Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Turning to Learn

While many ceremoniously began the school year last week with special breakfasts, school orientations, and new uniforms, our efforts at education commenced inauspiciously: I overslept and by late morning we were still taking stock of the supplies we needed to purchase at the nearby maktabi (office supply store).

As I did last year, I began our season of study by reading aloud this essay by George Grant. Just slightly different than the Knowledge is Power philosophy that I was raised on, Mr. Grant's essay reminded us that the beginning of true and right learning is repentance, a humble turning of ourselves away from ourselves, towards community and the pursuit of truth:

"At the beginning of every academic year I like to remind myself and my students that true education is a form of repentance. It is a humble admission that we've not read all that we need to read, we don't know all that we need to know, and we've not yet become all that we are called to become. Education is that unique form of discipleship that brings us to the place of admitting our inadequacies. It is that remarkable rebuke of autonomy and independence so powerful and so evident that we actually shut up and pay heed for a change.

C.S. Lewis said it well: "The surest sign of true intellectual acumen is a student's comprehension of what it is he does not know; not what he does know. It is a spirit of humility that affords us with the best opportunity to grow, mature, and achieve in the life of the mind. It is knowing how much we do not know that enables us to fully embark on a lifetime of learning; to recover to any degree the beauty goodness and truth of Christendom."

Likewise, G.K. Chesterton asserted: "I am always suspicious of the expert who knows he is an expert. Far better to seek the wisdom of the common, the ordinary, and the humble--for God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble."

Active Son, Artist Son, and I are beginning our year with readings and discussions from Plato's Republic, which by the way, should be read and discussed, at least in part, by every high school student. As we considered Plato's proposals for the desired education of philosopher/kings, i.e. the idea rulers, we again found this idea of turning:

Socrates: Then here is how we must think about these matters, if that is true: education is not what some people boastfully declare it to be. They presumably say they can put knowledge into souls that lack it, as if they could put sight into blind eyes...But here is what our present account shows about this power to learn that is present in everyone's soul, and the instrument with which each of us learns: just as an eye cannot be turned around from darkness to light except by turning the whole body, so this instrument must be turned around from what-comes-to-be (things we know by our own senses) together with the whole soul, until it is able to bear to look at what is and at the brightest thing that is--the one we call the good. Republic 518b:5

Plato's Republic

4 comments:

MagistraCarminum said...

Thanks for the link! Guess what my two classes will be hearing next week...

A Circle of Quiet said...

Melissa,
Can I come join your school?

Much love,
Diane

The Lost World said...

Your welcome, Chris. I'm sure I got the link from a class-ed friend.

Diane, I'd be delighted to have you, I'm sure! And, I must send you a moment of hilarity we had in Great Books class this week--as a mother of two high school guys I think you would appreciate it, but it might not be blog-able : )

The Lost World said...

OOps--look like my son is signed into his google account.