Do you ever wonder?

I’ll eventually get to the part of the book actually written by Clark and Jain, no worries. But the preceding material is good, too. This statement jumped out at me from the “Publisher’s Note,” written by Christopher Perrin:

‘Wonder’ is a condition for all future study.

You could just ponder that for a week to good effect, I think. The idea of wonder has been under-appreciated in educational realms. Those who have taken hold of it and recognized its vital role in learning have found the key that will unlock many doors. Little children have a natural inclination to wonder, and school often destroys it. What educational practices contribute to that? What should we not be doing? And is there anything we can do to cultivate and preserve that sense of wonder? Those are the kinds of questions that could occupy us for a week!

This sentence caught my eye because I always focus on this word when I see it. I learned about wonder and its role in education in the first place from Charlotte Mason.

They must be let alone, left to themselves a great deal, to take in what they can of the beauty of earth and heavens; for of the evils of modern education few are worse than this—that the perpetual cackle of his elders leaves the poor child not a moment of time, nor an inch of space, wherein to wonder—and grow. (Home Education, p. 44)

…One of the secrets of the educator is to present nothing as stale knowledge, but to put himself in the position of the child, and wonder and admire with him; for every common miracle which the child sees with his own eyes makes of him for the moment another Newton. (Home Education, p. 54)

But she is not the only one who perceived this truth.

Philosophy and poetry have more in common than is usually thought: both begin in wonder. (Habits of the Mind by James Sire, p. 79)

Aristotle concludes this point clearly near the beginning of the Metaphysics when he recognizes that there is a poetic impulse to know in all men, an experience he calls “wonder,” that initiates all learning. (Poetic Knowledge by James Taylor, p. 24, emphasis added)

I could easily be wrong, but I think the reason that wonder is a condition for all future study, as Dr. Perrin says, is that it keeps us in that humble and hungry frame of mind that is uncritical.

A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood. If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantments of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strength. (The Sense of Wonder by Rachel Carson, p. 42-43)

Rachel Carson’s wish is my wish, too. I wish that sense of wonder could be preserved for my children, your children, all children. But I am jealous for the grown-up children, too, who have already suffered its loss. I think we can recover it. I know we can, because I did. Just wonder a bit about wonder this week, and that will be a very good start.

Next time, I’ll definitely get into the actual chapters of the book.

Copyright Karen Glass 2018


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