Back to School But Not Back to Learn

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Well, most of us are now preparing to resume school in the next few weeks.  Some of you have already started.  Some of you never stopped.  In fact, while formal schooling may have a yearly rhythm with starting and ending dates, learning itself transcends such boundaries.  In fact, while formal schooling is an important part of learning, it is only a part.  The late Jacques Barzun said that schools can teach but not educate, because the larger enterprise of education (the long, ongoing process of cultivating and civilizing a human soul) only occurs in the context of the larger community of parents, work, friends, church… and school.  So learning should not be something we relegate only to school–it is occurring all the time, either poorly or well and by a dozen different “teachers.”

As we “go back to school” we might remember this, so that we don’t expect too much from formal schooling, and so that we continue to expect more from other sources of communal education.  Parents are still the most important teachers that students have.  One could argue that the student himself is his own most important teacher, for until he decides to learn for himself he not really even a student (the original meaning of student contain the idea of one who is zealous and eager for knowledge, from the Latin studere: to be eager, earnest, zealous).  Are your students returning to school as zealots for truth, goodness and beauty?  Then they are ready for school, which is to say they have been students all summer long.