Education is Drudgery
“No one can become really educated without having pursued some study in which he took no interest for it is a part of education to learn to interest ourselves in subjects for which we have no aptitude.” T.S. Elliot – Modern Education and the Classics
The goal of classical education is to teach students to learn how to learn for themselves. We do this by making them familiar with the tools of learning as made known through the three stages of the Trivium (Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric). Like toddlers, many students desire to be “spoon fed” their education for as long as possible. Learning takes effort. There is a natural temptation to laziness when students bump into that brick wall called “work” as they engage in the labor of learning. Part of education is teaching kids to mature out of this spoon-feeding stage and to enjoy the work that comes with “feeding” themselves through the tools of learning.
It’s easy to learn about something you are interested in. The true test of our ability to learn is if we can be attentive to a subject in which we take no interest. In our entertainment-saturated world, it’s tempting to want to turn education into “edu-tainment”, making every subject fun to ensure students will engage. We do our children a disservice if we educate them in such a way to believe that every day will reflect a day at Disneyland. Much of life is lived in the humdrum existence of repetitive daily routines. We shouldn’t be afraid of a certain plodding drudgery to education that reflects this. Study Latin every day for 10 minutes. Practice your math facts every night. Do a little reading for literature class daily. Solomon explained this recurring doing and undoing as vanity. As Christians, we must be wary of educating our children in such a way to expect emotionally charged “mountain top” experiences at all times. We want to educate our children in a way that prepares them to persevere through the “bleh” times in their relationship with God.
It’s safe to say we want our children to be analytical, self-controlled, decisive, and logical as they sort through real life problems. But, we shy away from them doing the repetitive, difficult, daily work of analyzing Latin word endings in order to decide which one fits the translation best. We avoid making our students do the arduous plowing required in sorting out the logical roots of an argument. We get squeamish when they are required to memorize speeches and present them in front of their classmates. Do we really have to study math facts every night!?!? We must see, just like in all other disciplines, you can’t create future adults who are analytical, self-controlled, decisive, and logical without lots of practice before hand. There is a toilsome grind that comes with daily practicing your scales for piano, or your free throws for basketball. But without this repetitive drilling, there will not be the fruit of freedom that comes from a life of discipline. Therein lies the irony discipline brings freedom.
Booker T. Washington said, “Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome.” At St. Abe’s, we want to train students who are overcomers. This being the case, we ought not be surprised when our children bring obstacles home that are difficult to overcome.