Essay explores Wendell Berry on Education and Violence

What Kentucky writer-farmer-thinker Wendell Berry thinks about agriculture is usually straightforward and clearly identified as such. What he thinks about culture sometimes has to be gleaned from his opinions on other topics. One topic of American culture that he takes on often in an oblique way is education, and his short story “Pray without Ceasing” (Fid, 1992) is a prime example. Many relevant themes of education play out in the story and how Berry tells it, but formal education is never mentioned—the closest we get is the appearance of Jack Beechum’s grade school teacher. Yet Berry himself cited this story as a way to gain insight into how education could better serve our world, and the story connects with his deepest hope for education. The story raises important questions about the relationship between formal education and violence, something Berry has called the “great moral issue of our time” (WI, 2005, p. 145), and the story suggests how education could do better.

To read Jane Schreck's entire essay (which opens as a pdf file), visit In Factis Pax


Meeting Wendell Berry

“I saw you at Actor’s Theatre last year with Gary Snyder,” I stammered. “Gary said the first thing we should teach all children is proper penmanship. I asked you about education? What we should teacher students in school?”

His eyes lifted as he finished signing the first book. More than anything else, his presence came off as comforting.

“I’m not sure what good it is to teach children the things we do,” he explained.

One of the most significant opportunities for growth in education, in my small mind anyway, lies in curriculum. Content. Standards. The what of learning seems more important than other more popular topics, like how and where. So of course I agreed.

“What good is any kind of knowledge without self-knowledge to shape it?” I responded.

“Absolutely right. You’ve got that right. Yes,” He agreed with enough enthusiasm to make me wonder if someone else had their hand in the back of my head and used my body like a Ventriloquist. Better introduce myself.

“Mr. Berry, my name is Terry Heick, and I’m a teacher. Your work has influenced me greatly. One of the things I do is take your ideas, and help contextualize them for other teachers. Or try anyway.”

“Well, I’m not sure I’ve had any ideas. These ideas aren’t mine. I got them from other people, who got them from other people. And so on.”

Read more about Terry Heick's encounter at Teach Thought


The Blessing of Homeplace Farm at St. Catharine College

St. Catharine, KY-- On Monday, October 19, St. Catharine College (SCC) hosted nearly seventy people from the community and college for a ceremony to bless and christen its new educational site for the Berry Farming Program (BFP): Homeplace Farm. 

The event featured a ceremony in which Sr. Mary Brigid Gregory and Jonah Hays Lucas (son of BFP professor Dr. Shawn Lucas) combined and scattered on the ground soils from the five Dominican Sisters of Peace farms and ecological education centers:

Heartland Farm (Pawnee Rock, KS)

Crystal Springs Earth Learning Center (Plainville, MA)

Crown Point Ecology Center (Bath, OH)

Shepherd's Corner Farm and Ecology Center (Blacklick, OH)

St. Catharine Farm (St. Catharine, KY). 

BFP students Hannah Spaulding and Sathya Govindasamy combined and sprinkled water from the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes in France and water from Cartwright Creek, which flows through the St. Catharine Farm. Additionally, New York State farmer and writer Kristin Kimball read the poem "A Vision" by Wendell Berry. Kimball was visiting SCC to speak about her memoir The Dirty Life , which was the common reader for SCC freshmen. Springfield resident Elaine Simms and the SCC Fine Arts Committee for hosted a beautiful reception after the ceremony.

Read more and watch video at St. Catharine College


A Seminar concerning Wendell Berry

From Manchester (UK) Metropolitan University:

“The scientific-industrial culture, founded nominally upon materialism, arrives at a sort of fundamentalist disdain for material reality. The living world is then treated as dead matter, the worth of which is determined exclusively by the market” (Berry 2015, p. 7).

This seminar explores connections between the work of American agrarian conservationist and author Wendell Berry and that of “new materialists” as they each seek to emphasize the living materiality of a vital and complex world. I will be particularly interested in outlining some of the major contributions of Berry, in particular the principles underlying what he has called “the Great Economy” as these form a foundation for a critical analysis of destructive neoliberal policies in education and more generally, and an outline for much needed “pedagogies of responsibility.”

Read more at Manchester Metropolitan University


Wendell Berry Visits Sewanee Freshman Program

Sewanee’s first-year program “Finding Your Place” recently completed its third year. The ten-day experience ended with a “Berry Symposium” featuring Wendell Berry and his daughter Mary the lens of chemistry, archaeology, and a host of Berry. In the program affectionately dubbed FYP, approximately 150 freshman students began their studies at Sewanee on August 12th. These students started one of their courses early, learning about the Domain and its surrounding communities through other subjects. Through readings, field trips, and plenary lectures, these students sought to gain an understanding of place and how to find their own place in Sewanee. Wendell Berry, a noted writer and environmental activist, visited campus on ... August 20th and 21st to discuss his own perception of place. Berry’s writings draw inspiration from his agricultural roots in Kentucky, and his works convey a strong emphasis on living in tune with nature. Mary Berry, his daughter, is the director of the Berry Center, an organization that works for agricultural reform. Several students from St. Catharine College, located in Kentucky, accompanied the Berry family. These visiting students are studying Farming and Ecological Agrarianism, a degree program made possible through a partnership with the Berry Center.

