Saturday, April 10, 2010

St. Albert: Getting something done - in education

If you have read my work previously - here or on the ACS blogg or on my blogg on Subsidiarity - you know I have often quoted this very famous line by GKC:
I revert to the doctrinal methods of the thirteenth century, inspired by the general hope of getting something done.
[GKC Heretics CW1:46]
I have usually shown you the big dish from that certain cable TV company where I used the principles of thirteenth century metaphysics to get things done - namely, spot distribution for local ad insertion on cable television...

But these principles are universal, and apply to much more than merely high technology and computing - and you may be wondering just what there is in these principles - what are they, how are they applied - and how well do they work?

This is a grave question, and I am trying to collect information to build something - a book, a series of postings, a set of connected stories, or maybe all of the above, it depends on what God really wants from me. So in order to proceed, I am reading a variety of works, from Hugh of St. Victor and Cardinal Newman and Geoffroi de Charny and others - just now I am reading a wonderful biography of St. Albert the Great, patron of scientists, and found something which you need to read. The author is speaking of how Albert was arranging the educational system of the Dominicans, and I think the insights, as difficult as they may sound to us in our modern lives, are quite valuable. Another day we'll explore more, and perhaps attempt some unity with Newman's work - but for now, please read and consider:
If professors must be able, capable men, then the same standards must be applied to the students. Dominican schgools were to be a training field for the strong, if inexperienced, but not a hospital ward for the intellectually crippled or feeble. Hence, superiors need have no scruples about dismissing the deficient. Hence, too, they were to punish the talented who refused to traffic with their gifts. Hence, also, they were prohibited from assigning tasks to students which would interfere with serious application to study. Hence, again, they were to select students for the higher studies for which they had a natural aptitude and in which they promised to excel - if necessary, separate schools for the study of special branches were to be established in each province, or in default of this, students were to be sent to other provinces where such specialized schools existed. The prior was to attend classes every day, notonly to observe what was going on, but also to give good example, and, incidentally, to save himself from intellectual deterioration. The brethren in the house, not otherwise engaged, were held to the same law of attendance at classes. Weekly intellectual debates, or tournaments, must be held in every branch of study taught in the house, and attendance was compulsory on all. Monthly public disputations, to which externs were free to come, must be conscienciously not mechanically conducted. Preachers and confessors must attend these academic exercises, and daily examinations on subjects taught were exacted of them. No weakness or favoritism should be allowed to impari the effectiveness of these regulations.
[Rev. Thomas M. Schwertner, O.P. St. Albert the Great 98-9]
I hope someday someone bold will wish to follow Chesterton, Newman and Albert - and perhaps, then perhaps by reverting to the doctrinal methods of the thirteenth century, we'll get something done... It was, after all, what we were told to do: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations..." [Mt 28:19]


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