I gladly come back to the theme of the absurdity of our education: its end has not been to make us good and wise but learned. And it has succeeded. It has not taught us to seek virtue and to embrace wisdom: it has impressed upon us their derivation and their etymology. We know how to decline the Latin word for virtue: we do not know how to love virtue. Though we do not know what wisdom is in practice or from experience we do know the jargon off by heart.
The Complete Essays, II:17 “On Presumption” [tr. Screech (1987)]
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Those masters who allege the incapacity of tender years, only tacitly reproach their own: those who are incapable of teaching young minds to reason, pretend that it is impossible. The truth is they are fonder of making their pupils talk well than think well; and much the greater number are better qualified to give praise to a ready memory than a sound judgment.
The History of England; in a Series of Letters from a Nobleman to His Son, Letter 1 (1764)
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The most dangerous type of atheism is not theoretical atheism, but practical atheism — that’s the most dangerous type. And the world, even the church, is filled up with people who pay lip service to God and not life service. And there is always a danger that we will make it appear externally that we believe in God when internally we don’t. We say with our mouths that we believe in him, but we live with our lives like he never existed. That is the ever-present danger confronting religion. That’s a dangerous type of atheism.
“Rediscovering Lost Values,” sermon, Second Baptist Church, Detroit (28 Feb 1954)
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Each second we live is a new and unique moment of the universe, a moment that will never be again. And what do we teach our children in school? We teach them that two and two make four and that Paris is the capital of France. When will we also teach them what they are? We should say to them: Do you know what you are? You are a marvel. You are unique. In all the years that have passed, there has never been another child like you. And look at your body — what a wonder it is! Your legs, your arms, your clever fingers, the ways you move. You may become a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo, a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything. Yes, you are a marvel. And when you grow up, can you then harm another who is, like you, a marvel? You must work — we must all work — to make the world worthy of its children.
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