What was the influence of Augustine on education? Several ideas became dear to Augustine and assume a special place with him.
(i) He believes in sheer hard thinking in young people. Students should learn to value their own intellectual powers. "It is easy to be ignorant," he says, "learning always requires effort." School instruction alone is insufficient, for that merely gives knowledge from the outside of things. Students need to be critical thinkers, and to question everything with a serious purpose; they should in fact become their own teachers. Augustine says, "Reach to truth yourself."
(ii) Education is a quest for divine truth and a happiness that endures beyond space and time. Hence study must be directed to that inner understanding and confidence which come when faith is stirred. He says, "Search for God in a way you will be certain to find Him; you will find peace."
(iii) The search of the intellect for knowledge must be matched by learning how to love with the heart. Heart and mind work together.
(iv) Love belongs in the relationship of teacher and pupil. Love is necessary to awaken love; it educates the heart. Love seals the work of the teacher.
(v) Education takes place in a community because, Augustine says, "You only know by loving." A person is only truly know through friendship. Augustine teaches that we become free through mutual participation in one another's lives; we do not make ourselves free. "The person who will not have peace with others will not have it at all." So he gathers into community not for uniformity or blind coordination but for knowledge through loving. And he is aware that in community we achieve more than we could alone or in isolation.
(vi) Finally, Augustine sees no value in social or racial divisions among people. Instead, he is deeply conscious of the unity of the human race. Everyone, he believes, is called to the one dignity, the one destiny, the one Communion of peace. In revolutionary language he cut across the social framework of his time. In the face of the Roman consciousness of power and rigid class divisions (and the use of slaves), Augustine put forward an ideal that is communitarian and respectful of every person.
For contemporary education to be faithful to Augustine, it must resist social division and excessive economic differences among members of the human family. Its social emphasis must be the liberation of all in human society from any lack of justice that they face. Augustine believed the human community has a unity, a unity in Christ. He could see Christ as present and suffering in any suffering member of humanity. In summary, the relevant educational ideas of Augustine focus on: the power of the human mind, the search for God, education of the heart, love of teacher for pupil, knowing by loving (and therefore community), all persons sharing the same individual and social dignity. These beliefs constitute the ideals and challenges of Augustinian education. Augustine knew well what oppresses in life, and what liberates.
The spirit of education in Augustine
(This section about the spirit of Augustinian education was written for Augnet by a teacher in an Augustinian secondary school.)
The first impression that would strike a visitor entering an Augustinian school would be the friendliness among members of the community, and the obvious sense of people being companions to one another. Each person would feel valued. Each person is unique and is an important part of the tapestry. The image in Saint Paul of the body having many parts, each relying on the other, is central. This carries with it the responsibility of each person to use his or her talents, and not to hamper the achievements of others. There should also be humility. Humility recognises our humanity (both our talents and our weaknesses).
Together, with our talents and our weaknesses, we get through, drawn forward by the love of God. Humility finds expression in a tremendous sense of humour and honesty. Another impression that should strike a visitor to an Augustinian school is that the dominant ethos is communal, not institutional. A degree of being institutional is of course necessary, but it serves community. Augustine loved wisdom. It is a gift from God. An Augustinian school should have an obvious love of learning. Students and teachers should delight in seeking this treasure together. Learning does not come without great effort on the part of teachers and students, and with parent encouragement. (Augustine was a strong advocate of the contemporary concept of "learning throughout life".)
Its religious nature
The religious nature of an Augustinian school should be obvious. It is reflected in the physical environment and in its day-to-day life. Jesus is its foundation and goal. Augustine was engaged in the daily community and justice issues of his time, and so must an Augustinian school be involved. Our time in history is brief, but we have to play our part for the common good of those in the school community and in the broader community. These concerns are approached, however, from an educational perspective; the school should not lose its focus as an educational institution. In summary, an Augustinian school is communal, friendly, seeking faith, and engaged in the daily issues of life.
Photo Gallery For the Augnet gallery on the Augustinian Vicariate in West Papua, Indonesia (including the photograph above), click here.
The Education Theory of Augustine of Hippo. By George J. Yogis in April 2014. http://www.newfoundations.com/GALLERY/Augustine.html Self-knowledge and the Sciences in the Early Thinking of Augustine. A very scholarly article by Johannes Brachtendorf of Tübingen. Only for the brave! http://www.bu.edu/wcp/Papers/Medi/MediBrac.htm AN2402