Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Sad State of Education, 12th-Century Edition

I recently had the good fortune to examine LJS 384 (an early copy of William of Conches' De philosophia mundi and an excerpt of Hugh of St. Victor's commentary on the Gospels) in more detail. Doing so gave me the opportunity to spend some time researching William and De philosophia

It turns out that William, a student of and teacher at the cathedral school at Chartres in the early twelfth century, had a lot to say about the sorry state of education. William had been taught by Bernard of Chartres and his cohort in the early twelfth century. But by the time William was teaching students a decade later, he realized that the golden age of learning had passed. Men now call themselves philosophers, he said, but they disdain to learn from anyone and are too arrogant to admit their ignorance.* Students flock to study philosophy in ever greater numbers so that teachers are so preoccupied with teaching that they have little time for research and writing. And teachers are so dependent on their students' good opinion of them that they offer easy courses. "Masters are become flatterers of their students and students judges of their masters."**

Truly, the End Times of advanced education have always been with us.

*This sounds like a veiled barb directed at Abelard, no?
**The info in the paragraph--and much more--can be found in volume 2 of Lynn Thorndike's History of Magic and Experimental Science.


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