Friday is for Rhetoric! Learning specialists and teachers alike have a debate over how to prepare students. Do we learn best by going really deeply into a few topics? Do we do best by studying really broadly? Quintilian shows us that the question is a very old one.
Quintilian, and J.S. Watson. Institutes of Oratory. Edited by Lee Honeycutt, 2010. Kindle Electronic Edition. Book I Chapter 12
The question of an appropriate number of studies to be engaged in simultaneously now arises. Can children actually work with a large number of disciplines? “These reasoners do not understand how great the power of the human mind is, that mind which is so busy and active and which directs its attention, so to speak, to every quarter . . . at the same moment” (Quintilian I.12.2). On the contrary, “variety itself refreshes and recruits the mind” (Quintilian I.12.4). Quintilian also observes that adults are slower to learn than children, both in formal and informal settings. Furthermore, adults do work with an end of gain, while children seek out knowledge and understanding for their own sakes (Quintilian I.12.17).
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