Bird Droppings May 19, 2012
Children Learn what they Live
It is such a beautiful morning and quiet outside, I had the opportunity to sit and meditate for nearly an hour under the stars today. I took our dog out and the air was still and nearly silent however the quiet and sounds that permeated were fantastic. A great horned owl periodically pierced the quiet along with a whippoorwill. As I listened a bit more carefully, still little noise even in the background other than handful of crickets and a soft breeze in the trees. I had burned some sage leaves in a bowl with a smidgen of sweet grass and the aroma added to the ambiance. For the first time in some time there were few human interferences in my moment of solitude. Air conditioners were still as it was cool, cars were not quite moving on the nearby roads, and most normal animals and humans were still asleep. I started thinking about my own views on education and raising kids. I came back to some old ideas I have had around for some time.
“Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.” Will Durant
I have used this story several times over the years having shared this short thought in previous droppings and in classes. It is a story entitled “Our nature” which is from ancient Zen thought and writings I found this on a professor from Rdyer University’s website after seeing the story numerous times thrown out on the internet.
“Two monks were washing their bowls in the river when they noticed a scorpion that was drowning. One monk immediately scooped it up and set it upon the bank. In the process he was stung. He went back to washing his bowl and again the scorpion fell in. The monk saved the scorpion and was again stung. The other monk asked him, ‘Friend, why do you continue to save the scorpion when you know its nature is to sting?’ ‘Because,’ the monk replied, ‘to save it is my nature.’ “ Dr. John Suler, Ryder University
As I look at this story there are many possible reactions. How foolish is the monk who gets stung, first he knows it is a scorpion, then he also knows scorpions will sting, and lastly he has been already stung once. What lesson is being taught in this passage? There is also a similar story Dr. Suler uses from Native American lore of a fox and scorpion crossing a stream. I find there are applications to parenting, friendship, and teaching within the context of a stinging scorpion. As I read this morning looking through various articles by Dr. Suler and Sydney J. Harris I came up on this article from Harris’s column Strictly Speaking. .
“The student, who could really get an A if he wanted to, cannot really get an A because he really doesn’t want to. And the wanting to is an essential part of the achieving, not a separate thing, as parents imagine, that can be injected into him like a shot of adrenalin. All genuine and meaningful and lasting motivation comes from the inside, not from the outside. The carrot and the stick work maybe only as long as the carrot is in front and the stick behind. When they are withdrawn, the motivation ceases. You can get a mule to move this way, but not a person for very long.” Sydney J. Harris, Motivation, a key part of Talent
Yesterday in class I was listening to students tell why they have low grades as we get into finals. One made the comment “but I am passing I have a 70” and another blurted out “what do I need this crap for anyhow”. As I listened and looked through various notes and ideas I wondered how we instill the idea of motivation in a child or student? How do we change the attitude of so many? Most of the students yesterday when told about the monk getting stung would say he was stupid, just step on the scorpion or why waste your time. Occasionally a person will pop up and say, “The scorpion has a right to live too and that is why the monk helped it”. Somewhere when I first started working with children back in the dark ages I found a poster around 1972 or so in a shop outsidePhiladelphia. The poster is entitled “Children Learn what they Live” and was written by Dr. Dorothy Nolte in 1972 and goes as follows:
Children Learn What They Live
By Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D.
If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves
and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.
Copyright © 1972 by Dorothy Law Nolte
Every day I look across my room and there hanging is that ancient poster still as viable today as it was in 1972. Sydney J. Harris couldn’t put a finger on motivation but he mentions in his article how parents want it to be like adrenaline and we could give a shot of motivation. The monk showing kindness to the scorpion, an attribute that had been learned by observation by seeing and by example, is it that motivation is from inside. Harris states and as Dr. Nolte so eloquently points out in 20 or so statements it is what children see and feel as they grow up that provides them with that inner drive that inner spark.
Children do learn what they live and as parents and teachers we are modeling their future. We are what they will be and can be.
“If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and others.” Dr. Nolte
It really is not that difficult. How can we expect a child to be motivated to succeed if we take away any of the twenty possibilities presented. No matter how big the carrot dangled in front of us it must come from within as well and eventually we as teachers, parents, and friends need to be providing that support and effort. Today a beautiful day please keep all in harm’s way in your hearts and on your minds and to always give thanks.
PS. Maybe, just maybe it is Dr. Nolte’s thoughts hanging on the wall in my room for the past forty years that has kept me going and to not step on scorpions.