The Law of the Farm, III

Is it ironic or just apt that this week, now that we’ve grasped the Law of the Farm, my students will start reading some stories  set on Caelius’ farm?  Last year, at this time, Tres Columnae Lectio XXIV only had one Fabula Longa: this one, where poor Cnaeus Caelius finally has to confess what happened on that fateful day, years ago in narrative time, when he wouldn’t get out of bed and his parents brought in Fortunata the cow to “persuade” him.  But thanks to the extended joyful learning community of Tres Columnae Project subscribers and friends, there’s now a complete sequence:

  • Fabula Longa II, in which Fortunata and Maximus have a calf, thanks to the remarkable writing team of Atalanta and Julia;
  • Fabula Longa III, a flashback in which Cnaeus unfortunately reverts to type, thanks to our good friend Emily; and
  • Fabula Longa IV, by me, which returns to the city and continues the story-line about young Lucius’ crush on Lollia, his father’s client’s daughter (or is she??)

All, in different ways, focus on choices and consequences, in one of those odd bits of serendipity and connection that I’ve come to value so much.  Meanwhile, the Latin IV and AP students are creating stories for Lectiōnēs XXXVI and XXXVII in which a now-grown Lucius, as a young tribune stationed in Germany, visits the sites they’ve been reading about in Book VI of Caesar’s Gallic Wars … which Lucius, too, would have read and studied.  As he meets the Germani of his own day  –  as he comes to know them as people, not just barbarians to tax and oppress – he, too, explores choices and consequences.

These connections are everywhere, if you only stop and look.  Even when I used a traditional textbook series, with a set schedule of readings, it often “happened” that the day’s story had a life lesson we could see and apply.  I’d tease my classes about “the moral of the story.”  “Remember, if a volcano is erupting near your home, just go ahead and leave!” is a moral you can get from any readings about Mount Vesuvius; for more advanced classes, remember that “Just because Juno and Terra show up in a cave and some nymphs are shrieking outside, that doesn’t mean you’re actually married.”  Then we’d talk about deeper applications of these silly-seeming morals … and students made profound connections to their own lives, their  circumstances, news of the day.   Connections are one of the “five C’s” of language learning!

Now that we’re a community, the mid-morning class and I can talk about connections.  It didn’t take as long as I had feared, though it was longer than I’d hoped:  There were 20 minutes of “Traditional Latin Class” Friday, 10  Monday, none Tuesday.  After a clean, pleasant start –  the first in a long time – the groups that had made Minor Assessment stories presented theirs, and those who hadn’t did the individual-response version.  I’ve discovered, in both classes, a number of students who prefer to read, write, and analyze cultural implications of a story individually. Knowing that, I’ll make sure the individual-response prompts are ready earlier in the cycle for them, on the days when we start making collaborative ones.

As Mark said on Google+ Monday, in a comment too rich not to quote at length:

Your Law of the Farm excerpt points out just how bad the factory system violates nature’s human system.

Farming runs along predictable cycles that do not change. A farmer might decide to plant a different crop but seasons for planting and harvesting don’t change. The factory system processes kids as though they were crops planted in April and harvested in July or August.

Short term inventories of certain items are a part of the farming process but there are few if any multi-year inventory items. Inventories in farming are to help mitigate circumstances which are out of the farmer’s control. Think weather as an example.

The factory education system is one built on inventory, inventories of acquired knowledge stored for future endeavors.

A Latin course with all of Latin’s rich content can be the basis for a great learning environment where students can learn how communities operate and how they fit into a community. Each learned lesson is a tool students can begin to use immediately in your classroom and other classrooms.

The bigger issue to reconcile is how school as a community is trying to compel students to do something completely irrational. Storing large volumes of impersonal content for a vague potential use in the distant future has proven to be a bad value. The time required to gain this inventory is greater than the application shelf life for much of this knowledge.

Just like stuff piled in a deep drawer, stored knowledge takes too long to find what you are looking for and when you find what you are looking for, you realize the item either no longer works or there is a completely new and better method for doing what it did.

The factory education process is a social system that creates unnecessary and unproductive friction between individuals. This notion of storing pushed, impersonal knowledge is a bad value and the process of teaching constantly rubs up against the natural human system which is based on a burning desire to learn. For many the social system (factory education) overwhelms the burning desire to learn and then even essential skills like working within a community go unlearned.

In a profoundly unnatural system, it’s hard to let natural processes happen.  The system cries out for results now … but real, lasting results take time.  Ms. X wants perfect classroom management and perfectly-behaved students with perfect test scores … but self-management and self-control take time.  How will we find the time and the space for that natural growth – and the natural false starts real growth requires – in the midst of a results now factory?  Can we adapt the factory tools to a natural purpose?

Published in: on April 24, 2013 at 9:46 am  Leave a Comment  

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