The Proper Purpose of Education (St. Augustine) Essay

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Philosophy I The Proper Purpose of Education Throughout Confessions the author, Saint Augustine, puts a strong emphasis on the value of education and where it can be derived from in order for the growth of the person. He delves further into the education he received from the time he was a young boy and beyond; his education would not have been made possible without his parents, Monica and Patrick, both of which had made several financial sacrifices in order to provide Augustine with the best possible education they could afford. Yet even though Augustine obtained this classical pagan education he found that there were a number of negative aspects to it, which furthermore establishes the important and irreplaceable quality of a religious and moral education. What was most valuable in Augustine’s discussion of education was his emphasis on the limitations that solely a classical education can provide, and how the absence of an education rich in religion and morality can lead a person to make sinful decisions. Furthermore, the ideal education would be that which has a combination of classical and religious principles in order for young minds to be able to make moral decisions and also have the proper rhetorical and oratory skills, with the combination of the two a person can lead a rich fulfilling and moral life. Augustine often recollected back to when he read Greek stories as a boy in school and pointed to the fact that he had been gleaning a sinful nature from these stories. Augustine alluded to the fact that it is counterproductive to read and recognize others sins, like in the Greek fables, and remain oblivious to one’s own mistakes. Perhaps had he been able to have had religious direction in his life at the beginning of his schooling, he would have become aware his sins, and maybe had been able to use that religious direction in order to abstain from frequently sinning. “What is more pitiable than a wretch without pity for himself who weeps over the death of Dido dying for love of Aeneas, but not weeping over himself dying for his lack of love for you, my God, light of my heart, bread of the innermost mouth of my soul… I had no love for you and ‘committed fornication against you’ (Ps. 72: 27),” (Augustine 15). Augustine makes a point of speaking to how unfortunate it was that literary fiction was more moving to him as a young man rather than the almighty grace of God. “See the exact care with which the sons of men observe the conventions of letters and syllables received from those who so talked before them. Yet they neglect the eternal contracts of lasting salvation received from you,” (Augustine 20). He is clearly pointing to the fact that the piece that was missing from his education as a boy was that of God and religion; it was not fulfilling enough to have classical knowledge alone, there is a moral and spiritual portion that develops the person and allows for righteous decision making.
Augustine illuminates the fact that a classical education alone is not enough for a person to lead a fulfilling life outside of the material world. “Behavior does not change when one leaves behind domestic guardians and schoolmasters, nuts and balls and sparrows, to be succeeded by prefects and kings, gold, estates, and slaves, as one advances to later stages in life,” (Augustine 22). Augustine listed his sins as a schoolboy, and then he went on to say that the things he was learning in school were solely for the success that comes later on in life; this success he is speaking of is material. He is alluding to the lack of God and moral compass in his life as a young boy, and how the purpose of the classical education consequently led him in a greedy sinful direction up until his conversion. “Certainly the knowledge of letters is not as deep-seated in the consciousness as the imprint of the moral conscience, that he is doing to another what he would not wish done to himself…