Monday, 6 June 2011

Montaigne on Education

'I gladly come back to the theme of the absurdity of our education: its end has not been to make us good and wise but learned.  And it has succeeded.  It has not taught us to seek virtue and to embrace wisdom: it has impressed upon us their derivation and their etymology.  We know how to decline the Latin word for virtue: we do not know how to love virtue.  Though we do not know what wisdom is in practice or from experience we do know the jargon off by heart.....our education has taught us the definitions, divisions and subdivisions of virtue as though they were the surnames and the branches of a family-tree, without any concern for establishing between us and it any practice of familiarity or personal intimacy.  For our apprenticeship it has not prescribed the books which contain the soundest and truest opinions but those which are written in the best Greek and Latin, and in the midst of words of beauty it has poured into our minds the most worthless judgements of Antiquity.' (On presumption)

These arguments are very similar to those of modern educators and researchers who say that education has become much too focussed on learning that can be measured easily, at the expense of the education for moral and aesthetic judgement and of values: what is good (allegedly), rather than how to try to be good.  Another indication of how close we are to people of past ages - their worries are our worries too.

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