Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deal W. Hudson

5/6/2014 (2 years ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

At the end of the day, the teacher becomes only an occasion for learning, a stimulus to go out and learn it for yourself.

I've often wondered why I worked better with some teachers more than others. Some of my teachers I found personally very appealing, but I would find myself struggling with what they wanted me to know and how to get an angle on knowing it.  While others, perhaps not appealing at all, were able to find their way to my mind in a more direct route. 

The best students know when enough is enough - their docility has its limits.  They know, as St. Thomas Aquinas once said, the knower is the first cause of learning.

The best students know when enough is enough - their docility has its limits. They know, as St. Thomas Aquinas once said, the knower is the first cause of learning.

Highlights

By Deal W. Hudson

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

5/6/2014 (2 years ago)

Published in U.S.

Keywords: study, student, learning, education, experience, docility, docilitas, virtue, Deal W. Hudson


WASHINGTON,DC (Catholic Online) - I've often wondered why I worked better with some teachers more than others. Some of my teachers I found personally very appealing, but I would find myself struggling with what they wanted me to know and how to get an angle on knowing it.  While others, perhaps not appealing at all, were able to find their way to my mind in a more direct route. 

The problem was, what was thought to be the cardinal virtue for the student - docilitas - we know the word in its English form, docility, meaning responsive, easily taught, or receptive.  Sometimes docility is taken as a synonym for aptitude, which is misleading. An aptitude can be limited to a few discreet subjects while docility means a person is, well, very teachable.

I've always been a very docile, if sometimes naughty, student.  I was eager to learn, often had my hand up, loved to read and write, and always wanted the teacher to call on me. Yes, I was a bit of a show off! There was that spring day in 3rd grade at Mt. Vernon Elementary School when the teacher was facing the board. I was able to take every book out of every desk in the room and toss them out the window onto the lawn below.  I did say I was naughty!

Whenever I have struggled to learn, I've come to the conclusion that I was trying too hard, that is, I was too docile.  Docilitas is indeed a virtue, but how easy it is to forget that the human virtues lie in the mean.  My excess of docility led to three obstacles to learning: eagerness to please the teacher; going to the extreme in carrying out instructions; and the anxiety of not doing either of the first two. 

A good example is the Yoga for Golfers class I took last year to become more flexible.  There were three of us, all middle-aged, squatting in front of a perfectly shaped 25-year old.  It was only later that I realized the instructor was not an experienced teacher, especially with beginners.  Even though it was very painful, I made myself copy every move she asked us to make.  The guys to each side eventually gave up, but not me. I was determined to please the teacher. The only person who was really pleased was my chiropractor who got three office visits to undo the damage! 

If a golf instructor tells me to turn my left hip back and around I will practically throw myself on the ground to prove I can do it. I recall when I was learning to shoot skeet, I didn't say a word through the entire lesson in spite of the fact that my left shoulder became painful and inflamed.  When the instructor saw me rubbing it afterward, he asked to take a look.  "Why didn't you say anything? Your shoulder is black and blue!" He took a look at my grandfather's 16-gauge shotgun, put in a shell and fired it to feel the kick.  All he did was shake his head and hand it back, saying, "Either get a pad for that stock or bring a different gun, next time." 

The best students know when enough is enough - their docility has its limits.  They know, as St. Thomas Aquinas once said, the knower is the first cause of learning. Good students realize that the mind is not an empty receptacle into which the teacher pours knowledge. Rather they allow the teacher to activate the knowing power of the mind to meet the teacher halfway, where the actions of teaching and learning combine to lift both to a higher level. While the student does overdo it, the teacher doesn't treat the student as a passive note-taker. Plato and Socrates called it the process of dialectic (διαλεκτική).

At the end of the day, the teacher becomes only an occasion for learning, a stimulus to go out and learn it for yourself.  An ethics teacher can define the cardinal virtues for you, but it's up to each individual, over many years, to put that knowledge into practice. As the later great golfer Ben Hogan replied when asked for his "secret" to such magnificent ball striking - "The secret's in the dirt!" Understood simply, Hogan was saying we all have to learn things for ourselves, by hard practice, by the experiences of success and failure. 

I'm not sure why I overdid myself with docility for so long.  Was I simply trying to please, to show off, to make good grades or elevate my performance? What kept me in the posture, in spite of the growing body of evidence against it? I kept telling myself I was doing the right thing by listening so closely, following instructions to the letter, and watching for the teacher's approval.  None of that really mattered, as it turned out: What mattered were the hours and days I spent "in the dirt," learning it for myself.

