“In true liberal education … the essential activity of the student is to relate the facts learned into a unified, organic whole, to assimilate them as … the rose assimilates food from the soil and increases in size, vitality and beauty.” (Sister Miriam Joseph, The Trivium: The Liberal Arts of Logic, Grammar and Rhetoric)
That is a quote I took from the opening pages of the book which just came two days ago. It is recommended by Jan and others at Gnostic Media, whom I have come to like most of the time. I cannot wait to dig into it, as it has stood on its own for eighty years.
I had an interesting exchange over the weekend, and want to bring the gist of it here without naming names or demeaning anyone. It has to do with the nature of education. The contention tossed at me is that in my writing and research I am hiding my sources. No one, after all, reaches the same conclusions I do. (Add just two more notes and he is playing the full “conspiracy theory” chord.) But he does not seem to believe that it is possible to use our own brain and resources for research, that the essence of research is reliance on authority figures.
Another blogger who, like the man in this one is a high school teacher, harps on this subject. If his critics do not read the New York Times or the New Yorker or something similar, they are committing scholarly error by using non-trustworthy sources. Got that? We do not think for ourselves. We trust others to do that for us.
I said my method of research is to look for contradictions and try to resolve them. John Denver, for instance, being worth $21 million, having two ex-wives and three children, a private foundation and a large catalogue of (supposedly) self-written music, AND having no will, does not compute. It is a contradiction. Something else was afoot.
But of course, he said, I will always choose the side of the contradiction that favors me. I do not know what that means. Ayn Rand may have been a bad writer and philosopher, but she got it right in Atlas when she repeatedly said there are no contradictions, only faulty premises. When we see one, we need to examine it closely to see if one or the other, both or neither side is where the truth lay.
Schools teach rote memorization, and reward those with good memories. At the same time, they embed reliance on authority sources, as all questions asked have a correct answer. If the question asked is “When did John Denver die?”, it is actually complex as part of the answer is embedded in the question, the assumption that he died. I think he is still alive and still beats his wife. The correct question is “John Denver is said to have died. On what date did that supposedly happen?” But then, asking it that way invites thought.
“News” is heavily reliant on authoritative sources, “experts,” “sources close to the White House” (the gardener?) . They do that to add punch, to be more believable. They don’t want their followers using their own brains, just like in school.