Different Class: Do We Learn Better From Books Or Teachers?

Different Class: Do We Learn Better From Books Or Teachers?
7:30 PM on 9 May 2012 at The Wheatsheaf

with Andrew McGettigan

In a time when a vast amount of information is available online, are we better off teaching ourselves through study or going to an expert for instruction? Is teaching yourself more effective, more creative or more authentic than learning from someone else? Are gurus dangerous or is learning at its best always a social encounter? Is reading mostly good for picking up facts or can it have a more profound impact on our lives and our dealings with others? Do the answers to all these questions depend on what sort of thing is being learned, on the learner or on something else?

Continuing our series on the philosophy of education we’ll be reading part of Augustine’s Confessions, a key document in the development of Western culture. It’s an important early claim to the centrality of the book (rather than the “master”) in Western education. In these autobiographical sections of the Confessions, Augustine describes how he turned his life around and gave up the dissolute habits of his youth owing to the influence of reading about the lives of others. Tacitly criticising Plato’s conception of education, Augustine develops a very modern conception of the will and addiction whose influence can still be seen in today’s self-help and therapy industries. Many of the topics it raises follow directly from our last session on the Meno but if you missed that one please don’t feel you can’t come along.

The session will focus on books 5-8 only (don’t worry: the “books” are more like short chapters). You can find the text online in HTML format here or here; it’s also available as a paper copy for less than a fiver. You might also enjoy the episode of In Our Time devoted to the Pelagian Controversy, Augustine’s role in which helped him to define his mature position.

Click here for some notes on the text.

More information about Different Class on its Meetup pages.