Thursday, April 26, 2007

History repeats itself

As I am reading the most excellent "The Consolations of Philosophy" by Alain De Botton, I came across these words on the chapter titled, Consolation for Inadequacy. Here the philosopher Montaigne reflects on the curriculum of the College de Guyenne where he was educated. This was considered to be France's best educational establishment during this time period (mid 1500's). Montaigne thinks aloud,

I gladly come back to the theme of the absurdity of our education: its end has not been to make us good and wise, but learned. And it has succeeded. It has not taught us to seek virtue and to embrace wisdom: it has impressed upon us their derivation and their etymology.....
We readily enquire, 'Does he know Greek or Latin?' 'Can he write poetry or prose?' But what matters most is what we put last: 'Has he become better and wiser?' We ought to find out not who understands most but who understands best. We work merely to fill the memory, leaving the understanding ansd the sense of right and wrong empty.

I wonder how many people in our Department of Education can give a good answer to these 500 year old questions :-)

Something tells me that Kathy Sierra might like this Montaigne character since he also says,
Difficulty is a coin which the learned conjure with so as not to reveal the vanity of their studies and which human stupidity is keen to accept in payment.
in other words (or words of Alain de Botton): An incomprehensible prose-style is likely tohave resulted more from laziness than cleverness; what reads easily is rarely so written. Or else such prose masks an absence of content; being incomprehensible offer unparallaled protection against having nothing to say.

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