The Meaning of a Liberal Education

By Everett Dean Martin | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIV
THE FRUIT OF THE TREE OF KNOWLEDGE

Finally, with what appraisement may the seeker for knowledge view education itself? In the course of our study we have cast aside numerous idols and comforting fictions. We have seen that in the process of a liberal education old dilemmas are outgrown; that the habit is formed of questioning all things; that the educated mind becomes capable of amused self-criticism, attains urbanity of spirit land tolerant scepticism of the crowd and its partisan controversies, and with civilized resignation learns that it may not possess finality in matters of truth and right, but that a man must order his life according to the wisest discrimination of value of which he is capable.

Now, I believe, the wise man will pursue his education always viewing it with a certain light-heartedness and detachment. Wisdom itself will not be taken too seriously by one who sees that in the best of it there is an entertaining amount of human folly. Like Falstaff's confession, "I am not much better than one of the wicked," Socrates, the wisest, knows he is not much better than one of the foolish. People who solemnly try to improve their minds, with groanings of the spirit that cannot be uttered, determined to reach some cultural "Pike's peak or bust," do not often become educated; they become intellectual bores.

Education is a way of living, but it is never a substitute

-286-

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