Give Yourself a “D”

Pedagogically, you might want to impress on a student the miserable state of his mind. You might want to reveal to him the chasm separating his level of understanding from the thinkers of the ages. You do this, not out of malice, but because you sense rare possibilities in him, and take your task to be that of cultivating in the young man (or woman) a taste for the most difficult studies. Such studies are likely to embolden him against timid conventionality, and humble him against the self satisfaction off the age, which he wears on his face. These are the pedagogical uses of the “D”. Matthew Crawford

51PlFrZwmxL._SX324_BO1,204,203,200_Years ago, this passage by Matthew Crawford arrested me. I was a young man newly introduced to the manual trades, and the book was on manual labor and the intellectual life. It was multifaceted, to say the least, so I’m sure I only understood ten percent of the work. However, this paragraph has haunted me ever since, in a good sort of way. In the midst of a detailed argument that the American soul needs to be in touch with the world through skilled labor, we get snatches of wonderful (and, admittedly, verbose) passages like these. These kinds of gems were important for the book because they reminded me that Crawford was experienced in the classical intellectual trades as well as the manual trades. Okay, Crawford would probably croak at making a distinction between ‘manual’ and ‘intellectual’, but I think you’ll understand my meaning. Let’s just say that his shirts have collars with blue and white stripes.

Since the title of this post has to do with the quote above, let me get to the point. Crawford’s point about the necessity of humbling the student’s mind (that’s us) is instructive for Christians seeking to intentionally create, permeate, and model culture for the larger world. Before beginning any great endeavors, whether in picking up a trade, studying Scripture, or raising our children, we must seek to grasp how little we actually know. As Crawford would say, impress on yourself the miserable state of your mind. This may not be good for our egos, but Crawford is pointing to a crucial principle of a classical (and I would add, Christian) life of learning: the more we learn about truth, beauty, and the good, the more we will realize how little we know. The chasm that separates us from the greatest thinkers of the ages will become apparent. So, as students of Scripture and culture, many of us should do ourselves a favor and take Crawford’s advice: remind yourself that you’ve got lots to learn.

“For herein is the evil of ignorance, that he who is neither good nor wise is nevertheless satisfied with himself: he has no desire for that of which he feels no want.”  Socrates

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