Just A Chinese Proverb For Mineral Collectors

I couldn’t resist the following Chinese proverb courtesy of The Mineralogical Record:

The river that does not have stone will not be clear.

The garden that does not have stone will not be beautiful.

The room that does not have stone will not be elegant.

And the person who does not have stone will not be eminent.IMG_5172

A Flowering Of Peaches And Motherhood: Bride In Her Unlucky Year

In the Japanese 12 part series Bride in her Unlucky Year(Hanayome wa Yakudoshi), peaches play a major role in determining characters’ futures.  Akiko, a former news announcer, is in her 32nd year; her unlucky year.  First, she loses her job to a younger girl, whose only advantage is her beauty.  Then, she is given an ultimatum:  to pose as a fake bride in the country for a television program or work in a warehouse.  After phoning a number of ex-boyfriends, who might suit her purpose, and not finding any takers, she comes across Ichirou Azuchi, whose family owns a peach orchard, although Ichirou himself owns a lingerie store in Tokyo.  The series features the common Japanese themes of city versus country and  modern sophistication versus traditional values.  Akiko decides to go to the Azuchi home to apply for a three-month bridal training program.  Her first confrontation is with her mother-in-law to be, the commanding matriarch of the Azuchi clan.  But all Azuchi sees is a lady in simple dress selling peaches at a stand.  She tastes one of the peaches and finds it delicious.  Thus begins her slow accommodation into the Azuchi household.    As Akiko sees the love her domineering “Mother”  has for each individual peach, she begins to realize that despite an austere exterior, “Mother” has a kind heart.  When Akiko helps out in the orchard, she learns to value each person’s unique contribution.  But most of all, she feels the need to heal the breach that has separated mother and son for twelve years, largely due to a misunderstanding.  When Ichirou yells at his mother:  “You can only love peaches, you can’t love people!”, he fails to realize that to her they are one and the same.  Each of her three children were given their own peach tree at birth, and Ichirou’s mother takes special care of each of them.  So, Akiko’s bridal training course involves the taking care of peaches, which are to be nurtured and saved at all cost.  Although, she is unmasked as a fake bride, while using the family for a show, her concern for all family members; her braving a typhoon to help “Mother” save the peaches, and, especially, her healing of the rift between Momoko and her son Teechan, earn her a permanent place on the Azuchi farm. And Ichirou is now a much more mature husband.  Such is the power of peaches and motherhood.

The Circles Of Sukhomlinsky By Nata Krylova, Part 2.

Sukhomlinsky’s ideas are from the Second Circle:  1.  The main educator’s skill is the ability to feel the inner world of kids.  The main task for the educator is to teach a child to feel another’s heart;  2.  Learning is part of a child’s spiritual life.  3.  School is the heart of four domains:  the Motherland, the humane, the book, and the native word.  4.  The educator and the child are connected by heartfelt threads.  Sukhomlinsky uses the following concepts as key-words:  spiritual community, heart, deep love, many-sided emotional attitudes, attachment to the child.  That is the OTHER LINE of concepts, different than that used by scholars, who consider research problems only on the first level!

The Third Circle:  Teachers’/Kids’ Community.  In the last years of his life and after his death, Sukhomlinsky enters into the Third Circle;  the spreading of his ideas and growing popularity.  The lines of like-minded educators grow.  We can talk now about the time he lives in as a Historical Circle, in the same way we talk about “Pushkin and his Circle/Surrounding,” or “Shakespeare and his Circle/Surrounding.”

The seeds were sown.  Many teachers followed Sukhomlinsky’s lead.  There was a time for Pre-reformation.  The school reforms and the education in the middle of the 80s had begun.  The new conception of “Educators for Collaboration” was published, summarizing all that had been done in teachers’ Humane Community after Sukhomlinsky’s death.  That community has maintained a connection with the kids’ community in their schools.

