Shibumi is one of my favorite books - it was written by Trevanian, a brilliant author of among other things, spy stories. "Shibumi" is described on P74 of the book:
"Shibumi is understanding, rather than knowledge. Eloquent silence. In demeanor, it is modesty without prudency. In art, where the spirit of shibumi takes the form of sabi, it is elegant simplicity, it is articulate brevity. In philosophy, where shibumi emerges as wabi, it is spiritual tranquility that is not passive; it is being without the angst of becoming. And in the personality of a man, it is... how does one say it? Authority without domination."
I was in my teens when I first read this book, and like the protagonist, was immediately captivated:
"How does one achieve this shibumi, sir?"
"One does not achieve it, one ...discovers it. And only a few men of infinite refinement ever do that. Men like my friend Otake-san."
"Meaning that one must learn a great deal to arrive at shibumi?"
"Meaning, rather, that one must pass through knowledge to arrive at simplicity."
I've never been able to let go of this idea, or more appropriately, this ideal. I'm rereading the book for the nth time on a flight to Washington DC, where I will have the honor of meeting some amazing people in the world of education. As I contemplated that, I recalled a post by Scott McLeod entitled Never going to happen?:
True statement by a teacher (said with all sincerity) in one of my workshops this semester:
We’re so far behind our students. How do we catch up and move past them so that we can then teach them things they don’t know?
I don't know this for a fact, but think many teachers feel this way - implicitly behind the curve because their students have the ADD to grab at seemingly infinite sources, and empty enough minds to hold on to much of what they've found.
Great teachers, dare I say senseis, have attained shibumi. Their wisdom is not founded on the ability to store ...data. It is founded on a depth of essential understanding and a capacity for humbleness (read: open-minded acceptance) that allows them to grasp, interpret and illuminate.
I couldn't disagree more with the sentiment of Scott's post. Any teacher that views their sole ...asset as data is hopeless. Worse, they're harming their students by valuing rote over understanding, regurgitation over insight. These teachers (hopefully just victims of NCLB-mentality) must be redirected or re-schooled to properly serve their students.
The Scott McLeods (respected and visible educators) of the world need to aggressively advocate teaching proficiency - there are no other voices for this.
Teachers should not be paid based on student outcomes, instead they should be paid based on their own attainment of core and advanced teaching skills. I wrote about meeting Deborah Ball a while back, she taught me that like any profession, there are objective, clear, and assessable gradations of attainment in teaching proficiency.
While I don't expect every teacher to attain shibumi, I sure as hell expect each to understand the difference between information and learning, the difference between a capacity to spout data and the ability to find, discern, interpret, create, and communicate insight (or as my friend Larry would put it: observation, reflection, documentation, exhibition).