Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deal W. Hudson

5/6/2014 (6 months 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 (6 months 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'


2014 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for November 2014
Lonely people:
That all who suffer loneliness may experience the closeness of God and the support of others.
Mentors of seminarians and religious: That young seminarians and religious may have wise and well-formed mentors.



Comments


More U.S.

Fr. Randy Sly on Thanksgiving and Our Roots of Faith

Image of Ceremonies and periods of thanksgiving are woven through the entire tapestry of history. We find them in the Jewish Calendar of Feasts, in other world religions, in European cultures and native practices of North America, South America, Asia and Africa.

By Fr. Randy Sly

Thanksgiving Day has become a time when we watch parades and then take in large amounts of food and football. According to some calculations, 46 million turkeys-around 550 million pounds-will be consumed during Thanksgiving this year. But that's not how it began! ... continue reading


Thanksgiving Day: We are Still One Nation - Under God Watch

Image of The sincere sentiments expressed by this extraordinary leader, George Washington, should inform our response to all of the challenges we face today in the United States of America. We are still one Nation - under God. They should also inspire us to pray for great leaders to emerge in this our great hour of need. Leaders who can help us see this as an hour of opportunity and an invitation to reaffirm our reliance on God.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

This week the people of the United States of America struggle to find a way through the trauma we are experiencing in the wake of the riots in Ferguson, Missouri. Too many self-appointed "experts" seem all too eager to tell us what divides us. However, even in ... continue reading


Following Ferguson shooting, police departments rush to adopt body cameras Watch

Image of The purchasing of body cameras by police departments nationwide has increased dramatically following the shooting of Michael Brown.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Whether you believe the story told by Ferguson police officer Daren Wilson, or by the family of Michael Brown, it is certain that the case has changed the face of law enforcement in America. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The use of body cameras by police ... continue reading


Catholic Shopping .com is about to have its biggest sale ever for Black Friday weekend!

Image of Sign up so you don't miss any deals during this special Black Friday weekend sale!

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

This weekend, Catholic Shopping .com is having an amazing sale with up to 70% off of selected items. These deep discounts will help you finish your shopping early, but be prepared, many of these sales will last just an hour or two and then the specials will be gone! ... continue reading


A Boston man has something new to be thankful for after he received a double arm transplant Watch

Image of Will Lautzenheiser, a professor of film production and screenwriting at Boston University had to undergo surgery to remove his arms and legs in 2011 after he came down with a life-threatening streptococcal infection.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A Boston man who received a double arm transplant in October is making remarkable recovery, just in time for Thanksgiving. The best part, he says, is that he is able to hug his loved ones again. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Will Lautzenheiser became infected ... continue reading


Dreaded cartel overlord Alfredo Vasquez-Hernandez sentenced to 22 years in prison in U.S. Watch

Image of Top Sinaloa cartel thug Alfredo Vasquez-Hernandez has been sentenced to 22 years in prison in the U.S. for planning the delivery of more than 600 pounds of cocaine.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Top Sinaloa cartel thug Alfredo Vasquez-Hernandez has been sentenced to 22 years in prison in the U.S. for planning the delivery of more than 600 pounds of cocaine. Some of the damning evidence against him was provided by twin brothers Pedro and Margarito ... continue reading


Here's 3,000 reasons why Obama just made illegal immigrants more attractive to your employer Watch

Image of Due to a loophole in Obamacare, the president's new amnesty plans mean that employers who hire illegals don't have to cover them with insurance, and won't be fined for doing so.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

President Obama's new amnesty plan is going to have some drastic effects that most American's aren't aware of, one that may just get you kicked out of a job because of all things, Obamacare. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Under the Affordable Care Act, ... continue reading


Acknowledging Unknown Soldier over known soldiers: Over 1.2 million veterans lack health insurance Watch

Image of As a culture, many of us feel more comfortable honoring the tomb of the Unknown Soldier --

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

As many leave laurels at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the United States refuses to acknowledge the health and benefits of known soldiers. While most people assume that veterans automatically receive health care coverage through the Veterans Health ... continue reading


Ferguson in flames as policeman who shot, killed teenager found not guilty Watch

Image of Police claimed they came under heavy automatic weapon fire. Some buildings were left to burn because of the danger.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

People have responded to violence - with violence. After Police Officer Darren Wilson was been cleared of all charges in the shooting death of black teenager Michael Brown in August. His surrounding community of Ferguson, Missouri has responded with widespread ... continue reading


Priest in Ferguson reports deep mistrust between groups fueling tension Watch

Image of Police in Ferguson move detain a protester.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A Catholic priest assigned to Ferguson, MO, spoke with Vatican Radio about the "festering" mistrust between the populace and police. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Vatican Radio shared an interview with Fr. Arthur Cavitt, a parish priest who was asked about the ... continue reading


All U.S. News

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

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

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Revelation 18:1-2, 21-23; 19:1-3, 9
1 After this, I saw another angel come down from ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 100:2, 3, 4, 5
2 serve Yahweh with gladness, come into his presence ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 21:20-28
20 'When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for November 27th, 2014 Image

St. James Intercisus
November 27: James was a favorite of King Yezdigerd I of Persia and a ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter