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The Journey

Published onJun 06, 2023
The Journey

Once Upon a Time, There Was Dog

Dog was a special creature, possessing a quick wit, an active spirit and a curious mind. Dog had done well on the early path of education, impressing trainers and parents alike. “Dog will surely grow up to be special!” they would say - much to Dog’s delight - but also raising anxiety, as Dog surely felt the pressure to succeed (Schuurmans, 2020).

After Dog had graduated, the same question was on the mind and lips of every friend and family member: “what kind of individual do you want to become? What education will you pursue? Will a lab coat or a suit be worn? Will you wield a gavel or a pen, a questionnaire or an instrument?”

Dog found these questions difficult, for many fascinating topics to study there were; a maelstrom of near infinite possibilities. The vast wide world lay open all around, nations and workplaces alike beckoning potential members. In the maelstrom of choice, how could Dog - nay, how could anyone - know what was the right choice to make? And thus, Dog decided.

“I will venture forth across the land! Only the best education is what I will pursue, no matter where or when I’ll find it. I will seek out that expert, that style, that vision of education which has it all; one to fill my mind as much as it will my heart, one to shape my character as much as my goals, one to give insight into my present as much as set a course for my future!”

Dog put on boots and backpack, and waved family and friends goodbye. Onwards starry-eyed Dog went to the West, to the Nation of Bearded Men, which claimed to have birthed civilization. Certainly, arriving at the cradle would be a good place to start.

Dog then bade hearth and home farewell, and departed on the journey.

And Thus, Dog Arrived in the Nation of Bearded Men

Whilst the sun beamed down, warming bodies and nourishing the olives into succulence, Dog promenaded to the Academy. There, Dog met the Ancient Philosopher, who told of a Republic: a beautiful, perfect society, a place of Justice and of Truth. (Plato, ca. 375 BC/1979) After a meandering traipse past topics such as Love, Justice, and the Soul - the tale arrived at the topic of education in the Republic, and Dog’s ears perked up.

“The direction set by education will determine all that follows” (Plato, 425b-c), lectured the Ancient Philosopher, and Dog could not help but enthusiastically nod. “Temperance, courage, liberality [and] grandeur” (402c) would stand at the center in the Republic. “Great!” Dog thought, “how good it is to center your education around four core virtues! But it would’ve been even greater, if they all started with a C.”

“But what of women?” then asked Dog, having heard awful tales of their treatment in this nation (Loraux, 1993; Blundell, 1995). “If we’re going to employ our women in the same tasks as the men,” the Ancient Philosopher continued, “we must teach them the same things.” (Plato, 451e). How progressive, thought Dog, greatly pleased.

Yet as the Ancient Philosopher continued, Dog started finding peculiarities in his tale. What a strange claim it was to state that people were “naturally fit” for only a single role in life, and could nor should do anything else (Plato, 374b-c). How different this Republic was, to what Dog had long known! What would this mean for education: who would arbitrate Dog’s role, Dog’s nature?

Dog’s apprehension grew when the Ancient Philosopher started ranting against the arts. “Most stories have to go” (Plato, 377b-c), he said, with firmness in his voice. “But what stories should be part of education?” Dog asked. “What stories will I be taught?” “Do not doubt my words!”, interjected the Ancient Philosopher, a stern look on their face, and Dog felt pressured to comply.

The Ancient Philosopher continued: “We should try to convince our students that no citizen has ever fought with another, and that such a thing is an affront to the gods; this is what old people must tell them as children, and when they grow up, we must force the poets to tell them much the same thing.” (Plato, 376c-d). “But what of those who think differently,” asked Dog, “and the stories that they tell?” With stern voice, the Ancient Philosopher replied: “let us censor them.” (Plato, 386c).

As the Ancient Philosopher continued to speak of kings whose reign was wise but absolute (Plato, 473c-e), and similar totalitarian-tinged ideas (Popper, 1945/1994, pp. 83-146), Dog knew that it was time to leave. Fleeing on the winds of Hermes, the Academy was left behind. The cradle was here, in this Nation, filled with tender thought and care, containing seeds of value perhaps better sprouted elsewhere.

