Education of the Heart and Mind

I am a scientist by training and a lover by desire. Yes, this is a provocative statement, but I´ll probably make it far less interesting shortly.

School has a role in helping young people become rational humans who seek understanding through evidence; who do not simply accept the platitudes of the snake oil salesman. We do this through many means, including scientific inquiry, experimentation, mathematical proof, logic, and reasoning.

These are all important skills to develop, and students can demonstrate them through debate, coding, mathematical formulae, and research papers. These are the “hard skills” young people learn to count on to find truth and to understand how the world works.

This is why we teach both knowledge and skills at TASIS Portugal. As Isaac Newton exclaimed, "If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." Essentially, knowledge builds on knowledge, and knowledge is required if one wants to be a good inquirer, scientist, and writer.

To be educated is to possess a cultural body of knowledge. To be an expert is to possess a higher level of knowledge than the layperson. Skills are also important, for they allow us to demonstrate and apply our knowledge.

However, that is not all that is important in school, and certainly not all that is important in life. To accompany and enhance knowledge and skill, we require passion. Passion comes not from rational thought and logic but, as Saint Augustine said, “from God." You don’t need to be religious to appreciate what he meant: that creation is in all of us, and therefore so is the beauty and wonder of the world.

We don’t listen to music or appreciate art because it follows certain rules or makes logical sense. In fact, we tend not to think when we hear music, but instead, we feel it. It is emotional. It evokes desire, arouses passion, and provides pleasure. It provides a spark that lights a fire, as do many other things such as nature, relationships, and athletics.

The goal of a good school is to help students fall in love. Love of books, love of sport, love of art, love of learning. Yes, it is important to teach knowledge and skills so that students can appreciate rational, coherent, and scientific reason. But that is not enough to sustain us as human beings.

A teacher´s job is not only to help students understand the world but also to help them find inspiration in their studies – that is, to educate both the heart and the mind. When we find ways to combine emotion and love of learning with our curricular goals, then we have a truly inspired student--and a person who will receive far more from the act and the art of study.


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