The Liberty of Education, Pt. 2: Examining Vergerius’ Arguments


Education “records of the great achievements of men; the wonders of Nature; the works of Providence in the past,” according to Vergerius. As a result of students’ lack of attentiveness to their education, Vergerius discusses the solution to the next generation’s “ignorance towards wisdom”; specifically, he believes that the ideal education should contain the studies of history, theology, and literature to preserve the good life. In contrast to the ignorance of the students in his time, the liberty of education and learning is preached here by Vergerius.  Subsequently, Vergerius discusses the solution to the problem.  He observed the potency of education to contain the studies of history, theology, and literature to preserve the good life.

Here is a quick summary of each of the fields he discusses:

History:

History, according to Vergerius, manifests the usage of liberal studies and moral philosophy, as he states, “History, then, gives us the concrete examples of the precepts inculcated by philosophy….and what practical lessons we may draw from there for the present day” (543).  In effect, learning from past historical figures and their decisions would ultimately allow the next generation to avoid problems later in life. For instance, many of the Founders drew from the writings of Cicero, Cato, and many of the ancient Greco-Roman philosophers and their ideas of an ideal republic and the fight for true liberty.

Science:

Science, the study of processes in nature, was also cited as an important field of study.  Understanding scientific observations would allow the individual to prevent problems in the physical world.  This would be supported by observations of men such as Nicolas Copernicus and his observation of a world that revolved around the sun.

Theology:

Additionally, he discussed theology as an asset for the pursuit of education.  Specifically, he discusses “the works of Providence in the past” as best represented in the Bible.  Vergerius was convinced that spiritual maturity added to overall lifelong knowledge, and this is supported by men like Charlemagne, who argued the importance of discussing theology in schoolrooms.

Literature:

Finally, Vergerius discusses the study of literature.  As an underlying theme of his writing, he integrates the significance of expression. He rhetorically asks his audience, “What greater charm can life offer than this power of making the past, the present, and even the future, our own by means of literature?” Vergerius embodied the ideas previously discussed and concluded that literature would benefit the individual exploration of wisdom.

In essence, the concept of a classical liberal arts is heavily implied in his writing. In other words, he believes that a student’s education should encompass various fields of study to increase overall knowledge of the processes of this world, the operations of reason, and faith.

To read the text from Vergerius and his specific cases, please see this link: http://history.hanover.edu/courses/excerpts/111verg.html.

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