Saturday, October 20, 2007

Home School

Whilst rummaging in my garage for something else, I came across a file of messages from early 1994 from a LISTSERV called Faith-Learning. I was working at a Christian university at the time as a transcript evaluator, and this e-mail list gave me a glimpse into some of the higher thinking regarding educating college students.

Someone posted an article by Gerard Wegemer titled, "Thomas More on the Liberal Arts and Virtue," originally published in The University of Dallas Rostrum, Fall 1993. Thomas More, who lived in the sixteenth century, "homeschooled" his three daughters (via tutors from Oxford) and believed that, as important as the liberal arts were, "education in virtue" was primary and best achieved at home.

Wegemer writes (and quotes More):
More's favorite metaphor to illustrate education in virtue was the traditional one of cultivating the garden of one's soul. What must be planted in this garden are good affections and principles, while "the nettles, briars, and other barren weeds of pride and deceptive pleasures are carefully and consistently rooted out." [...]

True virtue is essentially a freely chosen and fervently cultivated love for the highest and most enduring goods, not for fleeting goods and passing pleasures.
Some of the ways More cultivated the "gardens" of his daughters' souls were through good conversation and the use of playful irony; daily prayers and spiritual instruction; reading and discussing books together; creative punishment; and caring for the poor.

Just a couple more quotes about the importance of conversation:
[More] saw every conversation, even about apparently trivial things, as a way of cultivating the garden of that child's soul. Not only did these conversations cultivate reflection and self-knowledge, they provided the best opportunities for planting and cultivating those precepts and principles which each soul needs. [...] readings took place before dinner since More made a special point to see that dinner conversations were a good mixture of the serious and the entertaining. Visitors like Erasmus marvelled at how well the children could follow an argument and participate in sustained conversation; they also marvelled at the cheerful atmosphere of this large and busy household.
I admire this portrait of More, who, in spite of all the other demands on him, gave such personal importance to the complete education of his daughters.

(Add to movie list: A Man for All Seasons.)

No comments: