Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Deal W. Hudson

5/6/2014 (2 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 (2 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 July 2014
Sports:
That sports may always be occasions of human fraternity and growth.
Lay Missionaries: That the Holy Spirit may support the work of the laity who proclaim the Gospel in the poorest countries.



Comments


More U.S.

Deacon Keith Fournier: The Courage of the Catholic Bishops, Religious Liberty, Hobby Lobby and ENDA Watch

Image of Deacon Keith Fournier is Founder and Chairman of Common Good Foundation and Common Good Alliance. A married Roman Catholic Deacon of the Diocese of Richmond, Virginia, he and his wife Laurine have five grown children and six grandchildren, He serves as the Director of Adult Faith Formation at St. Stephen, Martyr Parish in Chesapeake, VA. He is also a human rights lawyer and public policy advocate. Deacon Fournier is a graduate of the Franciscan University of Steubenville (Theology and Philosophy, BA), the John Paul II Institute of the Lateran University (Theology of Marriage and Family, MTS), and the University of Pittsburgh School of Law (JD). He has completed requirements for the PhD in Moral Theology at the Catholic University of America and is writing the PhD dissertation on the teaching of St. John Paul II.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

The Catholic Bishops are doing an excellent job standing up for Religious liberty as a fundamental human right. One of my growing concerns is that many Catholics do not even read what they are saying. Sadly, in a propagandized media where sound bites substitute ... continue reading


Thousands of Christians Flee Under Death Threat From Tyrannical Caliph and ISIS Jihadists Watch

Image of (Pictured: Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, or Caliph Ibrahim) At first, Christians were ordered to gather in a central place to receive the directive from the self appointed Caliph. Understandably, given the track record of this maniacal tyrant, few did. So, the text of the statement was issued as a formal declaration to all Christians - We offer them three choices: Islam; the dhimma contract - involving payment of Jizya; if they refuse this they will have nothing but the sword.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

By now, everyone who is in anyway concerned about what is happening to Christians in Iraq has heard the horrific news. The madman who claims to be a descendant of Mohammed, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi - who in his delusion and grandiosity has taken to calling himself ... continue reading


Catholic Bishops Decry Obama's LGBT executive order as imprudent act of religious discrimination Watch

Image of

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

The chairmen of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty and Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth have been strong in their condemnation of President Obama's legislation on LGBT employees. "Today's ... continue reading


A Tribute to Protestant Bishop Tony Palmer, Friend of Francis and Champion of Christian Unity Watch

Image of The late Bishop Tony Palmer with Pope Francis- He was catapulted into prominence in the broader Christian community when, while meeting with his friend the Pope in January, he was given a recorded message from Francis to deliver to a large group of charismatic, evangelical protestant leaders who gathered in the United States. The video went viral. It moved millions to sincere prayer for the healing of the divisions in the broken Body of Christ and is prompting a renewed commitment to common apostolic action between Christians.

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

I never personally met Bishop Tony Palmer. However, I look forward to spending an eternity in the full communion of God's love with him. I appreciated his Christian courage and felt that his efforts were prophetic. He wrote his life - and lived his ministry - ... continue reading


Exclusive: Tribute to Bishop Tony Palmer, A Life Dedicated to Unity Watch

Image of (Pictured: Left to Right - Dirk West, Matteo Callisi, Bishop Tony Palmer, and Deacon Darrell Wentworth) - Faith to Bishop Tony Palmer was a dynamic, lived experience and, as a result, his life built up the whole Body of Christ and tore down the walls some have built to separate us from each other! What a legacy! A true example of living Jesus' prayer in John 17! (Deacon Darrell Wentworth)

By Deacon Darrell Wentworth

Monday, July 21, 2014, was supposed to be like most Mondays - the start of a work week. But Deacon Keith Fournier sent me a text informing me that my friend, Bishop Tony Palmer, had died. Shock went through my body as I processed that news; then disbelief as I ... continue reading


Anarchy in Chicago! Weekend of crime tears city apart Watch

Image of The weekend of July 18 saw the death of five people and the wounding of 47 in Chicago.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

There were 47 shooting victims in Chicago this weekend, five of which ended up being fatal, statistics from the Chicago Police Department report. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Chicago officials met on July 21 to discuss the city's recent surge in gun ... continue reading


The Contraceptive New York Nanny, Bill Donohue and the Catholic League Watch

Image of

By Deacon Keith A Fournier

The idea that the government is now in the business of arm-twisting women not to have more children - immediately after childbirth - is morally obnoxious and socially disturbing. It is so apt that this is happening in a city where its mayor lusts for abortion ... continue reading


Building a culture of life: Colorado clinic takes brave stand Watch

Image of Inspired to bring their mission home to Colorado, they decided to start a natural women's health clinic that would uphold the dignity of women and give them the care they deserve.

By CNA/EWTN News

A Colorado women's health clinic seeking to offer natural care that respects human dignity has drawn praise for helping to build up a culture of life. (CNA/EWTN News) - Authentic women's care "is essential to the pro-life movement," said Mother Agnes Mary Donovan, ... continue reading


When more than 80 percent of California faces extreme drought -- the spigots remain open Watch

Image of At the headquarters of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, fountains are still operating. The one change is that they turn off at mid-morning, and haven't been running full-time since the spring.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Extremely dry conditions in the state of California has 80 percent of the so-called Golden State in extreme drought conditions. Many couldn't tell the difference in many urban areas: Sprinklers go full blast on many lawns, and lots of waters goes wasted by ... continue reading


IT'S ABOUT TIME: Rick Perry deploys national guard to halt southern invasion! Watch

Image of Texas Governor Rick Perry will send 1,000 Texas National Guard troops to help secure the southern border, in an effort to stem the flood of illegals that have crossed over throughout 2014.

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

In an effort to stem the influx of tens of thousands of illegal immigrant children that have been entering the United States illegally in 2014, Texas Governor Rick Perry will send 1,000 Texas National Guard troops to help secure the southern border. LOS ANGELES, ... 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, Jeremiah 2:1-3, 7-8, 12-13
1 The word of Yahweh came to me, saying,2 ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 36:6-7, 8-9, 10-11
6 your saving justice is like towering mountains, ... Read More

Gospel, Matthew 13:10-17
10 Then the disciples went up to him and asked, 'Why ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for July 24th, 2014 Image

St. John Boste
July 24: One of the Forty Martyrs of England and Wales. He was born at ... 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