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Education as a good, a light, a positive energy . . .

I’ve been reading lately of certain inadequacies of a college education or, perhaps more accurately, the questionable value of a college degree. Is college, after all, worth the hassle? As might be evident by the fact that I’m writing this blog, I think so; a college education, in my view, is indeed valuable to the bearer and radiates out to benefit whomever the bearer touches in life. It’s understandable, though, that those of us who need to earn a living become anxious at this:

  1. Graduating from college does not guarantee a job, especially not a high-paying one.
  2. Graduating from college could leave the graduate in debt.

A sense of caution and practical planning is definitely wise; but on the other hand, I don’t think motivated students with a thirst for knowledge should run scared from higher education. Such students might be inspired by consulting a relevant and lovely work of John Henry Newman.

Newman was a Catholic priest and later Cardinal; his lectures on the aims of education, delivered at Dublin’s Catholic University of Ireland, were published as The Idea of a University (1852). You can read this book for free at Gutenberg.org: note especially “Knowledge Its Own End” and “Knowledge Viewed in Relation to Professional Skill.”

A sample:

“I say that a cultivated intellect, because it is a good in itself, brings with it a power and a grace to every work and occupation which it undertakes, and enables us to be more useful, and to a greater number.”

[An educated person] “has the repose of a mind which lives in itself, while it lives in the world, and which has resources for its happiness at home when it cannot go abroad.”

“The artist puts before him beauty of feature and form; the poet, beauty of mind; the preacher, the beauty of grace: then intellect too, I repeat, has its beauty, and it has those who aim at it. To open the mind, to correct it, to refine it, to enable it to know, and to digest, master, rule, and use its knowledge, to give it power over its own faculties, application, flexibility, method, critical exactness, sagacity, resource, address, eloquent expression, is an object as intelligible . . . as the cultivation of virtue, while, at the same time, it is absolutely distinct from it.

Image via mrg.bz / ariadna

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