Since I believe it is time for a better word and a better concept to drive American education, I recommend “vigor.” Here my dictionary says, “active physical or mental force or strength, healthy growth; intensity, force or energy.” And my mental association is to all the Latin-based words related to life. How much better our schools would be if they provided students activities throbbing with energy, growth and life.
These activities that are “throbbing with energy, growth and life” include:
- first-hand experiences with real-life problems
- talking to people of all ages with different backgrounds
- developing and practicing wide range of skills (as gardeners, craftsmen, mechanics)
Yatvin ends with this great line:
These habits of mind, body and spirit are the true fruit of educational excellence. In the end, vigor in our schools is the evidence of life, while rigor is the sign of an early death.
I appreciate this discussion for so many reasons. I love this idea of vigor over rigor. As I have mentioned before on this blog, I am wary of the call for rigor because of who and what it often leaves out:
As a professional academic, I bristle at the notion of being rigorous (another definition of discipline), not because I don’t promote or practice serious engagement but because the call for rigor or the claim that one is not rigorous enough often seem to be used to dismiss ideas/theories/intellectual labor that is serious and smart and deep, but that doesn’t fit the standard of what is/who can be rigorous.
I also like how she aligns rigor with death (where death = shutting down thinking and engaging, being inflexible, discouraging creativity) and then argues for the importance of life (where life = possibility and critical and creative engagement of the whole body with the world).
Possibility…engagement…life…Makes me want to watch this clip from Xanadu: