This piece originally appeared at Church Life Journal, a journal of the McGrath Institute for Church Life.


What lessons does the monastic approach to learning classical texts bear on our contemporary debates in education? Speaking to the College of Bernardins in Paris, Pope Benedict XVI used a beautiful image about the importance of monks singing well together to make an analogy about how we can learn to seek God together in education. Beautiful music is supposed to generate resonance—a feeling that stays with us; perhaps a gentle, uplifting feeling that gently calls our attention towards the sublime. But the opposite of resonance is dissonance, not being able to put together all the pieces of what you are hearing.

I had students in a seminar on education read Pope Benedict’s piece because dissonance in education today is rampant. Students rarely are exposed to classes that teach them how to integrate knowledge from various fields. Students accumulate tons of information, but they have no way to put together all the pieces of what they learn. They are also taught that the only truth is relativism about truth. Rather than education being a journey that forms us integrally as humans, education becomes a chore that (even if we succeed at it) fragments us.

My own studying of medieval monastic approach to learning has not led me to flee to the hills in a segmented community, but to develop an approach to education that has provided my students with precisely the kinds of resonance that learning is supposed to provide—an integration of knowledge that helps integrate one’s own very being in the world.

Continue reading at Church Life Journal.