15 August 2006

Method vs. Content?

Kelly wrote:
Do you think it might be a bit overstated or too simplistic to say Method is more important than Content? Your analogy points out your meaning to a degree but one could say, arsenic in any form is still lethal. Perhaps some would suggest that what I bring up is so obvious it doesn't need to be stated. However, it might be something to ponder because, if it is true, then, where on that continuum does method become a higher priority?
I had a few niggling thoughts in the back of my mind when I heard Dr. Berquist make her statement about the importance of method over content, but I didn’t include them in in my original post because I wasn’t sure how to word them. I’ve had a bit of time to think about it and think I’ve got it.

Dr. Berquist’s original analogy was that a statue of her grandfather was of her grandfather whether it was made of bronze, marble, or sandstone. It was the shape that made it a statue of her grandfather. She related the shape of the statue to the method of our instruction and the material of the statue to the content of our instruction.

However (thought I), a statue of her grandfather wouldn’t last long, nor would it be appropriate if made of red jello. Red jello (or any color jello, for that matter) just wouldn’t be proper to the form of the statue.

I think there should be a marriage of method and content (at the very least they should be extremely good friends). I think we must look at our methods and make sure that they are proper or appropriate to the content.

I also think that often when we hear or read these kinds of statements, it behooves us to investigate or at least to contemplate what might have lead to it. Conference workshops aren’t developed in a vacuum. Dr. Berquist may have been trying to remedy an overabundance of content that has been wed to improper methods.

Are we, for example, focused on the result of a simple read-and-regurgitate test or quiz grade to judge comprehension, without concerning ourselves about whether the child truly understands the subtleties of the work (age appropriately, of course)? Does the method strengthen the relationship of the parent and the child as they learn and explore together? Does it treat the child as a relational human being or as a computer whose data needs to be checked for accuracy? We need to evaluate the propriety of our methods as they relate to our content, our family’s current needs, and our children.

So, while I don’t necessarily agree with her statement as she said it, it did cause me to think about the issue and possibly begin to see its appropriate application. That, however, brings up the question of what are the proper methods for the different disciplines (or subjects, to use a more modern word) of study. How do we learn this discernment? I certainly don’t claim to know all the answers, or even many of them. The questions above are my simple start as I begin to try to develop discernment in this. And the answers to those questions will necessarily depend on the age and maturity of the child, among other considerations.

Thanks for the question, Kelly. You helped me think about this and organize my swirling thoughts.

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