Renku Pedagogy

My daughter sent me an article by a Japanese biologist, Tatsuo Motokawa: "Sushi Science and Hamburger Science." The article contrasts western thought patterns from Japanese thought patterns as they play out in science (logical conclusions vs. specific observations, theory vs. essence) and religion.

Within the article, the author summarizes the Japanese poetic genre of renku:

Let me talk about the poetry of Japan. I believe the genius of the Japanese is found in a type of poetry called renku. You may have heard about haiku; it is a very short poem with only 17 syllables. Renku is a string of haikus. Several poets, usually three, meet together; one of them makes the first line with 17 syllables, then the second person makes the second line with 14 syllables. These two lines complete one poem. The third person makes the third line, with 17 syllables which is the first part of the second poem, and the next person, usually the first person, makes the fourth line with 14 syllables, finishing the second poem. The poets keep on producing lines in turn, and with the thirty-sixth or the hundredth line, one renku is completed.

I would make a case for education as renku. Each teacher contributes his or her two lines. These can be beautiful in themselves - we each do our best as teachers - within a goal of moving the student towards the complete poem - the renku.

These "teachers" are not just in classrooms. Contributions to the renku come from parents, coaches, directors, pastors, neighbors, peers. And all of us are working on our own renku throughout our lives.

Still, I think the renku can serve as a nice model of humility for us as teachers. Together, we educate.
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Note 1: An example of a renku (also written as 'renga') from "The Essential Haiku" edited by Robert Hass (in this example, the author disregards the customary syllable count)
Initial haiku:
A great city stood here -
now the roads lead to the past,
there are flowers blooming.
Second poet adds:
They are gone in a second,
the dreams of spring.

Note 2: From my own "High School Haiku"
Secant line’s limit,
the sound of one mind thinking,
becoming tangent.

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