Motivation, Part 4
In this and the next newsletter, I will outline the principles that define a proper approach to motivation.
The first of these principles is that before a teacher can motivate the material of his subject, he must first carefully and explicitly identify the value of his subject. He must know, clearly and consciously, why a study of his subject is crucial to the child's life. This task is neglected for a variety of reasons. As I indicated in a past newsletter, the intrinsicist teacher does not regard his subject as having any value to the child's life; it is a duty imposed upon him, and the answer to why he should learn it begins, "Thou shalt..." The subjectivist teacher can offer no principled, absolute statement of a subject's value; value is relative, and depends on a variety of subjectively-defined, concrete goals, goals that change rapidly with the educational fashion. Even those with a more objective view of their subject's value rarely identify that value in terms so explicit that they can use it as an absolute standard guiding the approach of the course and can communicate that value explicitly to the students.
The VanDamme Academy brochure and website state concisely the essential value of each of the core subjects. On more than one occasion, a parent coming into the school has commented to me that until reading our website, he had never considered why each of these subjects is crucial. But the why-a statement of the indispensable value of this material to a person's life-is a prerequisite of a proper curriculum and of proper motivation; it should dictate the whole content and method of the course, and as I will explain, it must serve as the basic means of motivating the students.
The next important principle is that the purpose of the course must set the standard for the selection of its content. In literature, the purpose of teaching the child to experience literature as an art form sets the standard for the selection of works; the course must include those novels, plays, and stories that can achieve this purpose. If the purpose of reading is loosely defined in the teacher's mind as a way to expand the students' vocabulary, develop their ability to identify the main point of a given paragraph, and learn factual information in a fictional setting, then any textbook reader will do. If the purpose is a political agenda, of exposing students to other cultures, teaching them "tolerance," and shattering the belief that great literature is the province of dead white males, then any modern, PC novel, no matter the quality of its writing or depth of its theme (or even whether it has a theme) will do. A proper literature curriculum must be made up of literary classics for children and adults, classics that have endured because of the timelessness of their themes and the eloquence of their presentation. Exposed to great art from an early age, students become sophisticated and impassioned readers.
Next week, I will elaborate on this principle and identify one more essential key to proper motivation.