Dog then bade the Nation of Bearded Men farewell, and continued on the journey.

And Thus, Dog Arrived in the Nation-In-Between

A vast land lay between the Bearded Men and whatever more ahead; one often called ‘Dark,’ yet still brimming with ideas. Curious its people were, for they were split in three; those who Ruled, those who Prayed, and those who Worked. To the latter, schools were closed (Colish, 1997, pp. 64-65), to Dog’s sincere dismay.

Ill-desiring the elitism that was found in the Nation of Bearded Men, Dog sought out those who Prayed. Not far from the border, there stood the house of the Numidian, who told Dog of new ideas. What those with beards were prone to teach, this man strove to formalize: the seven Artes Liberales would henceforth educate the land (Capella, ca. 450/1971).  Divided in three and four they’d be: grammar, logic, and rhetoric; and arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy. Put together, they would be broad and non-vocational, building character and preparing one for civic life. Charming, Dog found this idea of an educational foundation - a preparation for possibilities to come. But the Numidian had not yet finished his project, so Dog decided to move on.

Further down the road, Dog found the Emperor addressing a crowd. “Schools should be established,” said the Emperor, “for teaching boys the psalms, writing, singing, computation, and grammar in every monastery and episcopal residence” (Charlemagne, 789, as cited in McKitterick, 1994, p. 153). The crowds dispersed and flocked to the monastery schools - developing into cathedral schools (Contreni, 2014, p. 90) - to learn the seven Arts by imperial decree. As a result, the popularity of the Arts grew rapidly, although women could not join, the times still not kind to them. This led Dog to think that the Arts perhaps were not that free after all. To assuage this worry, Dog resolved to seek out a woman’s school; which turned out to be harder than Dog thought that it would be.

“Perhaps,” Dog thought, “some people can study such inequalities in the future. We could certainly use people like that.”

After a search long and hard, Dog met the Mountain Abbess. For generations, she softly spoke, she’d taught the Arts to all her nuns (McGuire, 1988, p. 4). A work she’d written on the Arts, as seven bridesmaids they’d been drawn, inspired by the Numidian (Herrad of Hohenbourg, 1185/1979). Dog was pleased to see that here, some women too embraced the Arts (Tidbury, 2009), and pondered if the Abbess’ skills, knowledge and determination may have stemmed from them.

Could the Arts build character, and grant broad understanding? Dog’s heart soared at the thought. This Nation showed development, and perhaps more would come soon. The next nation over might have already found it!

Dog then bade the Nation-In-Between farewell and continued on the journey.

And Thus, Dog Arrived in the Nation of Rebirth

Dog’s eager eyes took in the sights aplenty - such art, such beauty could be found! How the splendorous streets shone compared to the Nation-In-Between! And what a shock it was to hear that not long ago, this nation had been naught but its dreary province. Yet people had let go of shields and swords and picked up brush and quill. Universities replaced the schools of God; religion’s shadow looming less. Excitement still swept through the streets as a new road to the Nation of Bearded Men had been constructed not long ago.

At the Nation’s university, Dog enthusiastically partook in a day of study. Law, medicine, philosophy and language were taught in spades, as they had been in the Nation-In-Between (Black, 2003, p. 23). But so similar in substance, so other was the style; some proclaimed themselves to be not scholars but ‘scientists,’ perchance rebelling against the past that they had once shared with their neighbors (Charlton, 1965, p. xv).

Rebellious as the students were, the lessons Dog found tedious; the professors emphasizing rote learning and memorization over analysis and argument (Black, 2003, p. 24). In the hallways, Dog heard a pair complain that what the teachers offered was not what was promised - to become equipped for active life, to benefit state and society (Grafton & Jardine, 1986, pp. 2-25). They spoke too of a hermit who thought differently: the Man of the Mountain, who had been secluded in his Château for years, writing the time away. Perhaps this Man, Dog thought, held the answers that this school, apparently, did not.

Dog climbed the Mountain and found the Man, who spoke that he’d Attempted to share his thoughts with all who’d listen. He then lamented: “What do I know?” (Montaigne, II.12). He’d been a lawyer, not a teacher; he’d served at courts, and not at schools (Owen, 1893; Desan, 2017).

