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Cheryl, I think the whole concept of poetic knowledge is a recognition that there are things that can be known--a kind of knowing--that is not subject to the limitations of scientific demonstration. I'm working on another book, and recently wrote this sentence:

Because we cannot dissect a person, remove the mind, and examine it under a microscope, nor subject it to analysis by x-ray or MRI or any other device we possess, we must fall back on analogies to help us understand what a mind is, and what a person of mind needs.

****

Your point reminded me of it--what we can observe with our physical senses is not all that there is. I'm reading that book on epistemology (Loving to Know by Esther Meeks), and she addresses the same questions we're discussing here. I think we need some twenty-first century books written with a pre-enlightenment mindset, but I'm not sure that's possible.

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3 hours ago, KarenG said:

 I think we need some twenty-first century books written with a pre-enlightenment mindset, but I'm not sure that's possible.

Oh Lord, make it so! That would be amazing. In the meantime, we should definitely continue to struggle, in humility knowing we are removed and must submit ourselves to alien thought of time and culture. 

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On ‎3‎/‎4‎/‎2019 at 11:07 AM, Cheryl Floyd said:

If you had put Jesus' cheek cells under a microscope would you have seen God? Would that have proved he wasn't yet God or ever was God? If not, what does that say about the limits of science in relation to the knowledge of creation and creation's God? 

That is quite an interesting "thought experiment"! And profoundly theological in that your question probes the mystery of Jesus being both human and God. I had to take a walk in the woods to think more about it. Yes, modern science, by completely embracing materialism, has boxed itself in with strict rules that only admit what can be perceived by the senses or measured by instruments that extend the range of human perception. Curiously, despite these limitations, it claims to be the only source of true knowledge. And whatever can't be explained either will eventually be explained by science, or else it simply doesn't exist.

I am also reading a collection of essays entitled Theistic Evolution. One contributor, Douglas Axe, a molecular biologist, argues that we know intuitively that hummingbirds are not the product of a series of purely accidental occurrences. Intuition, coupled with imagination, seems to be the first step to what James Taylor calls poetic knowledge. It is a different kind of "seeing", one that does not employ a microscope, one that leads to a different kind of "knowing".

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My journey to Orthodoxy caused me to question and contemplate The Incarnation in ways I hadn’t during my twenty years prior as a Christian. Classical education lead me on that journey. 

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On 3/7/2019 at 7:12 PM, Donald Hess said:

 Intuition, coupled with imagination, seems to be the first step to what James Taylor calls poetic knowledge. It is a different kind of "seeing", one that does not employ a microscope, one that leads to a different kind of "knowing".

I've been pondering again on the concept of "wonder." Do you think "intuition coupled with imagination" is at least a partial way of describing that state of mind? I am not remotely "connected" to all the pulses beating in the educational community, but I have been "hearing," more and more frequently, an acknowledgement that "wonder" is where we must begin. I'm quite sure Clark and Jain state this plainly in The Liberal Arts Tradition, but I've bumped into it elsewhere.

But I feel that this recognition is still in a stage of infancy. We're grasping at the concept and realizing, "Yes, this right. Wonder." But, our educational pedagogy does not adequately reflect that, so we end up giving lip-service to wonder and employing wonder-deadening methods in our home and school classrooms.

What would a pedagogy rooted in wonder look like? What needs to accompany wonder?

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On ‎3‎/‎9‎/‎2019 at 3:32 AM, KarenG said:

I've been pondering again on the concept of "wonder." Do you think "intuition coupled with imagination" is at least a partial way of describing that state of mind?

Yes I do! The etymology of intuition is to look at, consider, or behold something. Imagination goes a step beyond what is on the surface. What initiates the first step is a question...like the one you asked at the end of this post: "What would a pedagogy rooted in wonder look like?" I imagine that it would be a pedagogy rooted in questioning.

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6 hours ago, Donald Hess said:

I imagine that it would be a pedagogy rooted in questioning.

Yes. But these days people use questioning as interrogation and to be skeptical, don't you think? Teaching children how to question in contemplation, in submission to a thing first, in delight of mystery, and in submission to maybe not finding the "answer" or the whole of the matter, these may be parts to a "wonder-directed" pedagogy. 

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Ooooh, Cheryl. You have a point. I have this whole exercise/illustration I do in a particular talk, to demonstrate how the kinds of questions we ask children shape their thinking for the future, whether we realize it or not. Now, all of a sudden, I want to reread the whole Bible and look at the questions--who is asking? who is being asked? do they care about the answer or is it a trick? ("Hey, Jesus, should we be paying taxes to Rome?")

