Aristotle once reasoned, “It is absurd to hold that any man should be ashamed of an inability to defend himself with his limbs, but not ashamed of an inability to defend himself with speech and reason; the use of rational speech is more distinctive of a human being than the use of his limbs.” Rational thought and speech is a defining characteristic of mankind. All creatures possess the basic instincts necessary for survival, but mankind possesses far more than instinct. They are able to think rationally, which in turn produces the beauty and complexity present in every human life. To retain this quality, we should be mindful of cultivating rational thought and its applications for our posterity. The education of our children should thus be primarily focused the mastery of the techniques and processes of learning.
Currently society has demonstrated a lack of desire and ability to teach in this manner. Instead of teaching students the methods of learning, many schools simply focus on rote memorization and surface level comprehension of material. Westminster must stand against this trend.
Westminster should be mindful of endowing its students through education with the ability to reason with eloquence and to encourage virtue and honor among them. Westminster should seek to cultivate students who have an understanding of the learning process. This skill creates a coveted perception of the world and cultivates the ability to reason rationally and independently.
In her essay “The Lost Tools of Learning,” Dorothy Sayers comments about the danger of lack of original thought: “They (students) do not know what the word mean…they are prey to the words and their emotions instead of being masters of them in their intellects. We have lost the tools of learning, and in their absence can only make a botched and piecemeal job of it.” When teachers or professors concentrate on the absorption of material, the student gleans no benefit. Instead, this practice subjects the student to the manipulation of the world around them. If a student is instructed only in the required content and discouraged to question the process, then most students will never ask the crucial question: Why?
The modern world was formed because many brilliant men and women defied convention. However, the world remains corrupt and hurling students into the world with no aptitude for original thought is irresponsible. They fall prey to those who seek to constrain those who pursue change. Therefore, it is imperative that Westminster be mindful of encouraging original thought and equipping students with the eloquence to convey these thoughts. Students, upon being released into the world, must be motivated by original thought and armed with eloquence to create lasting change.
Although Westminster must be ever vigilant that their students receive the gift of thought, they must also be conscious of the caliber of people that the university creates. The students must be able to think independently, but also should demonstrate virtue. Once again, Aristotle reasons, “Talent is given. Potential is realized. You are what you repeatedly do. Excellence is, therefore, not an act but a habit.” The rigor of the classroom favors those who strive for excellence. It is not accidental and is always well deserved. Therefore, those who pursue and achieve this quality of excellence are benefitted in more ways than one. Of course, there is the reward of the achievement, but there is also an unintended consequence. Perseverance and determination are produced. These will in turn produce men and women with the capability and desire to attain integrity. They will enter the world with the ability to substantially impact those around them through their virtue. The rigor of the study will create those who will impact society through actions of virtue and character.
Westminster must be mindful of the students they are producing. They must be equipped with the ability to think with originality and to effectively convey their thoughts to the rest of humanity. Although this is essential, the university must not neglect creating through a rigorous education the standard of character and honor for their students to uphold. These two ambitions will generate students who will be able to permanently impact society. They will be able to reason with eloquence and communicate with virtue. Endowed with reason and eloquence, the students of Westminster will be able to defend their ideas, beliefs, and higher quality of society and community.