On the Education of Children, spoke the Man. “It is the custom of pedagogues to be eternally thundering in the pupil’s ears, as if they were pouring into a funnel, whilst the business of the pupil is only to repeat what the others have said” (Montaigne, I.26), he complained. But what value may there be in knowledge if one has not the judgment to apply it? Should learning not shape a character over a vessel to be filled with facts? Why value those who know more than those who are complete? (Hansen, 2002, pp. 38 & 237; Logan, 1975, p. 621).

The Man next spoke of teachers: “Let him be able to do everything, but love to do nothing but what is good. [...] Let him laugh, play, wench with his prince. [And] if his governor be of my humour, he will form his will to be a very good and loyal subject to his prince, very affectionate to his person, and very stout in his quarrel.” (Montaigne, I.26). The student could debauch and doubt, and learn of human nature under the teacher’s watchful eye (Vacca, 1955, pp. 314-318).

Though fascinated by the Man, Dog knew his Nation lagged behind. The Mountain held this worthy doctrine, but the schools and their tedium laid just below. Just on the other side, however, there lay another Nation - perhaps one closer to the vision of the Man.

Dog then bade the Man farewell, and continued on the journey.

And thus, Dog arrived in the Roaring Nation

The trip took Dog through revolutions and a battlefield, but the destination made the trip worthwhile. A polish shone across the streets of the Roaring Nation; citizens walked it with prosperous poise. Here factories churned, and novelties filled the storefronts. In no Nation before had Dog seen quite as many different schools to choose from (De Regt & Van Lenning, 2017, p. 19). Where Churches had loomed above the schools before, now it was the latter that stood the tallest (Sturm et al., 1998, p. 285).

Dog asked a passerby for help: who in this land might aid his search? Many told him of the Scholar Priest. A man of many worlds, they said; one whose head perched up to heaven with feet yet resting on the ground. One who vouched for the growth of spirit as much as they did the growth of mind (Cobbenhagen, 2016, p. 68). With spring in step, Dog sought this man out.

And so Dog heard the Scholar Priest’s sermon. “Labor aimed at economic goals contains the production and distribution of the satisfaction of human desires, which cannot be satisfied by the inner powers of human nature alone.” (Cobbenhagen, 1938, p. 271), he preached. The money-men might say that wants are chosen with a structured mind, “but not all consistency within the process of satisfying desires is economic in nature.” (Cobbenhagen, 1938, p. 271)

Is kindness not structureless, are wants not part innate? Do we not lose what makes us man, if solely structure is assumed? (Cobbenhagen, 1938, pp. 270-274) What made us think that to know man, we must first grasp at money? What value has the money, if it were not for the man? (Cobbenhagen, 2016, p. 20) All this, and more, raised the Scholar Priest.

“How then should we learn,” Dog asked, “of money, man, machine?” Each should be examined, replied the Scholar Priest, “in the general schemes of things.” (Cobbenhagen, 2016, p. 52). To look at one blurs the periphery; a broad view is the goal.

“The Mountain Man, he spoke,” said Dog, “of character and judgment! If we must know all these things, do we not fill our hearts with facts? Do we not paint our character black with the ink of our books?” “What you are is more important than what you know” (Cobbenhagen, 2016, p. 36), replied the Scholar Priest. To look beyond oneself, he said, is what makes one complete. In knowledge, judgment grounded must be, so not for it to be swept away in the wind of unkempt doubt. (De Regt & Van Lenning, 2017, p. 19)

Dog knew the Scholar Priest spoke truth, and thought to maybe stay. Yet, Dog had observed that as coherent as the Scholar Priest exclaimed disciplines should be, so divided were the people in the Roaring Nation. At the sermon, very little other-colored, other-gendered, or other-thinking people had been present, so that Dog might have mistaken a neighbor for the Scholar Priest on stage. Others stuck with others, and again others stuck with others too (Sturm et al., 1998). Strangely, Dog was reminded of the Nation-In-Between.

