Essay / Misc.

Repairing the Ruins

In 1644 John Milton of Paradise Lost fame published an eight page pamphlet entitled “Of Education.” In it he stated:

The end then of learning is to repair the ruins of our first parents by regaining to know God aright, and out of that knowledge to love him, to imitate him, to be like him, as we may the nearest by possessing our souls of true virtue, which being united to the heavenly grace of faith makes up the highest perfection.

Milton believes that prior to the fall Adam had an uncorrupted understanding of the world around him. Milton believe that education was an important means by which humans were able to begin to “repair the ruins” of the fall. Education came to be seen as a means through which Christian reform was advanced in England.

For Milton, education was an enterprise that was to be seen as advantages to humans in both the public and private spheres:

I call therefore a complete and generous education that which fits a man to perform justly, skillfully, and magnanimously all the offices, both public and private, of peace and war.

It is education that enables us to fulfill our public and private obligations. It is Milton’s contention that all men can benefit from education. He does not see it as only a venue for the aristocracy, but as necessary for all human flourishing.

Milton understands that most young students come to their educational endeavors severely addled, and that the educator needs to encourage them into “willing obedience.”

In Milton’s mind, an effective teacher should guide one’s students to become:

Inflamed with the study of learning and the admiration of virtue—stirred up with high hopes of living to be brave men and worthy patriots, dear to God and famous to all ages: that they may despise and scorn all their childish and ill-taught qualities to delight in manly and liberal exercises, which he who hath the art and proper eloquence to catch them with, what with mild ineffectual persuasions and what with the intimation of some fear, if need be, but chiefly by his own example, might in a short space gained them an incredible diligence and courage, infusing into the young breasts such an ingenious and noble ardor, as would not fail to make many of them renowned and matchless men.

If all educators understood their call as Milton describes it—how could they not be inspired, and how could our educational system not truly be changed for the better?

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