More on education from a work similar to, and the generic model of, that 20th century memoir which I keep copying to these pages:
In ipsa tamen pueritia, de qua mihi minus quam de adulescentia metuebatur, non amabam litteras et me in eas urgeri oderam, et urgebar tamen et bene mihi fiebat, nec faciebam ego bene: non enim discerem, nisi cogerer; nemo autem inuitus bene facit, etiamsi bonum est quod facit. nec qui me urgebant, bene faciebant, sed bene mihi fiebat abs te, deus meus. illi enim non intuebantur quo referrem quod me discere cogebant, praeterquam ad satiandas insatiabiles cupiditates copiosae inopiae et ignominiosae gloriae.
Yet in my boyhood itself, about which there was less fear for me than about my youth, I did not love letters and I hated to apply myself to them, and yet I was made to apply myself and it turned out well for me, but I did not do well: for I would not learn unless I was forced; but no one does well unwillingly, even if what he does is good.
Nor did those who made me apply myself do well, but succeeded in making me farther from you, my god. For they did not take care that I should gain anything from what they were forcing me to learn, beyond satisfying insatiable desires for the poverty of wealth and ignominious glory.
Augustine, Confessions (translation mine)
Recently I was having a conversation with a few friends over dinner, and one, a physicist, was urging that schools ought to be as large as possible, funded, therefore, necessarily, by the government, and organized so that the crown of the curriculum of the secondary school be Calculus B/C.
I wanted to ask, “But what’s it for?”
Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m with Plato in valuing mathematics and proclaiming, “Let him that hath no knowledge of geometry not enter here,” but the study of the natural world is, after all, aimed merely at the comprehension and manipulation of the natural world.
The question deserves to be asked, then, why the natural world holds fascination or value.
Thanks, dear reader, should you ever find me, for informing me why the manipulation of matter, which is really just another definition of “violence,” is an unqualified good.
*Reading everything ever written in Latin or Greek before the reign of Charlemagne.