Monday, January 11, 2010

Our English Syllabus

I never really noticed, but I came to understand that education and vocational learning are truly different things. Lewis writes that “education is essentially for freemen and vocational training for slaves." While education prepares us for leisure and produces in the end a “good man” and “good citizen” through learning, vocational training is not for leisure but for work. However vocational learning is undeniably necessary to survive this world where money is unfortunately more appreciated than knowledge itself. This means that we must find time for “both”. But what happens if one pursues only vocational learning?

Since Lewis claims that “Human life means… the life of being for whom the leisured activities of thought, art, literature, conversation are the end”, pursuing only vocational learning and forgetting education would mean killing civilization. No matter how useful vocational learning might be in this world, if there were no leisure, then we would be no better than Lewis’ cow. A true human has the ability to do something for the sake of doing it and not only because of necessity.

The people assigned to prevent pupils from turning into cows and who molds them into becoming more human, are the teachers. Their purpose is to make them into good men, but to do so, the pupil in turn needs to contribute with obedience and humility. Once the pupil has been “humanized” and is off school, he becomes a university student and a human being. It begins to pursue knowledge for its own sake, and “picks up” instead of being taught by the professor. And this is when he has to decide what he wants to know ‘more’ about.

Lewis admits that “a perfect study of anything requires knowledge of everything”, however he knew that it was impossible to do so. A human life was just too short. Thus he said that it is best to ignore the little and least important roots that do not affect much the main subject tree. Instead, he writes, to focus on the “tap-root” or the most important one. Although I agree with this statement, I also think that having a general knowledge of things as a base is not bad either. I think that touching all subjects and then pursuing specifically one, is more of a balanced diet.

However I totally agree with his thought of seeking ‘only’ general education. Being put together artificially by a committee of professors, it is merely a selection of reality that has been distorted and not true reality. Also it would simply be boring. Using Lewis’ metaphor of dinner, I must agree that there is no fun in eating the food set up for you and always ask for the salt because it does not suit your taste. Though it might be necessary for the sake of learning, I do not want to stay doing nothing forever. Lewis says to "wrestle with nature for yourself". And I think this would be much more exiting and wonderful than just staring at the photos someone else brings from his adventure.

When it’s time, I want to acquire my freedom, and “choose my own path.” And then I would finally, with all my efforts and own knowledge, create something that I can love with all my heart, and then be proud of.


  1. I agree that gaining knowledge in all things would be useful. I do believe, though, that a college education would be more useful in the end than just a vocational education. It seems to me that a vocational education a only meant to get you in the work force so you can begin to make money. Being a person who does desire money beyond it use, to me this would be a very unfulfilled life and quiet frankly, a life of complete boredom.

  2. i agree with Yemi, vocational training is simply keeping one's potential in a box, by only training him in what he "needs to know". This cannot produce a well-rounded individual who is able to apply and relate many different subjectst o one another. I think this is one of the great benefits of our liberal arts education.