Philosophy of Education

Monday, January 30, 2006

Augustine's De Doctina Christiana or How will the Church Survive the fall of another Empire?

Here's a quick one:
Check out Augustine's De Doctrina Christiana. Piggy-backing off of Cicero's conception of education, Augustine believed the first and foremost task of education was to teach sapientia and eloquentia (wisdom and eloquence). I'm struck by how different this is today. In most schools, we engage in practices that lead children to believe there is no truth and we have completely lost appreciation for eloquence because rules of eloquence restrict creativity and individual expression. According to Augustine, wisdom without eloquence falls on deaf ears and eloquence without wisdom is extremely dangerous. In his day, Rome had give up on wisdom and embraced eloquence because it people could make money at sounding good. The orators and lawyers made all the money and the teachers made almost none. Sound a little like America? Guess what happened to Rome right after Augustine's hayday...that's right, the greatest power in the world fell to a bunch of uneducated barbarians. Is this a weak analogy or are the parallels between Rome and America too compelling to overlook? Guess who survived the fall of Rome? The Christians. Do you know why they survived? Because they were educated in the Augustinian tradition. Even the poor Christians were known as the learned ones to all the confounded Romans. Is the church in America doing enough when it comes to education? It seems not.

p.s. - I'm intentionally amping up my rhetoric so as to get a response.