Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Education and the Good Life, Chapter XIX

Chapter XIX (pages 314-319), “Conclusion”

“Knowledge wielded by love is what the educator needs and what his pupils should acquire [p. 314].” For younger children, teachers should be familiar with some psychology as well as physiology and hygiene. Natural instincts, if guided at an early age, can be fashioned into harmonious character, though many people prefer to promote war. “If existing knowledge were used and tested methods applied, we could, in a generation, produce a population almost wholly free from disease, malevolence, and stupidity [p. 315].” For teachers of older children, love of the knowledge to be transmitted takes on a significant role in providing a good education.

Fear and punishment are the traditional methods used to inculcate virtue, but they don’t work well, and breed mental disease. Instilling good habits and skill can make virtuous behavior instinctual. Advances in psychology and learning from nursery school experiences render it easier to instill these good habits. We already have sufficient knowledge, but it is not now brought to bear with sufficient love. It is fear that leads to cruelty, and for this reason, among others, Russell has emphasized the importance of not implanting fear in children. The situation is improving: fewer Christians now hold that unbaptized babies are damned.

Children of professional-class parents already acquire sufficient knowledge through schooling; what is “important is the spirit of adventure and liberty, the sense of setting out upon a voyage of discovery [p. 318].” When educators teach in this spirit, good students need no further motivation. Antiquated fears and superstitions can give way to freedom of thought and inquiry, and a splendid new world can be erected.

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