© Deal W. Hudson, Ph.D

-----
Deal W. Hudson is president of the Morley Institute of Church and Culture, Senior Editor and Movie Critic at Catholic Online, and former publisher and editor of Crisis Magazine.This column and subsequent contributions are an excerpt from a forthcoming book. Dr. Hudson's new radio show, Church and Culture, is heard on the Ave Maria Radio Network.

---


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'


Copyright 2016 - Distributed by THE CALIFORNIA NETWORK

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for August 2016
Universal:
Sports: That sports may be an opportunity for friendly encounters between peoples and may contribute to peace in the world.
Evangelization: Living the Gospel: That Christians may live the Gospel, giving witness to faith, honesty, and love of neighbor.



Comments


More U.S.

The shocking NEW reason why young people are leaving church Watch

Image of The youth are leaving the church, but why?

By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

It's a surprising find, but it's also true. Americans are giving up on God. A Pew survey reveals that half of the people who have quit going to church no longer believe in God. LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - Nearly a quarter of the nation no longer attends ... continue reading


Massachusetts nun loses rosary to lesbian couple Watch

Image of Lesbian muggers rob nun of her rosary beads.

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

A Sister at the Daughters of Mary of Nazareth convent was mugged by a lesbian couple, who left with the nun's rosary. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to the <a ... continue reading


'Right Before I Die': Photographer reveals heartbreaking truth on taboo topic Watch

Image of One photographer captured people's dreams as they drew closer to death (Shutterstock).

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Photographer Andrew George decided to interview and photograph people close to death for a project titled "Right Before I Die." LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - George's project earned an exhibit at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles and he explained the ... continue reading


Deacon Keith Fournier: Jesus Walks with Us on the Dusty Road of Life Watch

Image of

By Deacon Keith Fournier

We can learn a vital lesson from this account in the Gospel of Luke; one which can radically reorient our entire life. Jesus is always with us. He accompanies us on the Way of our daily life because He IS the Way. (John 14:6) But, we need our eyes to be opened. ... continue reading


Marian procession to commemorate birthday of Los Angeles Watch

Image of Los Angeles will hold a Marian procession and a votive Mass for the city's 235th anniversary.

By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

The city of Los Angeles will get a Marian procession to mark its 235th anniversary on August 27. The city is named after Our Lady. LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - The city of Los Angeles has a very long name. Officially, the city is known as, "The Town of Our ... continue reading


Government finally admits truth about Area 51 Watch

Image of A truck transports a mysterious, covered object to Area 51 under tight security.

By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

The Daily Mail has posted pictures of the mysterious fleet of planes that flies workers into Area 51. Area 51 is the secret Air Force facility that is rumored to house alien technology. The existence of the base was only recently acknowledged. LOS ANGELES, CA ... continue reading


We Are ALL Called to Labor in the Vineyard of the Lord Watch

Image of A Vineyard

By Deacon Keith Fournier

Do we see the Church as Some-One, the Risen Christ truly present in His mystical Body, into whom we have been Baptized and now live? Do we, like those early believers, understand that to belong to Christ is to belong to His Body and seek to bring the whole world ... continue reading


Obama releases 15 more terror detainees. Here's how many they expect to return to terror Watch

Image of Obama has pledged to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay. He has failed to do so.

By David Drudge (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

Obama has shipped 15 terror detainees to the United Arab Emirates for release. It is unlikely Obama will be able to close the terrorist detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - President Obama has released 15 more terror ... continue reading


Terrorism in Milwaukee? - Black Panther Party speaks out Watch

Image of Milwaukee police hold a standoff with protesters following a fatal  police shooting.

By Kenya Sinclair (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

The so-called "national minister of defense" for the People's New Black Panther Party claims Milwaukee police are intentionally attacking black men and women in an act of terrorism. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to <a ... continue reading


Cardinal George explains how gay marriage is like Sharia Law Watch

Image of Cardinal George explains how the gay marriage lobby enforces their Sharia Law on the rest of us.

By Marshall Connolly (CALIFORNIA NETWORK)

A 2014 column by Cardinal George has resurfaced, referring to gay marriage as a form of "Sharia Law." LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - Cardinal George in 2014 explained that the gay marriage movement was similar to Sharia Law in some respects. The comparison is ... continue reading


All U.S. News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

the FEED
by Catholic Online

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Revelation 21:9-14
9 One of the seven angels that had the seven bowls full of the seven ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 145:10-11, 12-13, 17-18
10 All your creatures shall thank you, Yahweh, and your faithful shall ... Read More

Gospel, John 1:45-51
45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, 'We have found him of whom ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for August 24th, 2016 Image

St. Bartholomew
August 24: St. Bartholomew, 1st. century, one of the 12. ... Read More