This makes me think that the questioning is the out-working of something else, an internal "posture," so to speak. I think the act of wonder, on the inside, is a little bit like getting on your knees.

But this is also why I think we have to keep asking questions and not being satisfied with partial answers.

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17 hours ago, KarenG said:

This makes me think that the questioning is the out-working of something else, an internal "posture," so to speak. I think the act of wonder, on the inside, is a little bit like getting on your knees.

Questions indeed start from somewhere and point conversations in a certain direction. Often there is a hidden agenda, be it interrogation, skepticism or self-promotion. I have found that many times when leading a conversations with students or adults, that when I ask a question, unless I explicitly preface it with a disclaimer that I am not looking for a specific answer, they will be reluctant to offer anything to the discussion. Their past experiences taught them to be wary of questions, that questions are not always safe.

If a pedagogy of wonder is rooted in questioning, then what kind of questioning? Poetic questioning? Virtuous questioning? Inside-out questioning?

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Yes! I have been told that when I try to use questions in a conversation, my friend feels like I am interrogating her or inferring something. Is this because I have still not mastered the art of the dialectic, the spirit of inquiry, and the ways of wonder? Probably mostly. But could it also be that like most of us, questions were used against her through her schooling, she has observed questions used on news programs or interviews to "trap" a person, or NO questions were used and the "right" answer was spoon-fed to her and others she observed so that now, a dialect conversation is uncomfortable for her. It could be a little of both. We have lost the art of dialectic and the pursuit of a conversation that may not end up with "one side's" insight "winning" over the other. Just a meandering of wonder, delight, or inquiry is missing in some of our deep conversations. How do we win it back?  

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Questioning is rhetorical, and being rhetorical, questioning is particular, and being particular questioning requires a context. The context for questioning will either be assumed by the audience/interlocutor (which could be quite different than what the rhetor desires!) or orchestrated by the rhetor who carefully sets the context before the audience/interlocutor, or given by the occasion (e.g. interrogation in a court of law).

The rhetor has to two-fold task: to analyze the audience/interlocutor in order to understand their frame of reference, their prejudices, their purposes, etc. and to craft an audience/interlocutor that is not necessarily the original, but which he hopes the original will aspire to identify with and/or imitate. If the rhetor wants to cultivate wonder in the audience/interlocutor, then she must take the subject matter, the context, and the audience into consideration in what kinds of questions to ask, when, and in what relation to other forms of address may be necessary in addition to questions (such as clarifying examples). 

There are a couple of Platonic dialogues that I've used with students to illustrate the differences in the way Socrates uses dialectic with different interlocutors. In The Gorgias, Socrates interacts with three different interlocutors: Gorgias, the Sophist; Polus, his young apprentice; and Callicles, a politician. Socrates says his main reason for coming to the house of Callicles is to question Gorgias about his profession (what is rhetoric?). He wants to have a philosophical discussion about Gorgias's expertise. His discourse is noticeably more courteous with Gorgias when compared to his exchange with Polus and Callicles--Polus shows himself an ignorant and an impatient thinker, while Callicles shows himself a man who puts his passions above reason. Then, compare Socrates's seemingly harsh treatment of Polus and Callicles with his statements about the soul in the myth of the charioteer in The Phaedrus: the Charioteer must curb the appetites of the bad steed and direct the good steed (the thumos or will) by the severest methods--perhaps the very same methods Socrates uses with Polus and Callicles, whose souls are more given to the appetite that to reason?

Whether or not we want to treat people the way Socrates does, he illustrates the attentiveness the rhetor must have to his audience if he wishes to move the audience's soul in some direction. I could go on about how Socrates creates a context for his questioning in The Phaedrus, but I've already gone on too long in this response.

To summarize: the art of questioning is part of rhetoric, which requires the questioner to be aware of the subject matter, audience, and context of the questions in order to bring about the desired result.

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I don't think formal rhetoric techniques, led by the teacher, is what happens with wonder. I sort of feel like the root question in wonder is "what does it mean?" Nobody is going to give you a pat answer for that, so you have to explore side-questions to see meaning (what could it mean? does it mean this? does it mean anything to something else?...no end of possibilities--where that imagination comes in, maybe?), but wonder grows, I think, out of an inherent sense that it does mean something, and we care enough to give it our attention and ask, even if our asking doesn't find specific answers. We ask because we care, and our asking becomes a desire to know, seeking for knowledge. But I see this happening at a very foundational level--2 year olds wonder (and ask "why" endlessly because they are sure that everything means something)--and not something that is the domain of polished rhetoricians.

