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How Philia can help education
It's the key to strengthening kids and communities.
Originally published in the Moultrie News.
What can I teach my kids to help them get all they can from school? They seem to be wasting the opportunity.
Has anyone ever wished you could go back to school because now that you’ve matured, you realize how much more you could have learned? The fact is, many of us squandered all those lessons with negative attitudes or careless inattention. It’s too bad. As George Bernard Shaw said, youth is wasted on the young.
So this week’s question is important. How do we help children avoid our mistakes? What can we teach them that will help them get the most from school?
It makes sense to start with philia. That’s one of four Greek words for love, and it specifically denotes what we might call “brotherly love.” Aristotle suggested that if obsequiousness and flattery are on one side while rudeness and hostility are on the other, philia would be in the middle.
In other words, brotherly love doesn’t shower false praise on people or treat them with incivility. It treats them as individuals with value, possessing a worthiness that deserves our cooperation. It helps us treat fellow human beings as part of a larger family. It isn’t self-seeking. It’s patient, kind, and humble. It pushes us to do unto others as we would ourselves.
For those uncomfortable with ancient Greece or love, we can call it by its more contemporary name: Respect.
How does respect help kids get the most from their education? In part by taking care of that negative attitude toward school. If you respect others, you will respect what they value. When you see that your parents and teachers value the process of education, you’ll participate in it with a more appreciative eagerness.
Treating classmates with respect means you won’t bother them while they’re trying to listen. You’ll allow them to learn in peace. That, in turn, enables you to focus on your own learning.
And let’s talk about teachers. Respect means listening when they talk, following their directions, doing their assignments, and obeying their rules. That helps students with their own learning while making their teachers more effective.
The most difficult part of teaching is dealing with constant rudeness. I love my students, and they overwhelmingly treat me with respect. But the few who don’t can ruin your day and discourage you so much that you want to give up.
How excited about your job would you be if, every day, the people you care about the most turned away from you while you were talking to them? What if they refused to do the work you needed them to do? What if they called you names, harassed co-workers, or flouted workplace rules? Being surrounded by such disrespect saps a teacher’s enthusiasm. But when a class has respect for others, it fills their tank to overflowing.
Sadly, respect is diminishing. Many parents now take the view that people, including teachers, must earn their children’s respect. That’s not right. People deserve our respect simply because they are fellow people.
Philia and respect certainly improve education, but they also improve communities. I walk to and from school every day through a suburban neighborhood that exudes small-town Americana. Growing up here, everyone knew and spoke to everyone else.
It is discouraging, then, after a long, hard day to have fellow adult citizens walk right past me as if I’m invisible. They don’t say hello, nod or even make eye contact. It makes me feel like a stranger in a strange land, not a valued part of a community.
That it happens time and again shows that those individuals were never taught philia. Philia and respect are what make a community strong and secure. When people do say “Good morning” or “How are you doing?” we feel a little more hopeful, valued, connected, and confident. That’s the power of brotherly love. Without it, we’re lost.
So it is vital to teach it to children while they are young and pliant. Teach it through your words and your actions. It will not only help them squeeze as much as they can from their education but also strengthen their communities and enrich their lives.
Read original column here.
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