Bryan Smith presented some ideas on the importance of memory at the conference last summer. His talk was called Training the Inward Eye, and in it he showed how important memorizing good literature and rich texts is. Dr. Smith is one of those people with a deep learning that he politely veils for us so as not to create a barrier, but that shines out from time to time.
In this talk he discusses the need to counteract egotism (and how to do it), the limits of Gardner’s theory of Multiple Intelligences, and Cardinal Newman’s insight into the problem’s of “child-centered” teaching. He paraphrases Newman: “You have these students who will be very proud of doing what they like to do. And that’s not education.” Later he discusses the power and use of biography in our children’s curriculum.
While discussing the first of these (the need to counteract egotism), he discusses the myth of Narcissus. He says,
Here is a paradox… This is the great lesson to get children to see: if you sit like Narcissus and stare at yourself in the pool you will get not only a very narrow understanding of yourself and other people, you will get an incorrect understanding of yourself and other people. It is actually by turning away from yourself and looking at other peopel and their actions their opinions their experiences you will discover something. and its not going to be an incomprenedhisbe disconnedcted seris of things. you’re going to see patterns…. You will discover human nature, and when you discover human nature, and what you discover then is something about yourself – because you share that nature… one of the main aspects of education should be, “know thyself,” and you dont’ find it in the pool. That’s why CS Lewis said “To read literature is to know that you are not alone.
Modern thought seems to downplay the importance of getting children outside themselves. But our Lord tells us that we need to die to ourselves if we want to follow Him. Until we can do that, we can never know ourselves. We can’t know our powers, our limits, our inclinations, or our characteristic vices. Nor can we learn how to deal with sadness and grief without seeing how others do it. We can’t know ourselves until we leave the mirror.
Later he says, “We need to tell them that there is a human nature and that everyone shares it.” Indeed. We have more in common than the killer than we like to acknowledge.
Later again he talks about how to use good representational paintings to cultivate the “inward eye” to actually see, thus teaching them how to contemplate.
I highly recommend any of Bryan’s talks for their insights and practical, hands-on guidance. To specifically learn about this powerful idea of “training the inward eye,” get your hands on this CD by clicking here.