Home Catechetical Corner When educational spaces change, how do we maintain the basics? — Father...

When educational spaces change, how do we maintain the basics? — Father Eugene Hemrick

Students work online via the computer at their home in Rotterdam, Netherlands, April 3, 2020. While the coronavirus pandemic has proven challenging for both schools and parents in educating children, it is also a chance for Catholic schools to confront those challenges with courage, said the Congregation for Catholic Education. (CNS photo/Utrecht Robin, ABACAPRESS.COM via Reuters)

How might we put right education, which is being turned upside down?

Education is often envisioned as the three R’s: reading, ‘riting and ‘rithmetic. Among other subjects it includes learning critical thinking and moral lessons. Plato saw it addressing the whole of life. For example, sound body, sound mind, and music and rhetoric.

Normally, the place of education is the formal classroom. Today this is changing with increased emphasis on home schooling, raising the question, Will essential knowledge, social and learning skills be maintained or diminished?

Eugene Hemrick
Father Eugene Hemrick writes for Catholic News Service (CNS file photo/Bob Roller)

Home schooling need not reduce sociability. For many home-schooled students socializing has been part of the educational process. For example, schoolmates at a distance from each other have made and donated face masks, shared allowances with the needy and distributed food to the destitute. In addition to desiring a bright future for themselves, they have practiced social justice, which is education par excellence.

Home schooling possesses an excellent means for competing with the best pedagogy existing. How is this possible?

Philosopher Francis Bacon stated, “A prudent question is one-half wisdom,” pointing us to the epitome of education — critical thinking and developing inquisitiveness. The internet offers an abundance of fruitful material. What better place to accomplish its use than in the contemplative atmosphere of home and turning home into an exciting educational center. Added to this, guides for interpreting the material on the internet are at one’s fingertips.

The Greek word “arete” denotes virtue. From ancient times until now teaching virtue has been imperative for improving character and being of noble service to the polis.

When I was a child, my Italian grandfather, who possessed no formal education, saw life through proverbs. For instance, honey attracts more bees than vinegar. Paraphrased, loving, kind words touch hearts; bitter words, nerves. Sleep with dogs and you awake with fleas. Paraphrased, pray for Solomon’s wisdom to pick friends wisely. No book learning was required when with Grandpa, just being with an elder sharing wisdom.

The present moment contains an opportunity to rethink the essence of education, its ultimate purpose and alternative spaces for making it successful — a time for American creativity to gear up.