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.


  • You said, "rules of eloquence restrict creativity and individual expression."

    I said, "I disagree."

    What are the rules of eloquence anyway?

    By Blogger The Fitch, at 6:07 PM  

  • I think I wrote that unclearly. I meant to say, schools do not engage in the practice of teaching eloquence. Their reason for this is that they think rules of eloquence restrict creativity and individual expression. By rules of eloquence I mean guidelines for proper diction, enunciation, rhythm, intonation, etc. plus just using proper grammar. does that help? I apologize for my hasty post.

    By Blogger Sean, at 3:28 PM  

  • Thanks, that helps.

    By Blogger The Fitch, at 7:57 PM  

  • You wrote:

    "In most schools, we engage in practices that lead children to believe there is no truth..."

    I think that what we should be doing is to teach kids practices that lead them to believe that there is such thing as truth, but that we never exactly know when we have it right.

    If we teach kids that there is no truth, we teach them to give up on norms. If we teach kids that there is a truth and that we know what it is, we teach them to give up on inquiry.

    If we teach kids the middle road (there is a truth, but it is always tentative as we are fallible) then we teach them to keep striving.

    As far as teaching kids elloquesnce, I completely agree. The two things I've always thought were needed above all others in order to be successful (generaly speaking) in teh world are the abillty to write, and the abilty to speak. Where I teach, we are quickly turning out many kids who can't do either (and we are often too afraid to tell them that they can't do either for risk or hurting their self-esteem).

    By Blogger Kevin Currie, at 1:04 PM  

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