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)