Wednesday, November 13, 2013

"Studies serve for delight, for ornament, and for ability."

by Megan Hoyt

While I am waiting for a couple of bloggers to send me their thoughts on other topics, I thought it might be fun to take a look at some of the people Charlotte Mason admired and whose work she emulated. I'll begin with Francis Bacon's essay On Studies, in which he explains this idea that "Studies serve for delight, for ornament, and for ability." I've never truly understood this concept -- especially the ornamental bit.

After we take a look at Francis Bacon, I'd like us to consider Matthew Arnold, Jan Amos Comenius, and a few other scholars Miss Mason referred to in her Series and Parents' Review articles. There is much to be learned and gleaned from studying those she studied, whether she agreed or disagreed with them. And I want to know what resonates within you. You know, human nature never changes. We may see new inventions, new ideas, and even new political agendas rolling around again and again, but our humanity is still just the same as always with different areas of self-centeredness than other generations but the same basic need for the Holy Spirit's guidance and protection and teaching and leading us into all truth.

From Francis Bacon's Of Studies:
STUDIES serve for delight, for ornament, and for ability. Their chief use for delight is in privateness and retiring; for ornament, is in discourse; and for ability, is in the judgment and disposition of business. ... 

To spend too much time in studies is sloth; to use them too much for ornament, is affectation; to make judgment wholly by their rules, is the humor of a scholar. They perfect nature, and are perfected by experience: for natural abilities are like natural plants, that need pruning, by study; and studies themselves do give forth directions too much at large, except they be bounded in by experience.

Crafty men condemn studies, simple men admire them, and wise men use them; for they teach not their own use; but that is a wisdom without them, and above them, won by observation.

Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider.

Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention. ...

Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man. And therefore, if a man write little, he had need have a great memory; if he confer little, he had need have a present wit: and if he read little, he had need have much cunning, to seem to know that he doth not.

Histories make men wise; poets witty; the mathematics subtile; natural philosophy deep; moral grave; logic and rhetoric able to contend. Abeunt studia in mores [Studies pass into and influence manners].

Nay, there is no stond or impediment in the wit but may be wrought out by fit studies; like as diseases of the body may have appropriate exercises. Bowling is good for the stone and reins; shooting for the lungs and breast; gentle walking for the stomach; riding for the head; and the like.

So if a man’s wit be wandering, let him study the mathematics; for in demonstrations, if his wit be called away never so little, he must begin again.

If his wit be not apt to distinguish or find differences, let him study the Schoolmen; for they are cymini sectores [splitters of hairs].

If he be not apt to beat over matters, and to call up one thing to prove and illustrate another, let him study the lawyers’ cases. So every defect of the mind may have a special receipt.

Hear no evil; see no evil; speak no evil; smell no evil?
What resonated with you from this essay? Anything stand out as especially important?

I loved the last section, where he says, "if his wit be not apt to distinguish or find differences, let him study the Schoolmen; for they are cymini sectores [splitters of hairs]."

One thing that I like to do is give students' different books to read based on their needs. In fact, I just did this in a class I'm teaching on the Medieval period of Christendom. Educational methodologists might call this "differentiation." It's this idea that you address each student's areas of lack, in an effort to strengthen them. If we truly view each child as a born person, we will be more apt to do this, I think. It resonates deeply, this idea that we should give what is needed to address a lack. If, for example, a person was vitamin D deficient, we would give them a supplement of that particular mineral, right? We would not blame them for it, nor would we give them vitamin C supplements and expect to see results. So our job as educators is to find the perfect living materials to address each child's need. No easy thing! But necessary. I love it.

What part of this essay leapt out at you? Let me know, okay? I'd love to hear from you!

1 comment:

  1. "Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider."

    I think a great lack in the culture is reading to weigh and consider.