“If to be complete,” Dog wondered, “is to bathe in all knowledge - should I not bathe with all of humanity? May not their view on what is bathed in, add itself to the volume too?” This could not yet be found here, but Dog knew that it was close.

Dog then bade the Scholar Priest farewell, and continued on the journey.

And Thus, Dog Arrived in the Modern Nation 

Dog found the Modern Nation a chaotic utopia, characterized by contradictions. Boundaries that had existed in the Roaring Nation, Dog now found broken down, despite there still being groups desperately trying to re-erect them. Other-colored, other-gendered and other-thinking people walked more freely, but did they walk equally, too? Dog saw people preach of earthquakes, and how if safety measures were not taken, the Nation would disappear into a sinkhole, whilst preachers on the other side vouched against expenses, casting doubt that earthquakes ever came.

The schools here held a vision, one perhaps the most complete. They spoke of knowledge, skills and character - the shaping of professionals (De Regt & Van Lenning, 2017, pp. 53-56). They spoke of noble, active growth; of value developed on the inside to create value on the outside (Nordenbo, 2002; Prange, 2004). Dog’s heart beat in excitement; perhaps the goal was found.

Dog heard a scholar say that “it is the ultimate task of our existence to achieve as much substance as possible for the concept of humanity in our person, both during the span of our life and beyond it, through the traces we leave by means of our vital activity” (Von Humboldt, 2000). They spoke of man-state harmony (Nordenbo, 2002, p. 348), of self-realization through freedom and confrontation, to develop the self in harmony with the other (De Regt & Van Lenning, 2017). “Bold words!” Dog thought. “And so ambitious, too!” But could the Nation’s schools fit those breeches? Did they practice what they preached, or were their words but wind?

Dog found school staff and students in anxiety. Educators tasked with crafting, teaching and testing what the Scholar spoke of, found their time short to do so, as the pressure to succeed and grow in status was present for all (De Botton, 2004). The infinite could not be asked of them, thus they set limits and blockades. Some chose to not at all teach skills, to leave it to another. Others employed a standard test, to ease their grading work; but whether this suited for all, was not completely known. Character oft fell by the wayside entirely and was assumed to develop without intervention, but this too was doubted by some.

Students meanwhile posed the question: “Is this really what we need?”

“What need is there to memorize, if I can simply use the book?”

“Why must I engage with topics that I do not wish to engage with?”

“Why am I blamed for failure, if I am not taught to block the blows?”

“Why am I taught what is right, but given little time to do so?”

“Why am I taught to make a difference, when the world does not allow me to?”

Dog knew that the ambitions of this Nation were pristine. But in their execution, were they fulfilled? Time could tell, but Dog did not want to linger; his perfect education perhaps just over the next horizon. Close it was - to taste, almost.

Dog then bade the schools of the Modern Nation farewell, and continued on the journey.

And Thus, Dog Gazed on the Lands and Times Ahead 

To Dog’s surprise, the lands were barren. Civilization had not reached here yet, although the tips of the Modern Nation’s skyscrapers could be seen in the distance behind. Fright filled Dog’s heart; had the journey been for nothing? Had a wrong turn been taken somewhere? Or…Had the goal never been attainable from the start?

Nay, thought Dog. Perhaps, just maybe…This place had been the goal all along. And so Dog went on to find a tree, and grabbed a branch and bark. Taking pencil in hand, Dog sat down and wrote.

The Bearded Men had taught Dog

that education was more than just school; it formed a person’s heart and soul.

The Nation-In-Between had taught Dog

of the Artes Liberales and their potential for the growth and strength of people.

The Mountain Man had taught Dog

that to learn is to develop, through play and laughter, our judgment and our virtue.

The Scholar Preacher had taught Dog

that money, man, machine are not distinct; to look at the grand scheme of things.

The Modern Nation had taught Dog

of pluralism and ambition, of harmony and growth, of the limits of desires.

Perhaps, somewhere in the education Dog had over the journey obtained - be it in the combination of its elements, or its synergy, there lie what had been searched all along. Dog bound bark to branch, and then drove it into the ground. Stepping back, the words were read:

you have arrived at the nation of the future


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