Thou Shalt Pursue a Liberal Education

Where did the Lord command man to pursue a liberal education?

Or maybe we might ask, what commandment do people break when they refuse to pursue a liberal education?

“That’s ridiculous!” you say, everyone is free to choose the kind of education that he wants” and “if someone does not want a liberal education then he is not obliged by any kind of moral obligation to pursue one.”  

Ahhhhhhh….but is this really so ridiculous? It’s not really intellectually honest to simply dismiss ideas out of hand that go in the face of one’s custom – is it?

And certainly one should feel just a wee bit uncomfortable yelling out platitudes that smack of the dictatorship of relativism.  Didn’t some recent pope or cardinal say something against the dictatorship of relativism? Oh yea… I remember

We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires.

Don’t tell me that you wont even consider the possibility that perhaps God wants everyone to obtain a liberal education at least to the extent possible according to the capacity of each. 

And, after all, we really ought to examine our lives like Socrates told us, otherwise we might never wake up and we will always be like these poor people.

 

(If you would like to know more about these poor cave dwellers you might enjoy this )

Maybe pursuing a liberal education is not only something that God has commanded, but perhaps it is also something that we must do because our very nature as human beings calls us to do this.

If liberal education is something that God commands, and is also something that our nature requires…woe to that man that refuses!

And if we are not true to our nature then we are not true to ourselves and therefore we are traitors. We are false to ourselves. This is just a terrible thing to be. Imagine waking up to this realization when it is too late to provide a remedy………ughhhh I shudder at the thought.

So where does God command us to pursue a liberal education?

Quite obviously he does so in the third commandment – when he says

Remember that thou keep holy the sabbath day. 9 Six days shalt thou labour, and shalt do all thy works. 10 But on the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: thou shalt do no work on it, thou nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy beast, nor the stranger that is within thy gates. 11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them, and rested on the seventh day: therefore the Lord blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it.

Now when St. Thomas Aquinas comments on this commandment he mentions right away that God clearly wants us to avoid servile work on the sabbath. This is quite clear. “Thou shalt do no work on it…”

Lest someone think that God wants us to be completely idle on the Sabbath, St Thomas quickly explains that the clear intent of God in this commandment is simply that we should avoid servile work for starters!

(I am not certain if these people are doing servile work or just standing there idly gaping)

But take a look at this – if this isn’t servile then I don’t know what is!

St Thomas explains:

“…We ought to avoid three things. The first is servile work…“Neither do any work; sanctify the Sabbath day” [Jer 17:22]. And so also it is said in the Law: “You shall do no servile work therein” [Lev 23:25]. Now, servile work is bodily work;whereas “free work” (i.e., non-servile work) is done by the mind, for instance, the exercise of the intellect and such like. And one cannot be servilely bound to do this kind of work.

As anyone must know by now, the work of liberal education is the very free-est kind of work that a man can do naturally speaking. I am not saying that God means that we should do nothing else on the sabbath than pursue liberal education. For example we should also go to church, perform works of charity and other such things. But isn’t it clear that He wants us to “remember” to spend time during at least one day of the week in order to satisfy the nature that He has given us?

He wants us to be men. He wants us to perfect to the best of our ability the nature that He has given us, so that we might be more disposed towards the grace that He wants to bestow on us  – namely Himself.

And lest we forget to do this He specifically says “remember,” because pursuing a liberal education is something that is very very easy to forget.

As a matter of fact, a liberal education is so easy to forget that one might not even remember what a liberal education is. What is it? How does one get one? How long does it take? Where is it found? What is its beginning? Where does it end?

But at least one thing is clear – to forget about getting a liberal education….to utterly omit to pursue one seriously…to neglect trying to obtain one for one’s own children…to simply not consider the question seriously…to dismiss the whole idea…to pursue other kinds of education to the complete neglect of a liberal education…to not pursue a liberal education as far as one is able…to prefer other kinds of education…to neglect to support liberal education in society at large…to show a lack of enthusisam for liberal education…to sneer at liberal education…to neglect to foster a love for liberal education…

To do any of these things seems like rather risky behavior in light of the third commandment.   

 

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About marklangley

Academic Dean at The Lyceum (a school he founded in 2003, see theLyceum.org) Mark loves sacred music and Gregorian Chant and singing with his lovely wife, Stephanie, and their twelve children.
This entry was posted in classical education, education, Liberal Arts, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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