Scalia on ‘Uncredentialed Wonder’

Over at First Things, Elizabeth Scalia has an interesting column on the dangers of valuing “credentials” over a curious mind:

To become educated is a marvelous thing; to have the opportunity to study is a privilege too many take for granted. But have we become a society that places too much weight on the attainment of a diploma, which sometimes indicates nothing more than an ability to keep to a schedule and follow a syllabus, and underappreciates the ability to wonder, to strike out on an individual path, and to learn on one’s own? When did non-conformists become so unromantic and undervalued? . . .

It is a wonderful thing to sit in a classroom and grow in knowledge, if one is in fact doing that, but often it seems that degrees should be awarded in going through the motions; they come without a genuine expansion of thought, or an enlargement of wonder. And, to paraphrase Gregory of Nyssa, it’s the wondering that begets the knowing.

It does seem as though progressively higher degrees are now seen as the norm for everyone, regardless of what path in life one might take. The trick at all levels of learning is cultivating that sense of wonder, of curiosity about the world around us. Whether that’s what is happening in education today, though, is debatable.

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Margaret Cabaniss is the former managing editor of Crisis Magazine. She joined Crisis in 2002 after graduating from the University of the South with a degree in English Literature and currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland. She now blogs at SlowMama.com.

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