Commitment to teaching both substance and method: the dynamics of compleat studying
…a vast population able to read but unable to distinguish what is worth reading….
-George Macauley Trevelyan, 1942
The Branch School advocates uncommon approach to both teaching and learning. We teach substance (the tenable information) and method (the knowing techniques), by balancing and managing both. Without equilibrium, both become vying polarities, not a unifying and interdependent relationship.
Overemphasizing substance creates disorganization, wherein there is not ample management of information. Without such structure, little can be gained from substantive interpretation. This is equivalent to giving someone great soup, but no bowl or spoon with which to consume it.
One thing is undeniable: there is nothing unimaginative or dull about the Harkness method. With full and vibrant participation the style of learning stimulates inquisitiveness which fosters expanded knowledge. Our study program is antithetic to the prosaic mentality, because life is not always so structured, literal, objective, quantified, or concretely defined. We do not simply rehearse for the big standardized test at the end of the year.
We urge students to go beyond what they see, to take things beyond where they found them, and to accept the challenges of both, supported by ample, broad, and deeper knowledge at their disposal. Supporting this is the enabling of spiritual wisdom, and its assimilation in faith, that will provide them with the spiritual insight very much needed to navigate the certainty of grey mass ahead of them. We accomplish much of this through investigative immersion and repetitive exposure. Both are actualized by necessity if the Harkness usage is to be individually successful and mutually effective for a class.
The key is in the depth and detail of preparative study…
The Branch School is markedly different, in approach and results. We will continually strive to transcend specific academic material. In each course, daily disquisition presents opportunity for the attainment and sharing of insight and meaning, whether addressing the mathematical and scientific, the arts and humanities, or biblical studies. Students are inspired and supported in not only understanding the existence of things, but the importance of their origins, composition, value, and application. This is another reason why we devote appreciable time teaching students how to study.