Monday, January 12, 2009


In this syllabus, Lewis explains the difference between learning and being educated.  We often slip into the habit of simply accepting the education that is thrust upon us, and not really engaging in learning.  The distinct difference is that education is focused on what the professors feel is important and basically only taking in what is heard in class, as opposed to learning, which is seeking knowledge for it's own sake.  Learning declines through high school and college because students become bored with the information they are forced to learn.  They don't understand until later how required courses can benefit their specific career or how important it is to be a well-rounded individual until later in life.  "A perfect study of anything requires a knowledge of everything."

This syllabus reminded me of something we learned in my high school psychology class: intrinsic and extrinsic motivation.  If a person is intrinsically motivated, they will do something because it's good in and of itself, like seeking knowledge for its own sake.  If a person is extrinsically motivated, they do things because the payoff or end result is good, but not because they necessarily choose it for it's current benefits.  To connect these to Lewis, learning would be considered an intrinsic good, while education would be extrinsic.  Those who are intrinsic are curious, effective in their values, and are able to make meaning from experiences.  Those who are extrinsically motivated are concerned with the consequences, rewards or punishments for their behavior (such as the grades they will receive, or the job they can get with certain training).  

Lewis also gets into the question of what defines humanity, and the difference between being a human and a candidate for humanity.  He says that "knowledge is the natural food of the human mind [and] that those who specially pursue it are being specially human, and that their activity is good in itself, besides being always honourable and sometimes useful to the whole society."  According to this description, you can be a human as soon as you've found the maturity to seek knowledge for it's own sake... then you will truly be considered human, rather than simply a "candidate for humanity." 

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