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SIMPLICITY ISN'T SO SIMPLE

Posted by Br George Van Grieken on 5 April 2019
SIMPLICITY ISN'T SO SIMPLE

The more you act with simplicity in regard to what is to be observed, the more the practice of it will become easy for you. - St. John Baptist de La Salle.

For those of you who have been to Disneyland and not just for a quickie visit, but for that multiday, multipass, parkhopper sort of visit you will relate to my recent experience of its focused frenetic fabrication of fun. It reminded me of an insight from many years ago, when another Brother and I spent some time in Orlando, birdwatching and going to the Disney parks there. One day we quietly watched birds while ambling through Sanibel Island, the next we rushed hither and yon from one nice artificial experience to the next. I have to say that I enjoyed it all. But I also have to admit that what I remember, what took root inside, and what I hold most dear today, are the bird-watching days. There is a depth and richness in the complex simplicity of nature that finally and easily outweighs the simple complexity of theme parks. Chesterton wrote, "Men rush toward complexity; but yearn for simplicity." And for education, "the chief object of education should be to restore simplicity. If you like to put it so, the chief object of education is not to learn things; nay, the chief object of education is to unlearn things."

John Baptist de La Salle and his early followers knew this well. Some things have to be learned and others things have to be unlearned if genuine education is to occur, and this is especially true in the development of new teachers. In the early Lasallian operational handbook, The Conduct of Christian Schools (1720), there is an extensive appendix dedicated simply to the training of new teachers. These are the opening lines: "This section on the training of teachers comprises two parts: (1) making new teachers lose the traits they have but should not have; and (2) making them acquire those traits that they lack, and which are very necessary for them." 4 (Notice that unlearning comes first.) Among the fifteen listed traits that must be unlearned are talking too much, impatience, undue familiarity, and partiality. For each, a full description of the trait is followed by how it may be corrected, with specific suggestions. The ten traits that must be acquired include professionalism, prudence, winning manners, and decisiveness. Each one likewise is fully described and includes suggestions as to how to acquire it.

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Author: Br George Van Grieken
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