Monday, January 12, 2009

Our English Syllabus

"The proper question for a freshman is not 'What will  do me the most good?' but 'What do I most want to know?'"

Context: C.S. Lewis is giving a lecture to the English Society at Oxford. It was a lecture about the education system (more specifically the english department at Oxford) and how college needs to focus more on actually learning.

This quote really resinated with me today in class. I am a transfer student and when picking my college, it was a really tough decision. I was between going to Michigan State and Calvin College. My parents are not helping with my college tuition, so the price of college is a big deal. And planing on not staying in Michigan when I graduate I knew that the name of the college was important too. Michigan State is both cheaper and a far more recognizable school than Calvin is. So, why did I choose Calvin? Well, just look at this article. I choose Calvin because I believe that I was going to actually learn here, instead of just getting an education or degree. So many people now a days go to college just to get a degree, so they can get a job and earn money. I, however, desire so much more than just a degree. I desire knowledge. More specifically I chose Calvin because I wanted and needed to learn more about God and how to live a christian life day to day. After reading this article I am much more confident in my decision. 

Okay enough about me back to the article:

I was a little bit lost by Lewis' lecture. Because on one hand he is saying that we shouldn't have composite schools (modern day liberal arts schools) saying that "you would be getting selections of reality selected by your elders - something cooked, expurgated, filtered and generally toned down for you edification". But then on the other hand he is saying "a perfect study of anything requires knowledge of everything." So, naturally at first it sounds like he is implying that composite schools are awful things because you will not get the absolute beautiful knowledge that every subject holds. And then he implies that is absolutely necessary because we can't have complete knowledge of one study unless we know everything. I am a little bit lost on what he would think a good school would look like. 

I feel like C.S. Lewis' perfect school would be undoubtedly impossible. It would have highly motivated students who were always yearning to learn. Professors would be necessary but class would not. The professors would make themselves available and the students would ask questions left and right. There would be rooms and rooms of books. The other rooms would be set up based on the subject they were made for. The students would go about their day which ever way they wanted to learn. Everyday go to school walk around from room to room and just learn. Fill there head with whatever they choose. No syllabus'. No tests. No homework. Just learning.

But that is not possible, no college student is that motivated. It would certainly be really neat. But I just don't believe that it's possible. And we are left with the decision liberal arts college or vocational training?

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