I do agree that the art of questioning is the art of rhetoric, but I don't think wonder fits that paradigm.

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1 hour ago, KarenG said:

I don't think formal rhetoric techniques, led by the teacher, is what happens with wonder.

2 hours ago, KarenG said:

not something that is the domain of polished rhetoricians.

You misunderstand me. Invoking Socrates as an example of using rhetoric isn't an advocation for employing rhetorical techniques or becoming polished rhetoricians. Insofar as Socrates understood the souls of his interlocutors, the difficulties of the subject of inquiry, and the context of the exchange--to that extent he is understanding rhetorically by his own definition (enchanting the soul by means of words).

The question I was responding to, as I understood it, was what sort of questioning can provoke wonder rather than create defensiveness or fear. Your response to me identifies something else, which is what sort of questions that wondering asks--this is different!

Cheryl's conundrum with her friend illustrates the problem I was trying to address--Cheryl was pursuing questions that characterize wonder (your response to me), but her friend took it as suspicious interrogation.

How does one use questions that inspire wonder rather than defensiveness/fear?

To that I still maintain that thinking rhetorically is helpful, because it accepts the possibility that a soul may need something other than "the questions wonder asks" in order to be provoked to wonder.

Sometimes a display of wonder in one persons sparks it in another. Sometimes a rebuke can spark wonder (I can imagine this as the response of the Rich Young Ruler to Jesus's line of inquiry--he goes away sad, but perhaps wondering about himself as he has never done). And the difference between sparking wonder in a 2-year-old and a 45-year-old will look very different.

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Sorry about that. I think I did get a little lost in this discussion. I ended up going pretty far back to reexamine the original questions. We were wondering what a pedagogy rooted in wonder would look like, and Dr. Hess suggested that it would be a pedagogy of questioning, which naturally gave rise to a lot more questions.

I think having a solid grasp of the mythos, as well as the logos, of what we want to teach might keep us from losing wonder. That's the thing that educators really need to nail down, to start with, I think. We are educating children who have a natural sense of wonder, and we want to cultivate that so that it can be a force in their pursuit of knowledge. Way too many pedagogical methods kill wonder. I have literally illustrated for hundreds of people what that might look like, and in fact, it was asking the wrong kind of question. The kinds of questions we ask children in their lessons lay the groundwork for the mental habits they will form.

From a pedagogical standpoint, do you think our hyper-focus on assessment is a help or a hindrance? Jesus was content to let that young man go away and wonder until it might make a difference to him. Can we leave our students alone long enough for wonder to do its work?

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4 hours ago, KarenG said:

Sorry about that. I think I did get a little lost in this discussion. I ended up going pretty far back to reexamine the original questions. We were wondering what a pedagogy rooted in wonder would look like, and Dr. Hess suggested that it would be a pedagogy of questioning, which naturally gave rise to a lot more questions.

No need to apologize! Diverging paths often make up part of a good conversation.

4 hours ago, KarenG said:

I think having a solid grasp of the mythos, as well as the logos, of what we want to teach might keep us from losing wonder. That's the thing that educators really need to nail down, to start with, I think. We are educating children who have a natural sense of wonder, and we want to cultivate that so that it can be a force in their pursuit of knowledge. Way too many pedagogical methods kill wonder. I have literally illustrated for hundreds of people what that might look like, and in fact, it was asking the wrong kind of question. The kinds of questions we ask children in their lessons lay the groundwork for the mental habits they will form.

I'll admit that I still often struggle to evoke wonder in the classes I teach (with ages ranging from 13-18). Often it is the questions I ask, and sometimes, even with a good question, it is a failure to set up the context in which the question will flourish. 

4 hours ago, KarenG said:

From a pedagogical standpoint, do you think our hyper-focus on assessment is a help or a hindrance? Jesus was content to let that young man go away and wonder until it might make a difference to him. Can we leave our students alone long enough for wonder to do its work?

Speaking of good questions, that's one! Assessment is one of those words that means so many different things, and the meanings are not all equal, or all good. I'll elaborate below, but my short answer is that most activities need a form of assessment, but the form must match the purpose of the activity.

