Humanity, Reason, and Education

“Nature, the mother of all things, has equipped brute animals with more means to fulfil the functions of their species; but to man alone she has given the faculty of reason, and so she has thrown the burden of human growth upon education.  Therefore it is right to say that the beginning and the end, indeed the total sum of man’s happiness, are founded upon a good upbringing and education….A proper and conscientious instruction is the well-spring of all moral goodness.  By contrast, the doors are flung wide open to folly and evil when education becomes corrupted and careless.  Education is that special task which has been entrusted to us.  This is why to other creatures nature has given swiftness of foot or wing, keeness of sight, strength or massiveness of body, coverings of wool or fur, or protection of scales, plates, horns, claws, or poisons, and has so enabled them to protect themselves, hunt for food, and rear their young.  Man alone she has created weak, naked, and defenseless.  But as compensation, she has given him a mind equipped for knowledge, for this one capacity, if properly exploited, embraces all others.”  Desiderius Erasmus, “On the Education of Children,” in The Great Tradition: Classic Readings on What It Means to Be An Educated Human Being, ed. Richard M. Gamble. Wilmington 2007, pp. 360-61. [Emphasis added]

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