The School

If its object were scientific and philosophical discovery, I do not see why a University should have students.

John Henry Newman (1852)

Schools disseminate what is known. They are sites of the distribution, not the production, of knowledge. They are organs of the propagation of knowledge, or, if you will, propaganda organizations for science. In their classrooms, the same messages are tirelessly repeated; in their laboratories, the same experiments are endlessly replicated. Only rarely is something new discovered in these activities, except by the student who had been innocent of an idea. They maintain our knowledge; they are the institutions of our intuitions. It is true that universities, and especially research universities, are more than just schools, but the important thing is that they are also schools; they must devote some of their energies to reproducing the past. Some time ago, it was decided that, at a certain level, it was best to have those who are working at the frontiers of knowledge carry out this transmission, and there is, to my mind, a particular wisdom in this arrangement. Since there can be no genuine learning without curiosity, it is proper that students are exposed to teachers who have conditions under which to satisfy theirs. “Whatever satisfies the soul is truth,” said Whitman. In that sense, schools keep our souls functioning properly; they are conservatories of the spirit.

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