|Gravity and tenderness: Goethe by Stieler, 1828|
Prompted by one of Goethe's aphorisms, I'm discussing the importance of many-sidedness in education. Not simply developing many skills, but cultivating a rich, integrated character. A sample:
Goethe was also unafraid to be crude, without losing his various refinements. Take his epigram: ''Wanted: a puppy which neither barks nor bites, but eats broken glass and shits diamonds.'' The humour in this comes, not just from the incongruity of it, but also from its very wise portrait of human longing: the absurdity and vanity of our desires. It is by recognising the petty, lazy and sordid parts of the psyche that we can best sublimate them. Repression, hypocrisy and violence are happy bedfellows.
And the classroom, particularly in high school, is often a milieu of false bloodlessness, in which teachers try to retain authority by denying human frailty. The point is not to be thoughtlessly vulgar, or to teach children to forgo introspection in favour of impulse. The point is to exemplify maturity by recognising, without false primness, the sometimes unsavoury facts of life. And to do so cleverly, artfully - without giving in to lazy boorishness.