Living Tradition


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I knew a teacher who had a conference with a student who begged mercy over a mid term grade. The teacher asked him about what it was exactly that he came to this place to find.

I went to high school at a place with a living tradition. My dad had gone there. His uncle had gone there before him. It was advertised to be a prep school.

Education majors and the “how” to educate question: methods of teaching were learned. In a world full of books and ideas, Socratic Questioning was used as a kind of questioning and in light of the progress of the discourse, into a new question with the original question responded to as though it were an answer. That was the living tradition of education.

Specialization was required to teach school. Teachers were all required to submit lesson plans, as if having to file a lesson plan would resolve the challenge of the day. It was one way to force a young teacher to be prepared for class on any given day. These teachers were required to learn not just a subject that was taught but methods of teaching.

How was it all working? This conveying of ideas? Success of a school, of the teachers, was now supposed to be judged, more so than the student. The insight was left to any one-time Little League coach, as to what politicians had done to the education process. The responsibility was taken from the student and parents, and placed on the teacher for failure. Somehow by tests given by state and local governments. Education has become politicized over the last generation, and actually given over to the impersonal portion of the world. Those tax collectors who just wanted your money and were not all so concerned about any of your personal problems.

This was not exactly the age of ideas in Washington. The Socratic method was supposed to stimulates discussion, in a modern world that never really listens any more to the implications of other positions. As a result, there was a cost to rational thinking.

The method of teaching. There was an importance to the liking. Liking teachers. Liking English. Liking History. Liking what exactly you had come to this place to find? How was it all working?

My high school English instructor was now the headmaster at the school in question. He has been at it a while, having spent most of his career administering a large public school district. But he had come back to where his career had begun. To this place with a “living tradition.”

What method of teaching exactly was it that you had come to this place to find? Was there a lack of meaning today? What was the response by institutions? Were the old ways still working? And after the conveying of ideas was done, how was it all going with this living tradition? I asked him at the last alumni reunion.

Passover. Generation after generation. Celebrating Passover. “Let my people go to worship me.” God’s review of His Chosen People. Of all the generations. Those examinations. Of the medical kind. There was the review of systems. The physical examination. The use of diagnostics, radiographs, to try and figure out what was going on inside. The assessment. The treatment plan.

Passover. God’s review of all of it. Today. How it all was working? Were immunities being built up? What no longer was working? The amazing statistic I heard in March was that within the state of Israel more than 80% of the people lived for the most part secular lives. Perhaps they kept the high holy days. It was only a travel show, so maybe the statistic was incorrect. But the Christian world was moving towards those numbers in the practice of religion. Maybe within Jewish dogma, people had begun to wonder why only people of certain blood were chosen in 2009. After the experiences of slavery and apartheid, of discrimination against women, and of the shock of the Holocaust. Maybe people had begun to wonder. A lot like what the Catholic world was questioning about the status of women. Maybe it was the questioning of the modern world to dogma, and the lack of response by institutional religion to suffering. The lack of movement.

Why is this night different? Passover.

The movement in the story. To be deeply moved. Passover. Look at the sudden movement. In the night. A lot like the pogroms. The first pogrom in Egypt. And all of the pogroms that followed.

The living tradition. The headmaster had written this month about teaching. My former English teacher said he like to give a demonstration what it was teaching was all about. He would ask for a volunteer to help him. That volunteer at this all boy’s prep school, would be asked, as an example, to recite the pledge of allegiance. And after that was done, before the volunteer sat down, he would be asked to recite, in his own words, the meaning of the pledge of allegiance.

Shock and awe. The economic collapse. Maybe next year my health would collapse. The real world. This creation. The polluted and the unpolluted parts of the world. In a world where mercy was begged no longer over a mid-term grade but over finances. What exactly was it that I had come to this place to find? Me! This was affecting me.

The shock at the movement. The awe of the meaning. Now I was being asked to recite one more time, in my own words, what all of this did mean in my words. So this is what thinking looks like? How was it all working? This conveying of ideas?

In a world full of books and ideas, the struggle of all teachers was how to convey not just facts but the meaning of all of this. In the modern world. The original question is reformulated with Socratic Questioning.

Too often with a resulting new suffering by kids who are now adults who just did not get the message for themselves? Education was really about nothing except meaning and significance of your life. The subjects that you liked. Your feelings about favorites was always so subjective.

But there was a lack of response, no real movement to all of the things that were supposed to be of great significance.

That living tradition of education, this method of teaching, the conveying of ideas, how was it all working? Why is this night, this week, different from all the rest?

Shock and awe operating in the real world. It was all such a shock. And the movement and response to all of this.

Passover, prayer, education was all about movement and response. How these kids would respond.


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