Pope Francis endorsed MY book, too!

For some time now we’ve all seen how much Pope Francis reiterates the central theme and problem of idolatry treated at length in Elizabeth Scalia’s book, Strange Gods. He even “endorsed” it! (I endorse it too, by the way, and hope to give a full review of it here very soon.) Nathaniel Peters agrees in his recent review of Lumen Fidei, at First Things.

Much to my surprise and delight, I discovered that Francis took time to endorse my own book, A Primer for Philosophy and Education, too, during his address at the slum in Rio de Janeiro today. He said the following about education:

 …integral education, which cannot be reduced to the mere transmission of information for purposes of generating profit…

(Read the full text.)

In my book, I make a strong distinction between education and schooling; and I also distinguish between information and understanding. I argue that education cannot be reduced to informational learning, it must lead to understanding, wisdom, and love. Here’s a snippet:

We live in the Information Age, the age of Google and Wikipedia. Yet, even though information and data abound, wisdom is in short supply. We seem to know-about everything but actually know very little. Knowledge and its progenies, like science and technology, proliferate, but understanding seems scarce as ever.

Leroy Huizenga, a professor at the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota, and a weekly columnist at First Things, raised the same issue as Francis regarding education in his recent, generous review of my book. He writes:

…most students come in (and many leave) with the assumption that education is merely career preparation: having a college degree shows prospective employers you’re enough of a serious human being to have jumped through hoops for four years to secure a degree, and majoring in something should get you an interview for something in that field, or get you into graduate school in that field. And so many students are more concerned with passing classes with acceptable grades than really diving into the subject matter of a given course… Rocha brings his student readers back into contact with a classical pedagogical tradition, in which education is not dispassionate mastery of certain facts requisite for worldly success but rather a cultivation of the mind in the pursuit of the love of wisdom and the development (yes) of virtue.

I am very happy to provide review and desk copies for college and high school instructors and I especially want to thank all of you who have supported this project thusfar.

All joking and shameless self-promotion aside, Francis’ words today filled me with a renewed sense of purpose about this somewhat idiosyncratic little book — and my vocation as a professor and a writer. To memorialize it, and to show my solidarity with the Catholic youth gathered for World Youth Day 2013, I would like to offer three free copies to the first three people 18 or under (I’ll take your word for it) who request a copy, via the book’s promotional site.

  • Kemp

    1) Surely, you don’t believe that someone who makes a public statement on a topic is “endorsing” a specific author’s entire book (where said topic is also mentioned).

    2) $11 for 45 pages the size of a DVD case with large font. This is an essay, not a book.

    3) The profession of Education has so turned-in on itself that obsession over the “process” of learning has supplanted the requirement of actually mastering “content”. You correctly observe the symptom by saying that “understanding seems scarce as ever”, but blame it on the wrong etiology: too much informational learning. Quite the opposite. Teachers, all too often, lack enough information to fully understand what is being taught; both higher- and lower-achieving students miss-out when the teacher’s narrow mastery of content prohibits up/down-scaling and the ability to approach a topic from different angles.

    4) College professors are deluded into thinking that “understanding, wisdom, and love” (add Huizenga’s “virtue”) are taught/acquired in a class that meets 2 hours/week for 15 weeks. Students should not pay $23K/year for professors who need 1 hour to cover a few important points that can be adequately conveyed in 5 minutes. Save the $70K in debit at graduation and volunteer with the Missionaries of Charity if abundant cultivation of virtue and love is your primary focus. Professors who long to be thought of as the student’s font of love, wisdom, and virtue — rather than as a guide to content — have issues. Worry less about being special to students and more about content mastery.

    5) “Dispassionate mastery” is oxymoronic, and a straw man. A master cello maker becomes master precisely because of his passion for all aspects of the instrument. The student and master are laser-focused on the instrument, not each other, and not on whatever love or virtue might happen to spring forth over the long haul. Those are secondary. Yes, the student will engage in “dispassionate” tasks throughout his training. But there is a larger purpose. The student sees the master’s commitment to the cello (the content) and it fuels his own pursuit. The best teachers are those who see their teaching as a secondary natural extension of THEIR OWN pursuit of some primary focus.

    • SamRocha

      1) It’s a joke. Scalia made a similar one about her book and this was a play on that joke. Sad that THAT has to be clarified.

      2) Think what you want about it, and call it whatever you wish. In the end, I would have liked to make it cheaper, but printing it in color demanded the higher (but not prohibitive) price. I believe that the quality of the work is worth the price, and so do many, many others. It is actually a bit smaller than a DVD case and the retail price is higher ($14.50). But I see the short length and even the larger print, as one of its greatest strengths.

      3, 4, 5) If you read the book (send me an e-mail and I’ll send you a free copy!), I think you’d find less about school-related tid-bits of instruction and more about education in the widest sense. This book is not about school-teaching. In a classroom, however, I think there is potential for transformative experiences that go far beyond the scope of informational or even content learning. But the details are finer than I can put it here.

    • Petro

      I love how this comment criticizing the post demonstrates the accuracy of the post’s main points. A tip of the hat to you!