Monday, February 26, 2007

Everything But Money, and a Caged Bird, Too.

"Listen carefully to what country people call mother wit. In those homely sayings are couched the collective wisdom of generations." -- Maya Angelou

Whenever I re-read the chapter in "I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings" where Marguerite visits Mrs. Flowers, and gets that advice from her (among other things), I think of Sam Levinson. I love his books so very incredibly much. I don't think I have ever read any other books that contain so much wisdom, and so many quotable quotes.

On the third-to-the-last-page of his wonderful "In One Era and Out The Other," he talks about the humanitarian tradition, which, according to Sam, is ". . .philanthropic in its original Greek meaning: love of man. How love of man is best carried out for the good and welfare of the individual and society is superbly expressed by . . . Moses Maimonides, who died in Spain in the year 1204."

Remembering that 'charity' actually means 'love,' here are Moses Maimonides' levels of charity:

The first and lowest degree is to give - but with reluctance or regret. This is the gift of the hand but not of the heart.

The second is to give cheerfully, but not proportionately to the distress of the suffering.

The third is to give cheerfully and proportionately but not until we are solicited.

The fourth is to give cheerfully, proportionately, and even unsolicited, but to put it in the poor man's hand, thereby exciting in him the painful emotion of shame.

The fifth is to give charity in such a way that the distressed may receive the bounty and know their benefactor without their being known to him.

The sixth, which rises still higher, is to know the objects of our bounty, but remain unknown to them.

The seventh is still more meritorious, namely, to bestow charity in such a way that the benefactor may not know the relieved persons, nor they the name of their benefactor.

The eighth and most meritorious of all is to anticipate charity by preventing poverty: namely, to assist the reduced brother either by a considerable gift, or a loan of money, or by teaching him a trade, or by putting him in the way of business, so that he may earn an honest livelihood and not be forced to the dreadful alternative of holding up his hand for charity. . . . This is the highest step and the summit of charity's golden ladder.

I am of the opinion that it is the responsibility of the teacher to instill that eighth level into all of his/her students. To use it on them, and to teach them to use it on others.

Others will disgree, of course, because it's a lot easier to merely teach to a test, but I could never do just that. I wanted better things for my students.

That is, of course, one reason why I'm not in the public schools any more. It is also one reason why I am very, very glad of that.

Because Mrs. Flowers took the time to give Marguerite Johnson some personal and individual attention, we have Maya Angelou.

Who else might we have, if teachers are ever permitted to give personal and individual attention again? Who might we have? Who might we have had? Who did we never have?

I think it's time to take back our schools.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 6:34 PM | |


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