Desiring the Kingdom Book Club, week 1: Education is Formation

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Desiring the Kingdom Book Club

I am so excited to begin this book club and conversation! I know in years past the book clubs on Leisure, the Basis of Culture and Poetic Knowledge planted seeds of ideas in my own mind and heart that have grown and affected decisions I make and how I evaluate our homeschool. I believe that thinking through and conversing about Desiring the Kingdom by James K.A. Smith will do the same, for this book is in the same vein as these others. Smith wants us to return to an Augustinian anthropology, because doing so will change how we teach – and also parent, I would add, for parenting is teaching.

This week we’re discussing the introduction, pages 17-36, wherein Smith gives an overview of his theme and approach.

First, a few housekeeping notes: When you write a post for the book club, you can link up either to the schedule post which will be linked up to the linky posts as they happen, or you can link to the linky post of the section you are writing about. The linkies will stay open through May, so please still join us even if you are late or get behind! And, please do follow along and join the conversation even if you aren’t posting and even if you aren’t reading the book. We all love comments and are hoping for discussion! In the linky posts I’ll write a brief summary of that week’s section and include a discussion question or two to talk about in the comments section. If I manage to also write a post with a point or tangent, then that will be separate and also added to the linky tool. Also, the linky allows choosing a thumbnail, not because I expect you all to use pictures in your posts, but because I thought it’d be nice to include a picture of yourself with your post. :) It’s optional, of course.

Summary: Education is Formation

Desiring the Kingdom, introduction

Smith introduces his book with a statement about what he believes the goal of education should be:

formation of radical disciples who desire the kingdom of God.

This statement struck me. It is not that they do anything for the kingdom, simply that they desire it.

He wants us to stretch our concept of worldview to include more than just our knowledge and how we think about the world, but also how we feel about and identify with the world.

A large part of the introduction is a description of the mall in religious terms. The mall is not about ideas or thoughts, but about desires, identity, and habits. Is it possible to embody our own teaching as holistically and as gut-level as the mall?

Smith argues that our theories and practices of education do not need more accurate statements than they already have, but that they need more fully embodies practices, so that we touch and train our children’s gut instincts through habits and practices.

What defines us is what we love.

What we love is who we are and who we are trying to be. It shapes us on a “precognitive,” “affective” level, which is on a completely “different register.” For those who read Poetic Knowledge, this clearly is Smith’s verbiage for Taylor’s “poetic.” Personally, I think “affective” is a much better and more clear term to use than “poetic,” but they are speaking of the same thing.

Discussion: What Is the Good Life?

We are all aiming at something, even if we are not consciously aware of it. We are aiming toward our conception of what the Good Life looks like, and it is so easy to be influenced by our modern culture (with mannequins at the mall and catalogues galore) about what would make a beautiful, happy life.

What do we think constitutes human flourishing?
What does the good life look like?

As we go through the study of this book, we’ll be forced to examine if our practices line up with what we claim constitutes the Good Life. But truly, it is the choices we make, even unawares, that display what we actually define as flourishing.

Further Book Club Conversation

Visit these other participants’ posts and keep the conversation going in the comment sections! You don’t have to have a blog to participate. Please jump on in.

Next week: Chapter 1 pages 37-46 (this is only a part of the chapter)

7 Responses

  1. Lisa
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    I’m so excited to be part of this. I linked up, but just wanted to let you know that I
    actually wrote two posts about the intro. It was so jam packed I couldn’t condense all my thoughts into one post!

    • Mystie Winckler
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      Lisa, please do link up both your posts so people don’t miss the second one! :)

  2. Sarah
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    I’m gonna be late, but I’m coming! Really really looking forward to this book club.

  3. Bronwyn
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    Mr. Smith challenged definitions and ways of thinking in the introduction and I appreciate having my ruts exposed for analysis. I will be interested to see how he flushes things out. I am holding in reserve my concern at “formation not information”. I would prefer formation AND information but will wait.

  4. kortney
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    thanks so much for hosting, Mystie.

    …still waiting for my library copy of the book to arrive.

    peace keep you.

  5. Meredith_in_Aus
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    Thanks for hosting the bookclub, Mystie.

    I have found that I have been *prepared* for the introduction after listening to Doug Wilson and Cindy Rollins over the years, but I look forward to expanding my understanding and putting feet to it.

    A couple of thoughts (roughly scrawled down!):
    1. It is interesting how this is a book about higher education, but the liturgy example he has given (of the mall – a good example, too) is liturgy that is forming many (the majority??) who would not be highly educated. Perhaps the ancient church was onto something!
    2. As we have added children to our family, I have made doing certain things with the littlest ones non-negotiables. One of those non-negotiables would be reading stories to them after lunch, one-on-one, before nap-time. I’m not exactly sure why I felt that it was important, especially as I discovered – to my initial horror – that the older kids DIDN’T REMEMBER me doing the same things with themselves. For a while I was thinking, “well, what is the point?” but I kept it up anyway. As time went on, though, the Lord has shown me how, even though these specific things have not been consciously remembered (like how MANY times I would read them the same story over and over), these very things are formational; they are liturgy! They end up knowing things (actually, knowing ME) but they don’t know exactly how they know them.

    Looking forward to the next instalment!

    In Him

    Meredith

  6. Mary Frances Pickett
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    “This statement struck me. It is not that they do anything for the kingdom, simply that they desire it.”

    Thank you for pointing this out. I had not noticed it, but I’m going to enjoy thinking about it!

    I really enjoyed the introduction. I’m excited to see where this book goes and what liturgies I’m inspired to put in place in our family life as a result of reading this book.

    While I was reading I remembered some of the “liturgies” that shaped my heart as a child and teen. One was the 5th Sunday dinners that our church had in the fellowship hall on the 5th Sunday of each month. It was potluck and I just remembering the food and the fellowship around the tables gives me a warm, happy feeling. That’s what a liturgy is supposed to do, right?