A Quote. Of Liberal Education.

St. John’s College knows, along with many others:

In a half-dozen classrooms they gather then,—here to follow the love-song of Dido, here to listen to the tale of Troy divine; there to wander among the stars, there to wander among men and nations,—and elsewhere other well-worn ways of knowing this queer world. Nothing new, no time-saving devices,—simply old time-glorified methods of delving for Truth, and searching out the hidden beauties of life, and learning the good of living. The riddle of existence is the college curriculum that was laid before the Pharaohs, that was taught in the groves by Plato, that formed the trivium and quadrivium, and is today laid before the freedmen’s sons by Atlanta University. And this course of study will not change; its methods will grow more deft and effectual, its content richer by toil of scholar and sight of seer; but the true college will ever have one goal,—not to earn meat, but to know the end and aim of that life which meat nourishes.

—Du Bois, The Souls of Black Folk, “Of the Wings of Atalanta” (1903)

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A Quote. A Criticism. Of Teachers and the Like.

. . . [A] decent regard for truth and for honest self-criticism compels me to speak of failure as well as success—my failure, the failure of my generation, and of all who consider themselves teachers, mentors, and leaders in all walks of life. For the truth is that we have failed you. We have failed you because, being human, the better angels of our nature are often bested by the worse; and because, being consequently inconstant, we preach ideals that we fail to honor in deeds; and because, being consequently hypocritical, we are forced to hide painful truths from ourselves; and because, being consequently ignorant, we hand down to you truth and falsehood mixed indiscriminately in unknown proportions.

—William Pastille
Commencement Address, St. John’s College, Annapolis, 17 May 1998

Two Suppositions. Of Oppression in State Schools.

Maybe state schools (I don’t say “public,” except mockingly) have so many difficulties here because they force an alien structure upon a population that flourishes within a completely different structure. Maybe the “discipline” of the school is oppressive not because the students cannot be disciplined, but because genuine discipline, in fact, arises primarily from culture rather than method.

An Observation. Of Text. Of Speech.

Many pundits say we are are becoming less textually aware. Maybe so. Odd to think that this generation spends more time with written text than any previous yet is less proficient with interpretation. Quantity over quality. It is also worth noting that this generation spends very little time engaged in oral conversation beyond what is required for conveniences. I suspect that there is some consequence for memory.

A Quote. Of Cultural Inheritance. Of Abject Individualism.

Knowing who you are is good for one generation only.

—Flannery O’Connor (as Julian)
“Everything That Rises Must Converge”

An Elucidation. An Illustration. Of Standards-Based Education.

  • Attempting to make a case for standards-based education, many have said that society is “built on standards.” Then, it is supposed, the learners must live in society. So if they are not up to standard, they cannot live well or at all. But wait! There is a shaky foundation here, for society is not “built.” Without this metaphor, the argument and its attendant institutions crumble in ruin. Here, the great collapsing edifice into which we march our youth!
  • Two generations soon will awaken from the daze of their schooldays, like survivors from a crash. The first will not know what has happened, nor that he is bleeding from the head. The second will at once see the blood and all the damage done—to the one, then to himself.