On Friday, Immanuel Lutheran School faculty and staff will enjoy the second of three dedicated professional development days scheduled during the school year. These valuable days allow teachers and administrators time for discussion, planning, and camaraderie.
This Friday, staff will continue their eight-party study of Western pedagogy. Led by Christy Ting, Adjunct Professor of Pedagogy at Patrick Henry College, these sessions provide an opportunity to study significant educational theories while continuing to discuss, develop, and refine what classical Christian education looks like at ILS.
Readings this year have included excerpts from Aristotle, Plato, Moses, Erasmus, Aquinas, and Luther. Faculty members prepare for each discussion by writing a reflection on one of the readings they find inspiring. Enjoy this reflection by ILS 4th grade teacher, Molly Leithart.
How Erasmus Advises His Students to Approach His Studies
“ ‘How do your studies progress, Erasmius?’” asks Desiderius in Erasmus’ The Colloquies of Erasmus.” How humorous it is that what was asked hundreds of years ago is still a prime question today. Replace “studies” with any topic or art someone might be attempting to master, and imagining the scenario is easy. For educators at ILS, we often might ask ourselves that very question: “How do my studies progress?” Instead of suffering through laborious study, Erasmus offers kindly advice to all learners. Through clever dialogue, Erasmus demonstrates that studying, in general, requires a kindling of both love and admiration for the study.
The dialogue serves as an excellent medium for advice because the problems presented here are entirely relatable and still relevant. To be specific, Desiderius identifies a setback for many who are attempting to learn: “Perhaps because you’re reluctant to buy learning at the cost of so much labor.” Aha! Learning requires labor! How we long for “quick fixes” these days for any obstacle or challenge ahead. In a sort of comforting way for us moderns, we are not unique. This averseness to labor was prevalent hundreds of years ago. Case in point: Erasmius with his nonexistent “learn the liberal arts in fourteen days” handbook, which was unsurprisingly ineffective. For another seeming setback to learning is the challenge of retaining what one has learned. Information might be simple enough to read but more difficult to remember and to know thoroughly.
With these challenges in mind, Desiderius then presents a wonderful case for acquiring the wealth of knowledge over the accumulation of material wealth. Even the “slothful and worthless” might come to possess riches whether or not they have earned it. Here I thought of winning the lottery or kings of the past who were merely born into power and advantage. Neither position requires a man to be hard-working, diligent, or noble, typical characteristics of a good man. However, gaining true wealth, that is knowledge and moreover, wisdom, requires a man to overcome the “irksomeness” of learning. Thus the acquisition of true wealth may occur.
Next, Erasmus actually answers the question. One must persuade himself “to love studies” and “by admiring them.” This affectionate language directed towards the inanimate and intangible leads me to think that a person ought to treat studying as a being. It requires devotion, attention, and great care. Naturally, one might wonder how to accomplish this posture towards learning. Erasmus so advises one to look to men who have benefitted from learning and how different they are from others. Even now, we admire men who have earned high positions due to their worthiness of character and great wisdom. However, none of this is possible without the application of self-control and discipline required to learn anything thoroughly, which solidifies what has been learned.
I am comforted in learning how hundreds of years are bridged by a recurring challenge: how to study. I agree with Erasmus here in that true learning occurs when one loves the topic or learns to love it. In contrast, one might learn material without loving it as in studying for an exam in order to pass sufficiently. But without love and admiration, true knowledge will be always be lacking.