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MAY YOU NEVER STOP DANCING - A Professor's Letters to his Daughter by John D. Lawry dancing.gif
St. Mary's Press
Christian Brothers Publication
Winona, MN
Qpb, $13.95
Reviewed by Mary Leue

John Lawry is a professor of Educational Psychology at Marymount College, Tarrytown, NY, who believes in the revolutionary educational value of love in the classroom! Like most generalizations, the application of "love" as a scientifically verified tactic for motivating students is a tool so powerful that it could even be used as a sinister "Big Brother" educational technique - but in the wise, loving hands of John Lawry, love creates an atmosphere which fosters confidence, creativity and openness to learning. SKOLE has published several articles by Professor Lawry in which he describes the growth of personal and group healing and its effect on students' lives and their capacity for education.

This volume, originally published by Sheed and Ward in 1988 but discontinued by them in 1997, has now been reissued as a new, slightly augmented edition in reponse to appeals from college students who had been nourished and supported by its wisdom and now wished to extend this blessing to a new generation of college students.

The book was originally written in the form of letters from John to his daughter, starting while Lily was still in high school but looking at going to college, and represents the kind of wise, humorous, upbeat fathering that both supports and frees their recipient! As published, the letters are classified by topic headings which make them more easily available for use by its readers. Headings like

The bounty never ends, and I am tempted to reproduce every topic here! Here's a sample of what John has to say on "Finding Your Own Voice":

...I just finished an amazing book that I think you should know about. It was written by Mary Belensky and several colleagues and is entitled Women's Ways of Knowing: The Development of the Self, Voice, and Mind. It's a kind of Piaget-like analysis of how young women develop cognitively in contrast to young men. It identifies seven ways of knowing, or stages of development, that young women seem to go through (or get stuck in). These begin with Silence (characterized by having no voice at all, being filled with self-denial, being completely dependent upon external authority, and frequently having a background of having been abused as children) and end with Constructed Knowledge, an integration of the inner voice (subjective knowledge) and the voice of reason, combined with separate and connected knowing (procedural knowledge). The result is a unique and authentic voice.

One of the arguments of the book is that women in our society (and probably other people) have trouble finding their own voice. Language and power are frequently related, and because men have most of the power in our culture, women frequently have trouble cultivating their own voice. ...

Even though the subject under discussion is about what he himself has learned or is learning, Lawry is sharing his process with Lily, not just pontificating as one who is a source of expertise per se! One senses that she is free to disagree, should she need to! It is the fact that what he is passing on to her is can be assimilated so easily into food for thought which is a tribute to his influence! This book is as much about Lawry's comfort and pleasure in the parental role, especially in its teaching function, as it is about the actual topics being transmitted. This, I believe, is the secret of its continuing appeal.

How I wish my own parents had felt more comfortable with this kind of totally objective yet equally personal guidance from a wise source when I was an undergraduate! OR that I had given my own children this kind of support while they were trying to find their own voices in an untried environment! The dilemma of making one's way outside the reliable boundaries of one's home subsculture in which the familiar signals no longer work very well and in which one's previous experiences count for so very little as signposts in a strange land is awesomely perilous! Yet the wise guidance of one's parents is undoubtedly the foundation on which to build new understandings, new skills and learnings.

Reading John's book reaffirms an awareness of the profundity of a family connection which can function as a steady inner beam holding a beloved child to a "way" through the darkness in very much the way the beam of an airplane guidance system enables the incoming plane to find its proper destination without faltering or going astray! It is the marriage of love and what Richard Prystowsky calls "Presence" which informs this precious volume. I urge readers with potential (or actual) college-student-age children to buy a copy for their own young student or college candidate!

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