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To Know as We Are Known: Education as a Spiritual Journey Paperback – May 28, 1993
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"A phenomenon in higher education."-- "The New York Times""An eye-opening critique of contemporary approaches . . . shows in concrete forms how to be a teacher and learner in the search for truth." -- Henri J. M. Nouwen"Palmer's book will engage anyone who's involved in teaching and learning either in secular or religious institutions . . . it compels us to underline and reflect at nearly every sentence and paragraph . . . it unfolds how exciting and joyful the search for knowledge is when guided by heart-seeking teachers." -- James Sparks, University of Wisconsin, Madison"Without a doubt the most inspiring book on education I have read in a long time." -- John H. Westerhoff III, Duke University
From the Publisher
A spirituality of education that challenges teachers to move beyond conventional ideas of instruction and learning to develop vital new teaching methods incorporating insights from traditional contemplative wisdom.
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Immediately, Mr. Palmer presents a central metaphor of learning to do life "whole" by opening both the mind's eye which sees "a world of fact and reason" and the eye of the heart to see "a world warmed and transformed by the power of love." (Intro) A teacher, then, uses both eyes and becomes a "mediator between the knower and the unknown." (29) All throughout the book Palmer lends sound wisdom and keen insight into teaching in meaning-filled and meaning-creating ways. He reminds the reader of the need for a learning space to be one that has openness, boundaries, and hospitality. (70) Conventional classrooms offer hurdles of "hidden curriculum" to rethink such as focusing on someone else's (teacher's) vision of reality, a hesitation to be held up for inspection and scrutiny as the teacher / authority / expert, and a structure set up to build isolation easily and often. (34-39) No-brainer wisdom? Perhaps, yet Mr Parker presents these pieces in a whole that is unified in tone and written in accessible, beautiful prose that won't leave the reader saying, "I already knew that!" but instead, "Of course!"
This quote particularly struck me as something I've articulated several times in my life: "Several times in my teaching career I have become someone else's student, and each time the experience has had a marked impact on my own teaching. I was forcefully reminded that education is not just a cognitive process, not just the transmission of facts and reasons." (115) This duality is yet again a way Palmer hopes people will see the value in being a "whole person" seeing and living with both eyes open. It was as if Mr. Palmer looked at my life mixed with playing the student and the teacher role and said, "I know exactly what you mean."
As for occasionally feeling perplexed, I think I was surprised by how often I felt like the text was non-succinct even thought it has a relatively short page count and narrow focus. I had to fight moments when I was tempted to think, "Yes, you said that; please move on." One example is the story of Abba Felix which, while a great story, runs through the book more like a thick scratchy rope than a thread and while I was captivated by the many examples and stories in chapters 5-6 I had to push myself in earlier chapters. With that said, there are too many gems in this book to dismiss it as rough. Thanks for reading. thelifemosaic
First, Palmer rightly pointed out that objectivism and the pursuit of knowledge without reflection is dangerous. His illustration with the Manhattan project is instructive. However, he should have included the societal, economic and cultural influences in his argument. One of the problems with education today is that instead of being a process of `reunification and reconstruction of broken selves and world', it became a means to obtaining `paper'qualifications. Education has been hijacked to be an instrument in which students can achieve economic success and teachers became clogs in the machine that produce thousands of graduates annually who are only skilled in passing examinations.
Second, he mentioned `a learning space' as an antidote to `objectivist' teaching methods. This learning space has openness, boundaries and hospitality. I wonder how Palmer would translate that into an Asian context. Openness, boundaries and hospitality will be difficult in a culture of shame (`saving face') and hierarchal respect for elders, social ranks and qualifications.
Finally, `transformation of teaching must begin in the transformed heart of the teacher'. Palmer listed the disciplines of studying widely, silence, solitude and prayer as important in bringing about this transformation. However Palmer painted a bland picture of a `generic' God as the focus of these disciplines. I would that he be more Trinitarian in his approach.
It is Love that teaches, is willing to teach, and puts the teacher in a leading, guiding position. The innocent respect that respect is shown them and learn. All education coursework should include Parker Palmer's work. He is very aware that there is much good out there, happening all the time, something much larger than he. He knows that he doesn't have to give it a name or verbally worship it, but DO it and GIVE it.