By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures. (Proverbs 24:3-4)
Dear parents and supporters of St. Timothy’s,
In some ways the world is at our fingertips. With almost instant access to almost any information, one might imagine that humanity might be wiser than in any previous age.
It is difficult to discern with accuracy what effects this new digital age and our changing habits of reading will have on our society. As the majority of adult and teenage reading now occurs on screens, it has been shown that the way we read is changing. What seems to be apparent is that we are much more distracted. We are more likely to skim read in an attempt to glean some of the vast stores of knowledge that are at our fingertips. We struggle to read long and complex passages where the meaning is more subtle. We struggle to read deeply.
What is ‘deep reading’? There are two aspects which have been described by neuroscientists: firstly, material is comprehended, analogies are discovered, previous experiences are drawn on, and connections are made (understanding); and secondly, there is the deeper contemplative type of thinking that is stirred, where inferences are made, ideas tempered, creativity is sparked, and potentially a Godly prayerfulness is inspired (wisdom).
This type of reading was touched on by Andrew Pudewa, from the Institute of Excellence in Writing, in his recent talk to our parents (see below). Often, even avid young readers will skim read, and sometimes it takes an adult reading with or to them to teach these deep reading skills. This type of reading happens each week at St. Timothy’s, when our teachers take the time to engage in end-of-the-day books, or discuss and read great books with their classes. Our teachers train each student's attention, slowing the child’s mind to encourage comprehension, logical thought, and then moving from there, the beginnings of wisdom. It is also something that many parents or grandparents do very naturally with their children, and shared books or scripture become an integral part of their relationships.
This kind of deep reading allows us to put ourselves into the shoes of those we are reading about, encouraging empathy and compassion for those who are outside our day-to-day experience. It allows us to experience the feelings of loss, pain, love, or hate, in the safety of our armchair, and stirs up the beginnings of a prayerful desire for what is good, true, and beautiful.
When writing first became more commonplace in the Greek era, Socrates was concerned:
"….for this discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners' souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves. The specific which you have discovered is an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality."
I wonder what this great thinker would say regarding the internet. Our stores of knowledge are so great, yet we no longer internalize or contemplate much of what we read. I would attest that classical education directly counters this trend. We do expect students to learn, to memorize, to begin to contemplate, and to make connections with their own personal storehouses of knowledge. We want their rooms “filled with rare and beautiful treasures”, and their houses built and established solidly on Godly wisdom and understanding.
My prayer is that the aforementioned words from Proverbs would be fulfilled in our school and community, as we work together to raise up the next generation. Thank you for your partnership in this.