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The heart of education

By Tim Middleton

Imagine giving a child a golf ball for him to play golf, but not giving him a golf club — what would be the use of that? He would need something to move the ball as it is meant to be. Imagine receiving the detailed instructions explaining the intricacies of how we can operate a computer and finding they are all written in a language that we do not understand! What is the point of that? We would be better off without them as then we would not feel the frustration of having them, but not having them! Or imagine playing Beethoven’s greatest symphonies with only the notes for the left hand; imagine receiving the music sheet, but no instrument to play it! It would all be incomplete, inconsequential, insane, in fact! There are some things that are needed for us to move forward.

There was an old Beatles song with the lines, “Something in the way she moves attracts me like no other lover.” It highlights the facts that there are certain things that move us, inspire us, energise and motivate us; without them we will achieve little, as in the example above. Music certainly has the power to move us; literature and films can move us; sport can move us. But what about education — does that ever move us? Can it ever move us? The bottom line is that education must move us; as the ancient Greek philosopher, Aristotle, said thousands of years ago: “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all”. If education does not move the children, they will stay in the same place!

Educating the mind is what many people think is education: “just give the young ones knowledge, facts, information, theories, above all, answers, then they will pass examinations and everything will be great”, is such thinking. It says our children will be educated if they get good grades, learn the right topics, study the right books, regurgitate everything in exams, know something about Aristotle! As Aristotle would say if he was alive today, that is no education at all. We need to educate not just the mind, but also the heart; without educating the heart, all our As will mean absolutely nothing. The question is, though: How do we educate the heart?

In short, education must move us. All the facts and knowledge has got to mean something for the children, have some relevance or significance for them. It has got to touch them, affect them, grip them, move them. It has got to feed them and scare them. It has to penetrate the heart and hit their emotions and feelings. They need to laugh and cry with all they learn. Sadly, the only emotion that some children feel with regard to education is boredom. If they are simply told to learn something and to pass something then they will not be educated.

In that regard they should not just read about something, but they should do it themselves, in line with Edward Dale’s theory that “People remember 10% of what they read, 20%of what they hear, 30% of what they see, 50% of what they see and hear, 70% of what they say and write, 90% of what they do.” William Arthur Ward, an American scholar, said something similar: “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”

Equally, pupils need not just to practise what they learn, but test it. They need to face unseen examinations in order to see if what they have learned has been grasped in whatever context it is raised. It is not just about knowing it in theory, but more so in practice. They may be able to do drills in practice, but can they do the same things in a game-situation?

More importantly though, they need to not just learn about something, but live it and love it. It must touch them and become part of their thinking and doing. As Sir Ken Robinson noted, when “natural talent meets personal passion” a child’s life will be changed completely; they have the natural talent (for something), they just need to fan the passion for it. Passion comes from the heart.

There is something in the way a teacher teaches and thus moves that will attract a child like no other. A car without fuel is useless; a body without a heart is dead. An education without the heart is worthless. We need to get the hearts of our pupils racing!

Tim Middleton is the executive director of the Association of Trust Schools [ATS]. The views expressed in this article, however, are solely those of the author in his private capacity and do not necessarily represent the views of the ATS.
email: ceo@atschisz.co.zw
website: www.atschisz

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