I am reminded of an anecdote from David I. Smith's lecture on Teaching and Christian Practices, where he talks about his son's theology assessment. The unit was something like the ten most important theological words in the New Testament. David was asking his son questions like, "What does Justification mean? How is it different from Sanctification?" and his son, after growing frustrated, exclaimed, "but we don't have to know it that deeply, we just need to be able to match them" (or something to that effect). A matching list for an assessment obviously retards wonder or contemplation by its very nature--Smith even showed how you could change the font to Wingdings, memorize the patterns, and still score perfectly on a matching assessment.

Assessment like that certainly impedes wonder. On the other hand, I think that a certain kind of assessment gets naturally evoked from the right line of questioning. In the same lecture, Smith talks about a lecture he used to give to his German language classes about German culture. If I recall correctly, what caused him to formulate the lecture was his frustration with German language textbooks, which used phrases and situations that were mainly consumerist and tourist in nature. They did not invite the students to understand the German people through their language, and thereby have a chance to love their neighbor in any particular way. So he had the students come into class silently, with some quiet music playing (I think) and, in a darkened room, spend a few minutes looking at a picture of several people projected on the board. He then began to ask them questions about what they saw. When they would get hasty, he would slow them down and cause them to think again. By having them attend carefully to the picture, he allowed their curiosity to build so that they became naturally interested in what was going on, who the people were, and so on. He then told them something about the people, who turned out to be German students who had formed a resistance against the Nazi party in Germany during WWII.

I think that sort of lecture invites self-reflection (a kind of assessment) that can then be returned to in a more formal way (a reflection paper, a journal entry, a research project, etc.) that goes deeper into that original experience of reflection and can be assessed both in terms of the skill (writing, research, etc.) and the virtue (growth in perspective/charity toward others).

 

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You're right Karen, you got us started with these two questions:

On ‎3‎/‎9‎/‎2019 at 3:32 AM, KarenG said:

What would a pedagogy rooted in wonder look like? What needs to accompany wonder?

We've gathered a lot of "pollen" ever since, and perhaps it's time to start making honey. After perusing the subsequent posts, here is what I collected:

  • 😧 A pedagogy of wonder is rooted in questioning
  • C :Teaching children how to question in contemplation, in submission to a thing first, in delight of mystery, and in submission to maybe not finding the "answer" or the whole of the matter

  • K: I think the act of wonder, on the inside, is a little bit like getting on your knees.

  • 😧 If a pedagogy of wonder is rooted in questioning, then what kind of questioning?

  • 😄 We have lost the art of dialectic and the pursuit of a conversation that may not end up with "one side's" insight "winning" over the other. Just a meandering of wonder, delight, or inquiry is missing in some of our deep conversations. How do we win it back?  
  • J: Questioning is rhetorical, and being rhetorical, questioning is particular, and being particular questioning requires a context.

  • K: I sort of feel like the root question in wonder is "what does it mean?"

  • J: How does one use questions that inspire wonder rather than defensiveness/fear? To that I still maintain that thinking rhetorically is helpful, because it accepts the possibility that a soul may need something other than "the questions wonder asks" in order to be provoked to wonder.

  • K: From a pedagogical standpoint, do you think our hyper-focus on assessment is a help or a hindrance? Can we leave our students alone long enough for wonder to do its work?

  • J: …most activities need a form of assessment, but the form must match the purpose of the activity….I think that a certain kind of assessment gets naturally evoked from the right line of questioning.

************************************

Here is my summary: A teacher skilled in the pedagogy of wonder would...

  1. Recognize the wonder that is inherent in their students
  2. Ask questions that cultivate wonder while avoiding questions that impede wonder
  3. Facilitate respectful, dialogical, classroom conversations
  4. Consider context and think rhetorically
  5. Allow sufficient opportunity for wonder to do its work and then assess their students accordingly
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I think "making honey" is a little bit like what I call "synthetic thinking"--bringing all the ideas together, making connections. That's excellent. The actual pedagogical method that I use (ala Charlotte Mason, don't be surprised!) is narration. Just for fun, I'm going to see how it lines up with Dr. Hess's summary.

Here is my summary: A teacher skilled in the pedagogy of wonder would...

