Saturday, May 28, 2011

A "Dullard" who grew up to be an educational philosopher

I followed a rabbit trail on Thomas Edward Shields, the farm boy mentioned in Poetic Knowledge who eventually became a priest,a professor of natural sciences at Catholic University, an author of several books and many articles on educational philosophy, and co-editor of the Catholic Educational Review.

The Making and Unmaking of a Dullard, his book about his early life which was quoted in Poetic Knowledge, is available in public domain in several places.    I downloaded a copy to my Kindle.

Though he calls himself a "dullard", and he was dropped out of school at age 9 because he was making no progress, I imagine that he was more like one of those "late bloomers" you meet, usually boys, who need a solid grounding in real life before they can do well in academic things.   Dorothy and Raymond Moore often discuss this kind of boy in their books and research about delayed academics.

They call it the Integrated Maturity Level -- when all systems come together to make a "go" and say that it comes at different ages, sometimes not until age 14.    Their recommendations:

  1. Study from a few minutes to several hours a day, depending on the child's maturity.
  2. Manual work at least as much as study.
  3. Home and/or community service an hour or so a day. Focus on kids' interests and needs; be an example in consistency, curiosity, and patience. Live with them!
The focus, for them, is on service, time spent with adults engaged in everyday work, individualized attention, and play (not the electronic kind, but the old-fashioned outdoors Dangerous Book for Boys type play, I imagine).

Anyway, since I have a child with developmental delays I thought it would be interesting to read through the book during this summer.   Aidan is fascinated with concrete things, especially working with his hands.  I suspect that he feels the same need as Shields did to develop his concepts of the world through repetition of experience leading to estimative judgment.


  1. This sounds like something I should read. My newly minted 12 yo loves to build and dream - yet academics, not so much. He knows all the titans and gods, yet struggles with memorizing math facts... ah well. It will come.

  2. Ah, Beate, your 12 year old! It seems so recent that he and Aidan were just about 5 or 6, and your boy sent Aidan a postcard. Now Aidan will be 12 this week too!

    A lot of kids seem to memorize better when it has some emotional or imaginative hook for them. Liam didn't memorize math facts till 12, yet he excelled in math later on, so I agree it comes when it's needed.

  3. I actually found another letter for Aidan while cleaning up a few months ago - bad mommy! Nathaniel asks about Aidan often. Tell him Happy Birthday from TX :-)


I would love to hear your thoughts on this!