The Limits Of Nurture

“In what ways are gardening metaphors helpful in understanding what happens at a classical Christian school? Well, a classical education is not chiefly concerned with the transference of information. It is not about getting data from the teacher’s brain into the student’s brain. Instead, a classical education is about nurturing a student, by which I mean encouraging the innate desires to know, love, and serve which drive every human heart, but which have been marred and disfigured by sin. In the same way a man cannot force his flowers to bloom, neither can a teacher force a student to be virtuous. Instead, cultivating virtue in students means creating conditions which are favorable to growth. “God gives the increase,” be it in an orchard or a classroom, which means the teacher plants and waters and lives in hope, not certainty, that fruitful life will emerge where they have sown their prayers and lessons.

While gardening metaphors have value, they also have limits. How so? Well, plants do not cheat on geometry tests or look at pornography on their phones at lunch. A wax begonia will not pee all over the floor of the boy’s bathroom just for a laugh. There is no rose bush out there whose mother thinks it is going to Yale. Plants do not have feelings which mean they don’t respond to criticism or encouragement. Simply put, plants do not sin.

It is the issue of sin which places limits on the usefulness of gardening metaphors for education.” 

-from Nurturing, Cultivating, Growing: Gardening Metaphors Have Gone Way Too Far, my latest for CiRCE

Published by Joshua Gibbs

Sophist. De-activist. Hack. Avid indoorsman.

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