The more things change…or how should we educate?

I am not going to tell you author or date. Without using Google can you tell me who said this and when? And does it not sound like a fairly contemporary argument?

When we think about the remarkably early age at which the young men went up to university in, let us say, Tudor times, and thereafter were held fit to assume responsibility for the conduct of their own affairs, are we altogether comfortable about that artificial prolongation of intellectual childhood and adolescence into the years of physical maturity which is so marked in our own day? To postpone the acceptance of responsibility to a late date brings with it a number of psychological complications which, while they may interest the psychiatrist, are scarcely beneficial either to the individual or to society. The stock argument in favor of postponing the school-leaving age and prolonging the period of education generally is there there is now so much more to learn than there was in the Middle Ages. This is partly true, but not wholly. The modern boy and girl are certainly taught more subjects–but does that always mean that they actually know more?

Has it ever struck you as odd, or unfortunate, that today, when the proportion of literacy throughout Western Europe is higher than it has ever been, people should have become susceptible to the influence of advertisement and mass propaganda to an extent hitherto unheard of and unimagined? Do you put this down to the mere mechanical fact that the press and the radio and so on have made propaganda much easier to distribute over a wide area? Or do you sometimes have an uneasy suspicion that the product of modern educational methods is less good than he or she might be at disentangling fact from opinion and the proven from the plausible?

A bit more after the jump.

To be honest, I could not find the actual date of this composition by Dorothy L. Sayers. I did discover, however, that this essay has become “the clarion call for the restoration of classical education in the United States, particularly in the homeschooling movement.” Who knew? Not me (but I am sure many of you did).

I first read this years ago and it still strikes me as incredibly relevant. I am particularly mindful of her comments as we begin an inaugural program on critical inquiry. I don’t consider myself nostalgic for a bygone age of education, but I do believe one of the constant conversations that we must have in academia is the question of education versus training. What are we offering our students today?


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