So far in this series we have explored what habit training is in part 1, and how it is done in part 2. In this final article, we will explore the why question. Perhaps you have read Simon Sinek’s Start with Why, and like me you are convinced of his thesis. Maybe this article should have gone first. I decided on this order (what, how, why) because before we could actually get to the why, we needed to clearly define what it is we’re talking about regarding habit training.
Freedom is gained only through discipline. Discipline is regular, continual effort to enact self-governance in some way. Discipline comes in many shapes and sizes, from budgeting to exercise to reading. In each of these examples, one applies oneself to self-govern in order to enjoy a future freedom. We budget in order to enjoy financial freedom. We exercise to be free from health problems. We read to be free from ignorance. Discipline, though, is not easy.
Author's forward: If you are disappointed that a post with such a title is nothing more than a short story, I do not blame you. Money is a divisive subject, but fiction is ambiguous, and what is the point of reading anything which does not warrant a strong response? And yet, the ambiguity of fiction also has curative properties that defy reason, just as a sad face is good for the heart.
As classical Christian educators, we place a high value on cultivating such qualities as wisdom, virtue, and piety in the students God brings into our care. A question that has challenged educators down through the ages has been how to effectively train students in these qualities. Do we put on the hard press, systematically breaking down their wills so that we achieve the kind of conformity one would expect of a military drill camp? Seems a bit extreme and dehumanizing. Do we create elaborate schemes of rewards and punishments?
Classical education seeks to return to the old paths of wisdom and finds nourishment from those excellencies and virtues which our predecessors judged worthy of preserving. It is not concerned with the transient or ephemeral, but sends its roots into deeper soil. Thus, classical schools devote much time to the reading of old books as they cultivate a posture of respect and admiration towards the best of what has been thought or said.
My one-year-old has lately begun to “color.” A supply of pencils, crayons, and paper sits ever-ready at his small table in the corner of the kitchen, and when he first wakes up, or whenever he finds a free moment in his little day, he hastens there to draw, with all seriousness, beautiful inscrutable lines and swirls and loops. So intent is he that I sometimes have a hard time tempting him away for the day’s other tasks; he ignores offers even of snacks or outside play; I have to lift him, wailing and wriggling, to carry on with things I deem more needful: mealtime, bath-time, bedtime.
The Commons Podcast is back, and this new season brings you lots of great interviews and conversations on school life and leadership! Here are some snapshots of what you can expect:
The modern approach to discipline, as to most things, seeks an efficient, fail-proof, and above all, universally-adaptable approach.
Parents in their thirties and forties have a curious habit of calling Legos “good toys,” which is generally not the way they describe toy trucks, dolls, tops, jacks, and so forth. Trucks and dolls might be good toys, but children of the 80s and 90s speak of Legos with the same reverential tone and conviction other people use when speaking of “a good man” or “a good woman.” And yet, the same people who commend Legos as “good toys” usually go on to qualify the claim by disparaging many Lego sets of recent years, especially the ones which are based on movie franchises.
"The Kid and the Wolf" by Aesop
A frisky young Kid had been left by the herdsman on the thatched roof of a sheep shelter to keep him out of harm’s way. The Kid was browsing near the edge of the roof, when he spied a Wolf and began to jeer at him, making faces and abusing him to his heart’s content.
“I hear you,” said the Wolf, “and I haven’t the least grudge against you for what you say or do. When you are up there it is the roof that’s talking, not you.”