Obstacles to Study

“There are three things above all which ordinarily provide obstacles for the studies of students: carelessness, imprudence, and bad luck (fortuna).  Carelessness arises when we simply omit, or when we learn less carefully, those things which are there to be learned.  Imprudence arises when we do not keep to a suitable order and method in the things we are learning.  Bad luck shows up in a development, a chance happening, or a natural occurrence, when we are kept back from our objective or even by a scarcity of professors, because either none can be found to teach us, or none can be found to teach us well.  But as to these three matters, in the first of them–carelessness, that is–the student needs to be admonished; in the second–imprudence, that is–he needs to be instructed; while in the third–bad luck, that is–he needs to be assisted.” Hugh of St Victor, Didascalicon, Bk 5, Chap. 5. [Italics in original]

Hugh’s students were fellow canons (clergy who lived together like monks) at St Victor in Paris.  Many of these students came to Paris to study at the growing cathedral school there.  This quote demonstrates Hugh’s understanding of pedagogy and learning.  Notice that two of the three obstacles can be corrected through a change in the student’s attitude and a professor’s instruction.  Only bad luck means that the student needs assistance and not admonishment or instruction.

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