Saturday, October 8, 2016
On continuing education..............
So... I came across the above Adler quote and wondered about the context in which he wrote it. Reaching for my copy of his How To Read A Book: The Art of Getting a Liberal Education (1940), the book naturally opened to Chapter 17 - Free Minds and Free Men. Haven't found the exact quote yet, but did find these:
One of his motives in starting the Honors course was to revive college life as an intellectual community. If a group of students read the same books and met weekly for two years to discuss them, they might find a new sort of fellowship. The great books would not only initiate them into the world of ideas but would provide the frame of reference for further communication among them. They would know how to talk intelligently and intelligibly to one another, not only about the books, but through the books about all the problems which engage men's thought and action.
In such a community, Erskine said, democracy would be safe, for democracy requires intelligent communication about and common participation in the solution of human problems. That was before anyone thought that democracy would ever again be threatened. As I remember, we did not pay much attention to Erskine's insight at the time. But he was right. I am sure of it now. I am sure that a liberal education is democracy's strongest bulwark.
I do not know what chance there is of changing the schools and colleges of this country. They are moving in the opposite direction today, away from the three R's and literacy. (Paradoxically enough, the current trends in education, which I have criticized, are also motivated by a devotion to democracy.) But I do know that something can be done about adult education. That is not yet entirely under the control of the teachers' colleges and schools of education. You and your friends are free to make plans for yourself. You do not have to wait for someone to come along and offer you a program. You do not need any elaborate machinery to set up one. You do not even need any teachers. Get together, read the great books, and discuss them. Just as you will learn to read by reading, so you will learn to discuss by discussing.