Friday, December 2, 2016

The Docile Student

Even if students’ motives are mixed, and their ultimate reason for study is a high-paying job and early retirement, they seem willing to learn inasmuch as they work to master the material. According to [Fr. James] Schall, however, learning is not equivalent to passing exams. The docile student is one who wishes to learn the “truth of things” or “what is.” Wanting to know the truth of things is different from wanting to ace the test. …

The docile student does not merely accept whatever the teacher says, but tests and judges the truth of the explanation. Rather than passivity, teachability requires an active seeking and reaching for truth, even against the opinions of the teacher. The docile student demands proof, not necessarily in the sense of a demonstrated argument, but in the older sense of revealing the goodness (probus) of a thing, the way young athletes prove themselves on the field, or how the military tests weapons at a “proving ground.” Such proof demonstrates goodness, integrity, and worthwhileness. Docility may demand rigorous evidence, but ultimately it seeks goodness and worth. Actively willing to learn what is the case, the docile student tests and considers, deliberates and discerns. He or she does not merely wait for pronouncements to transcribe.

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