Friday, March 14, 2008

Christ Teaches, Man Reminds

This is by far my favorite passage from the Fathers concerning education, from St Augustine of Hippo's On the Teacher (De Magistro), chapter XIV:
For do teachers profess that it is their thoughts which are perceived and grasped by the students, and not the sciences themselves which they convey through speaking? For who is so stupidly curious as to send his son to school in order that he may learn what the teacher thinks? But all those sciences which they profess to teach, and the science of virtue itself and wisdom, teachers explain through words. Then those who are called pupils consider within themselves whether what has been explained has been said truly; looking of course to that interior truth, according to the measure of which each is able. Thus they learn, and when the interior truth makes known to them that true things have been said, they applaud, but without knowing that instead of applauding teacher they are applauding learners, if indeed their teachers know what they are saying. But men are mistaken, so that they call those teachers who are not, merely because for the most part there is no delay between the time of speaking and the time of cognition. And since after the speaker has reminded them, the pupils quickly learn within, they think that they have been taught outwardly by him who prompts them.
If I had the authority, I'd have the words "Who is so stupidly curious as to send his son to school in order that he may learn what the teacher thinks?" inscribed in every faculty office and lounge in the country.

Illustration: St Augustine refuting professor, I mean, heretic. Illuminated manuscript, 13th century.


Anonymous said...

I think this makes a wonderful point and is the reason why I'm homeschooling my children!

Felix Culpa said...

But bear in mind, my friend, that now *you* are the teacher or, better, the reminder!