, unintegrated in wider society, incapable of forming friendships, and the like. Homeschooled children often develop a strong ‘individual self’ because they are not driven by peer pressure and demands to conform, and that sense of self then serves to protect them from becoming conditioned later in life. I have a good friend whose children went to normal state schools, but she refused to have television in the house. Instead, she provided a library of audio books over the years. They developed sophisticated listening skills, conversational awareness, and emotional intelligence (dimensions of education rarely fostered at school) even if they probably slipped out from time to time to watch TV with their friends! It was always a pleasure to visit them, sit around a table, and engage in wonderful discussions. Immersion in great literature certainly enriches these capacities. In drawing us into their narratives, characterization, and varied modes of expression, great works of literature help us to understand the human condition in all its richness, complexity and diversity. That process of exploration and identification help us to develop imagination and psychological and emotional maturity, and to learn empathy and compassion, as well as internalize a more finely attuned moral compass. The same applies to all the arts, creative and expressive.

As always, there has to be a balance, so that protecting children from corrupted systems and cultures does not become an over-protection which handicaps them. The great historian Arnold Toynbee had some important insights in his 12-volume analysis of the rise and fall of civilisations (A Study of History, 1934-1961). Toynbee believed that civilizations arise by the response of creative individuals to challenges presented by situations of special difficulty and that advances in civilization occur when difficulties are responded to in creative ways that are internal and spiritual rather than external and material. There are two essential and separate steps in meeting a challenge facing a civilisation: the generation of ideas by the creative minority and the adoption of those ideas by the majority. If either of those two processes ceases to function then there is a “schism in the body social”, social unity is lost and the civilization breaks down. In such a period of social decay, people resort to Archaism (idealization of the past), Futurism (idealization of the future), Detachment (removal of oneself from the realities of a decaying world), and Transcendence (meeting the challenges of the decaying civilization with new insight, as by a Prophet) which which can create a new collective spiritual bond or social order. Those who can provide such new insights become a ‘creative minority’ capable to transforming society and creating new civilisations.

So one of the challenges for us as teachers (whether as parents, institutional educators, mentors, or whatever) is to provide the means to counter the negative effects of schooling and cultural conditioning without falling into that radical pessimism and disillusionment which leads to what Toynbee calls Detachment (retreating to the forest, setting oneself apart, withdrawing from society).

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  1. Message in a bottle: A minority within a minority; kernel of the kernel

    Thank you once again Jeremy. Many themes to explore in this post of yours to spark off new posts as I’m sure we will see in the coming days and weeks. I feel to get the ball rolling, we may need a small group of people, even 3, who can come together as the driving force for any projects we wish to develop. Till then, it may just mean bouncing ideas of each other allowing things to evolve organically. I also feel, what we write here may benefit people of another generation too – who will read this long after we’ve moved on to the Unseen. May be its their need more than ours that has created this. (if that applies to you dear reader – my deepest love and greetings to you).

    S

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