The Fourth Circle:  Common World Space.  It is possible that there are the same or similar circles for the development of  educational ideas in various countries.  At the intersection of the 20th and 21st centuries, we have a real opportunity to bring together humanist educational ideas and values of different cultures, including Sukhomlinsky’s ideas.  It doesn’t mean that those ideas will become the same.  It means that educators can enter into the common spiritual space for the upbringing of kids in the Second and Third Circles and there is more which each teacher can give his/her heart to children.(I Give my Heart to Children was the title of one of Sukhomlinsky’s last works.)

Vasilij Sukhomlinskij explores a field with his student.

Vasilii Sukhomlinsky explores a field with his student.

The Circles Of Sukhomlinsky By Nata Krylova, Part 1.

Nata Krylova was the Chief Researcher for the Institute of Pedagogical Innovations in Moscow.  The late Oleg Gazman was its Director and inspiration.  I became acquainted with Profs. Gazman and Krylova when we participated in  The International Educational Reform Symposium, sponsored and hosted by Medford Education International.  The IPI had plans to publish a series of volumes highlighting specific problems in education.  The series was called New Educational Values.  MEI worked jointly with IPI on New Educational Values 2, and my article on obstacles to learning was translated into Russian.  At that time(1995-1997), Russian educators were coming to terms with a new focus on the individual in education as opposed to the collective approach of the Soviet Union.  Vasilii Sukhomlinsky was one of those educators that managed to encourage the development of the individual within a collective setting in the Ukraine.  He still had many detractors and his life was not an easy one.  He wrote over thirty books, but only a few have been translated into English.  This is, in part, due to a lingering suspicion of educators that lived under a repressive regime.  It was one of the goals of the Symposium to equate educators from around the U.S.  with this famous, and highly innovative Ukrainian  educator.  Papers on Sukhomlinskij were presented and photographs and other archival materials were displayed.  Nata contributed the following article, The Circles of Sukhomlinsky, to the MEI newsletter in 1997.  What follows is Nata’s article with my commentary in parentheses.

It was not my lot to make the acquaintance of Vasilii Sukhomlinsky; he died in 1970 when I was a post-graduate student.  I did not know very much about the controversy surrounding his name and “abstract humanism.”(the word “abstract” was taboo in the USSR since it ran counter to the belief that all ideas should be concrete and grasped easily by the masses.  The formal term was socialist realism.)  I read his I Give my Heart to Children(one of Sukhomlinsky’s last books, which details his experiences as a Director of the School of Joy, a kind of pre-school.)  when my son was little and my daughter had just been born.  While reading the book, I couldn’t find any reason for the charges that had been made against Sukhomlinsky.(In particular, Boris Likhachev wrote scathing essays, denouncing Sukhomlinsky as a betrayer of socialist principles.)  However, criticism of his work continued right up to the Congress of 1988 by which time it had become an anachronism.

Now I have read the book again in a new sociocultural context, and asked myself why the critics were indignant.

The First Circle:   Concrete Life.  Is an educator that acts outside of accepted policy or is governed by social relationships at fault?  No.  Otherwise, Korczak should not have gone to Treblinka to perish with his pupils.  Otherwise, Sukhomlinsky shouldn’t have worked as a principal at Pavlysh.  But those social contexts are not so simple.

The Second Circle:  Spirit/Inner World.  An educator acts through a network of social relationships, therefore s/he not only introduces the child to concrete society, but the World of Mankind.  And the child is a Child for Humanity and a Citizen, not only of a country, but the World.  This point of view was not accessible to critics “from pedagogics”, who stopped on the first level, and who couldn’t or didn’t want want to enter the Second Circle.

Sukhomlinsky and Korczak took this step.  It seems to me that a certain measure of talent, and a certain moral mission emanating from the heart, are only revealed to the educator in the Second Circle, in which there is no place for the formal roles of the teacher and pupil, but where an adult and a child enter into eternal relationships to create a new space of their co-existence.

Vasilij Sukhomlinskij examines a tree.

Vasilii Sukhomlinsky examines a tree.