I added a blog feature to my website, because blogs are understood to be a place to collect random thoughts that do not necessarily cohere. The blogs I like best might share a recipe, a book review, a meditation, and a political opinion, all in the same week. The most important rule of blogging, in my opinion, is that there are no rules. We have leave to be self-indulgent in a blog, although no one is obligated to read our musings.
I’m mentioning here a book that I have been reading slowly all year–Liberal Education
by Mark Van Doren. I’ll be honest–there aren’t enough copies of this book to go around. If you want to read it and find an affordable copy, be sure to snag it.
When I read books like this one, I find it affirming and reassuring to hear a university professor from the early 20th century articulating the same ideas and values that I find in Erasmus, Charlotte Mason, and that you will find in Consider This. Mark Van Doren is the younger brother of Charles Van Doren, co-author of How to Read a Book with Mortimer Adler.
This isn’t a review of the book, which I have not finished reading yet, although I’m past the half-way point. I just want to share few quotes for the sake of affirming those universal principles about education that matter to us all.
Charlotte Mason: “There is no education but self-education.”
Mark Van Doren: “This is not said often enough or firmly enough for the young to heed it. They can benefit by knowing that education is something they must labor to give themselves….Education is up to them as it was up to Socrates, Milton, Locke, and Lincoln.”
Charlotte Mason: “Education is the science of relations.”
Mark Van Doren: “As little attention as possible will be wasted on details of knowledge which the student is certain to forget. Such of them as point a principle need to be mastered; but then if a right relation is maintained between detail and principle, the detail will not be forgotten. It will become an item in the mind around which other details organize themselves as long as life lasts.”
For those of you who have already read Consider This, you will understand why I marked these ones:
“So much knowledge ‘about’ one thing or another, and never the tincture of wisdom.”
“Education is humble at center.”
And those are just from Chapter One. It gets better and better, and I will share more from it now and again.
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