Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Catholic Thought on Education

I have some favorite quotes on children and education here. Now I'm collecting quotes and thoughts on education - its definition, purpose, etc.- especially from Catholic tradition. These are presently in no particular order and I'll be adding more over time. Please share your own suggestions.

"In the broadest sense, education includes all those experiences by which intelligence is developed, knowledge acquired, and character formed. In a narrower sense, it is the work done by certain agencies and institutions, the home and the school, for the express purpose of training immature minds. The child is born with latent capacities which must be developed so as to fit him for the activities and duties of life. The meaning of life, therefore, of its purposes and values as understood by the educator, primarily determines the nature of his work. Education aims at an ideal, and this in turn depends on the view that is taken of man and his destiny, of his relations to God, to his fellowmen, and to the physical world. The content of education is furnished by the previous acquisition of mankind in literature, art, and science, in moral, social, and religious principles. The inheritance, however, contains elements that differ greatly in value, both as mental possessions and as means of culture; hence a selection is necessary, and this must be guided largely by the educational ideal. It will also be influenced by the consideration of the educative process. Teaching must be adapted to the needs of the developing mind, and the endeavour to make the adaption more thorough results in theories and methods which are, or should be, based on the findings of biology, physiology, and psychology." (1913 Catholic Encyclopedia, article on Education)

"On her part, the Church cannot but set great value upon reason's drive to attain goals which render people's lives ever more worthy. She sees in philosophy the way to come to know fundamental truths about human life. At the same time, the Church considers philosophy an indispensable help for a deeper understanding of faith and for communicating the truth of the Gospel to those who do not yet know it.

...at the present time in particular, the search for ultimate truth seems often to be neglected...Yet the positive results achieved must not obscure the fact that reason, in its one-sided concern to investigate human subjectivity, seems to have forgotten that men and women are always called to direct their steps toward a truth which transcends them. Sundered from that truth, individuals are at the mercy of caprice, and their state as person ends up being judged by pragmatic criteria based essentially upon experimental data, in the mistaken belief that technology must dominate all. It has happened therefore that reason, rather than voicing the human orientation toward truth, has wilted under the weight of so much knowledge and little by little has lost the capacity to lift its gaze to the heights, not daring to rise to the truth of being. Abandoning the investigation of being, modern philosophical research has concentrated instead upon human knowing. Rather than make use of the human capcity to know the truth, modern philosophy has preferred to accentuate the ways in which the capacity is limited and conditioned.

This has given rise to different forms of agnosticism and relativism which have led philosophical research to lose its way in the shifting sands of widespread skepticism. Recent times have seen the rise to prominence of various doctrines which tend to devalue even the truths which had been judged certain. A legitimate plurality of positions has yielded to an undifferentiated pluralism, based upon the assumption that all positions are equally valid, which is one of today's most widespread symptoms of the lack of confidence in truth...On this understanding, everything is reduced to opinion, and there is a sense of being adrift." (Pope John Paul II, Fides et Ratio from the Introduction, part 5)

"Moral education - the training of heart and mind toward the good - involves many things. It involves rules and precepts - the dos and don'ts of life with others - as well as explicit instruction, exhortation, and training. Moral education must provide training in good habits. Aristotle wrote that good habits formed at youth make all the difference. And moral education must affirm the central importance of moral example. It has been said that there is nothing more influential, more determinant, in a child's life than the moral power of quiet example. For children to take morality seriously they must be in the presence of adults who take morality seriously. And with their own eyes they must see adults take morality seriously.

Along with precept, habit, and example, there is also the need for what we might call moral literacy....to show parents, teachers, students, and children what the virtues look like, what they are in practice, how to recognize them, and how they work....If we want our children to possess the traits of character we most admire, we need to teach them what those traits are and why they deserve both admiration and allegiance. Children must learn to identify the forms and content of those traits. They must achieve at least a minimal level of moral literacy that will enable them to make sense of what they see in life and, we may hope, help them live it well."
William Bennett, introduction The Book of Virtues

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