Saturday, May 23, 2009

"...a machine devised..."

Another busy week, with far too few postings. At least I had the sense (or the gall) to post a request for someone somewhere - hopefully a scholar in France - to come and help with our work. But I did prepare our work for our Saturday half-holiday - the contents for Patterns or Principles, one of Jaki's more exciting essay collections. It contains the very exciting essay on Medieval Technology, which has a delightful long quote from a work of St. Bernard... I will try to get it visible for you next week. As I explored this collection I was again struck by the need to have at least some simple sort of introductory tool - whether it be a review, or a little synopsis, or something... more work, more projects. If you read this and agree with my estimation of the need, and have time, and would like to volunteer, please let me know by e-mail. (See my profile for the e-address.)

Now, to our little excursion into the larger lands, the higher plateaus of the intellect which we call humour.... if we wish to fly as the angels can, we must (as Chesterton points out) learn to take ourselves lightly. (See Orthodoxy CW1:325 for the original quote.)

This one is not quite so funny as sarcastic, but it is a healthy form of sarcasm, in the nature of a warning. It is very reminiscent of Chesterton.... one might wish to have a careful study of GKC and SLJ on the matter of education, just as Fr. Jaki often wished for a study of Gilson's epistemology - and, perhaps by implication, Chesterton's.... but for now we must go on wishing. I have no time for such studies this week!

To set the stage, I shall give Chesterton's comment, which comes from his work What's Wrong With the World, the part entitled "Education, or the Mistake About the Child"...
The trouble in too many of our modern schools is that the State, being controlled so specially by the few, allows cranks and experiments to go straight to the schoolroom when they have never passed through the Parliament, the public house, the private house, the church, or the marketplace. Obviously, it ought to be the oldest things that are taught to the youngest people; the assured and experienced truths that are put first to the baby. But in a school to-day the baby has to submit to a system that is younger than himself. The flopping infant of four actually has more experience, and has weathered the world longer, than the dogma to which he is made to submit. Many a school boasts of having the last ideas in education, when it has not even the first idea; for the first idea is that even innocence, divine as it is, may learn something from experience.
[GKC What's Wrong With the World CW4:167, emphasis added]
Good, isn't it? Yes. Now Jaki has a somewhat shorter and more specialized essay on education and science, which seems to me to contain a correlative quote, which also has a sizeable quantum of humour:
Whenever science and education are the subject of a conversation, assumptions are readily made and by precisely those who should not make them readily. Such conversations usually take place among educated people, who just because they are educated are certain to know what education is. And, unfortunately, those with a scientific education seem to be absolutely certain that they know what science is. Almost all educated people have received their higher education in colleges or universities that boast of a department of education. There all faculty claim that education is a science. The situation would not be so bad if they merely claimed that the teaching of education can be a reasoned discourse. That there is plenty of unreason in that discourse may be suspected from the ever more rapid revisions of syllabuses issued by departments of education. Ever new courses are introduced and ever new methods are being invented about the most effective methods of educating. The result is that the science of education resembles ever more closely a machine devised to produce illiterates in ever larger number.
[SLJ "The science of education and education in science" in Numbers Decide and Other Essays, 85, emphasis added]

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