  1. Recognize the wonder that is inherent in their students--the act of asking a student for a narration is a tacit acknowledgment of and respect for his mind and his ability to comprehend and communicate material.
  2. Ask questions that cultivate wonder while avoiding questions that impede wonder--The underlying question that is narration is" "What can you tell me about ______?" It's not the only question that cultivates wonder, but it requires the student to ask himself, "Okay, what CAN I tell?"--and asking yourself questions is at least one aspect of wonder.
  3. Facilitate respectful, dialogical, classroom conversations--Narration is so dynamic in a classroom, and for a group of students who practice it together year after the year together, it builds strong relationships that provoke stunning classroom discussion. (I interviewed several teachers who practiced narration in the classroom, and it was amazing.)
  4. Consider context and think rhetorically--narration is the magic path to making this happen organically. 🙂
  5. Allow sufficient opportunity for wonder to do its work and then assess their students accordingly--I love the idea of allowing time. The primary purpose of narration is not for assessment, but a teacher can use narration to assess what a student has learned and understood. It's like an essay test, really, and used correctly, it allows a student to tell you what they know, rather than being a vehicle for discovering what they don't know.

As we've talked through all of this, I've been wondering (ha!) if narration was the answer, and if it's not "the" answer to what a pedagogy rooted in wonder looks like, it's certainly pretty close. We all know I'm a Charlotte Mason fan, but the reason I'm a fan is that she really did come up with the most effective effective pedagogy to accomplish classical objectives that I have ever seen.

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On 2/24/2019 at 9:40 AM, Donald Hess said:

I modified these questions and used them as a starting point for students to write a reflection after a classroom dialogue on a specific topic:

1.      What was this conversation about?

 

2.      What was said during this conversation?

 

3.      Was "what was said" true in whole or in part?

 

4.      What of it?

I found this to be a useful way to encourage students to actively listen during a conversation, in the same way that Adler encouraged active, engaged reading.

I'll be leading a class this fall where this idea will be helpful. Sometimes figuring out what to write for notes, especially in a seminar can be confusing, so this is helpful! 

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On 3/22/2019 at 5:58 AM, KarenG said:

I think "making honey" is a little bit like what I call "synthetic thinking"--bringing all the ideas together, making connections. That's excellent. The actual pedagogical method that I use (ala Charlotte Mason, don't be surprised!) is narration. Just for fun, I'm going to see how it lines up with Dr. Hess's summary.

Here is my summary: A teacher skilled in the pedagogy of wonder would...

  1. Recognize the wonder that is inherent in their students--the act of asking a student for a narration is a tacit acknowledgment of and respect for his mind and his ability to comprehend and communicate material.
  2. Ask questions that cultivate wonder while avoiding questions that impede wonder--The underlying question that is narration is" "What can you tell me about ______?" It's not the only question that cultivates wonder, but it requires the student to ask himself, "Okay, what CAN I tell?"--and asking yourself questions is at least one aspect of wonder.
  3. Facilitate respectful, dialogical, classroom conversations--Narration is so dynamic in a classroom, and for a group of students who practice it together year after the year together, it builds strong relationships that provoke stunning classroom discussion. (I interviewed several teachers who practiced narration in the classroom, and it was amazing.)
  4. Consider context and think rhetorically--narration is the magic path to making this happen organically. 🙂
  5. Allow sufficient opportunity for wonder to do its work and then assess their students accordingly--I love the idea of allowing time. The primary purpose of narration is not for assessment, but a teacher can use narration to assess what a student has learned and understood. It's like an essay test, really, and used correctly, it allows a student to tell you what they know, rather than being a vehicle for discovering what they don't know.

As we've talked through all of this, I've been wondering (ha!) if narration was the answer, and if it's not "the" answer to what a pedagogy rooted in wonder looks like, it's certainly pretty close. We all know I'm a Charlotte Mason fan, but the reason I'm a fan is that she really did come up with the most effective effective pedagogy to accomplish classical objectives that I have ever seen.

What I love about the use of narration is it IS assessment. If you ask a class or a student to tell you what they just learned from the book, the conversation, the topic, you will know if they are ready to have a conversation, you will know what conversation you can have, you will know what you may need to review, and you will know what they misunderstand. I think it's David Hicks that says not to answer a question that hasn't been asked. Well, you ought not ask a question about something a student doesn't understand! When once my students have narrated, I look for holes and see if they just forgot or they didn't understand something by using questions. When once I see where we all stand, then I can begin our conversation, and they are none the wiser. They haven't been intimidated into feeling like they don't know enough or the "right" things. 

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