Two Quotes from Cornelius Verhoeven as cited by James Taylor in “Poetic Knowledge”

I have been re-reading Taylor’s fantastic work on education, “Poetic Knowledge” and will sometime in the future write an overview for that book.  But today I was struck by two quotes he cites from Verhoeven and wanted to get them into this blog.  Verhoeven is writing about what passes for a “general education” in our day and he says…

“General education is … a substitute for knowledge among people for whom that knowledge is too dangerous and too demanding … It creates and preserves mediocrity. It does not demand that contact with things, the piercing of a man’s self-righteous subjectivity which is precisely the beginning of knowledge … At best it displays mountain peaks, but saves one the trouble of climbing them.” (from The Philosophy of Wonder, p. 17)

Then, further on, he states…

“The great temptation of education is to insist that one should memorize the results of science instead of flinging open its sources. This is why it costs us so much trouble in later life to delve deeper into what we have learned in a bookish and thus apodictic, authoritarian, and quasi-definitive manner.  All too often at school the curiosity that might lead to closer acquaintance is nipped in the bud, and we are left with a collection of slogans and quotations that we call general education. This then is our portion of the fuss and bother they call science and, having lived through it, we can go on to other things. We have “had” it at school, but we have not got it, it has not got us, and we will never get it.  Unless some intellectual crisis intervenes we are, after such a schooling, condemned to lifelong mediocrity.” (p. 18)

Wow.  Amen.


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