April 26th, 2006

Maggie and Jamie 4/1/05

Sayers on Learning

Dorothy Sayers on the importance of learning how to learn instead of just unconnected subjects:
We who were scandalized in 1940 when men were sent to fight armored tanks with rifles, are not scandalized when young men and women are sent into the world to fight massed propaganda with a smattering of "subjects"; and when whole classes and whole nations become hypnotized by the arts of the spellbinder, we have the impudence to be astonished.
. . .
Wherever the matter for Dialectic is found, it is, of course, highly important that attention should be focused upon the beauty and economy of a fine demonstration or a well-tuned argument, lest veneration should wholly die. Criticism must not be merely destructive; though at the same time both teacher and pupils must be ready to detect fallacy, slipshod reasoning, ambiguity, irrelevance, and redundancy, and to pounce upon them like rats.
. . .
Once again: the contents of the syllabus at this stage may be anything you like. The "subjectas" supply material; but they are all to be regarded as mere grist for the mental mill to work upon.
The last point is an important one. I don't think I'd pick Latin and Theology as foundation subjects. But the key thing is the importance of learning accurate reasoning and data-gathering abilities. With that our kids can pick up any bit of knowledge as the need arises.