Read more at The Sewanee Purple


Wendell Berry and Norman Wirzba, Tennessee in August

Rivendell Fellow Norman Wirzba and author Wendell Berry will headline a symposium on the theme of “Imaginative Education: Learning to Know a Place, Care for a Place” at the University of the South in Sewanee on August 20-21.

“The connections between literature and place, and place and land, are central to the Rivendell ethos. We are delighted to share in this very special symposium, and to host the guests during their time here,” said Carmen Thompson, Director of Rivendell.

Inspired by the example of distinguished author, farmer, and cultural critic Wendell Berry, the symposium will encourage reflection on the deeper dimensions of knowing, caring for, and becoming present to place that Berry represents in his work.  Key features of the symposium event include the participation of Mary Berry, Executive Director of the Berry Center in New Castle, Kentucky, and Leah Bayens, director of the Berry Farming Program at St. Catherine College, as well as a public conversation with Mr. Berry conducted by Wirzba, who is Professor of Theology, Ecology, and Rural Life at Duke University.

From Rivendell Writers Colony


Article shares Wendell Berry Commencement Address from 1989

In 1989 Mr. Berry spoke at the commencement ceremony for The College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine. Here is some of it, with thanks to Terry Heick :

The old problem remains: How do you get intelligence out of an institution or an organization? The question that must be addressed, therefore, is not how to care for the planet but how to care for each of the planet’s millions of human and natural neighborhoods, each of its millions of small pieces and parcels of land, each one of which is in some precious way different from all the others.

Our understandable wish to preserve the planet must somehow be reduced to the scale of our competence – that is, to the wish to preserve all of its humble households and neighborhoods.

The religion and the environmentalism of the highly industrialized countries are at bottom a sham, because they make it their business to fight against something that they do not really wish to destroy. We all live by robbing nature, but our standard of living demands that the robbery shall continue. We must achieve the character and acquire the skills to live much poorer than we do. We must waste less. We must do more for ourselves and each other.

It is either that or continue merely to think and talk about changes that we are inviting catastrophe to make. The great obstacle is the conviction that we cannot change because we are dependent upon what is wrong. But that is the addict’s excuse, and we know that it will not do. I am trying not to mislead you, or myself, about our situation. I think that we have hardly begun to realize the gravity of the mess we are in.

For all of it, read Terry Heick's post at Teach Thought

 


Wendell Berry Inspires Thought on Learning

“…all our problems tend to gather under two questions about knowledge: Having the ability and desire to know, how and what should we learn? And, having learned, how and for what should we use what we know?”

Wendell Berry, likely America’s greatest living writer and certainly its most compelling essayist, succinctly captures the challenge of education in this excerpt on an essay from a (mostly) unrelated topic from “People, Land, and Community.”

But in the quote, Berry (whose ideas we’ve used to reflect on learning before, including this Inside-Out School Learning Model) has given us the ingredients for any authentic system of learning.

via teachthought.com


Wendell Berry at Center for Kentucky History, June 7

Through their writings, teaching, and public speaking, Wendell Berry and James Klotter have helped many Kentuckians understand their collective past.

The two men shared a stage at the Thomas Clark Center for Kentucky History last Saturday to discuss the importance of studying the past as a way to prepare for the future. The program was part of the Kentucky Historical Society’s Boone Day festivities to mark the 222nd anniversary of statehood. KET's Renee Shaw moderated the thought-provoking and wide-ranging conversation.

Read much more at KET.


Wendell Berry and the Yale Sustainable Farm Project

Although he has never been a full-time farmer, Berry credits his rural upbringing as essential to his illustrious career. He smiles wistfully as he describes hanging around tobacco barns as a kid, listening to “wonderful talk by people who really know how to talk.” In addition to writing and editing, he taught English at the University of Kentucky for nearly twenty years. In 1964, Berry and his wife, Tanya, moved their family to Port Royal, Kentucky and purchased 125 acres they call Lane’s Landing where they raise grains, vegetables, and livestock. This simple but radical commitment to place has come to not only define his writing, but also serves as an embodied expression of his philosophy, activism, and land ethic. Berry believes that our social and physical hyper-mobility is antithetical to cultivating sustainable communities. As Berry says, “We’re using the word “wild” wrong. There are no wild animals. They’re not wild; they’redomestic—going about their business, making their homes. They think we’re wild. We’re not doing a good job of making our homes, raising our children. We’re just being wild!”

Read much more at Sage Magazine.