By Larry Monks
Thomas Arnold, one of the most renowned headmasters of Rugby School, an independent liberal arts school in Rugby, Warwickshire, England, took a broad view of education from the developing utilitarian ideal of his day. Though he was deeply impressed with the importance of learning subject matter, he realized that it was only a part of education, and that the great aim all together was the formation of a boy’s character. As a boy grows in virtue, Arnold reasoned, he becomes stronger in body, mind and soul. His primary focus begins to turn away from tempting superfluities towards discovering beauty, truth and wisdom in the world. This discovery, Arnold argued, is of primary importance because from this all “practical” purposes of education simply become a natural result of the greater end. In Arnold’s day, and even more so today, boys struggle as they come to discover that striving for all that is good and virtuous is what ultimately leads them to become who they are meant to be. This is what a liberal arts education accomplishes—the formation of the whole boy, which is something that the main character in Carlo Collodi’s classic Pinocchio ardently seeks yet initially misses due to his ignorance and submission to his passions.
The notion that each person is solely responsible for his or her own fate, his or her own success or failures, is a tempting one, especially in a highly (indeed, some might say too highly) individualized society such as our own. But this is not only misleading, it is harmful to the very virtue for which the individual most longs; it tempts us towards censoriousness regarding others, and vanity regarding ourselves. It’s easy for us to blame others harshly for their faults: this man is greedy, this woman has a short-temper, this child is peevish. And it’s just as easy (if not easier) for us to become puffed up on account of our own (perceived) virtues: I am patient, I am hardworking, I am kind, I am not like these others. Continue reading Pinocchio and Prevenient Grace