What is better? Filling a person’s mind with a bucketload of facts, figures and information, or teaching their heart to be kind and loving? I think the answer is clear to us all. Love is infinitely more important than knowledge.
Much better a saintly uneducated person than a person with multiple degrees and a selfish heart.
Of course, what Aristotle is suggesting is that we do both. Perhaps he says this because so often education focusses almost exclusively on knowledge, or very little on life wisdom.
So the question arises: how to we also educate the heart? What is it anyway?
Education of the heart seems to mean helping us to love and serve the right things. These right things above all include how we treat other people. Aristotle knows that the most important thing we can do in life is learn how to get on with people. As Dale Carnegie said so many years ago: it’s all about “how to win friends and influence people.”
The most important dimension of our life simply has to be human relationships. All the education in the world will seem meaningless if we live a lonely, isolated life, devoid of nourishing human company and fellowship.
Perhaps we need great teachers of human relationships as well as schools and universities. I’m sure that’s the role traditionally occupied by parents for their children, and religion for everybody. Unfortunatelt religion has, by and large, let us down, massively.
We have witnessed so many religious leaders in recent years who have torn our hearts apart with their infamous behaviour, rather than inspire us to higher spiritual values. I personally feel this deeply, as I am a retired clergyman. We all demand, and quite rightly, that the beautiful heart values taught from the pulpit, should be reflected in the ongoing behaviour of the preacher himself.
If religion is not doing its job, then who do we turn to for “heart education”? Perhaps that where the huge “personal growth/self-help” market comes in to play. All this popular psychology attempts to teach some values, as well as material success strategies. Indeed such literature often insists that material success is impossible without heart values.
As the quote reminds us, the human race has always realised that authentic education has to speak to the whole person, mind, heart and soul. Ancient religions, ancient philosophers, ancient gurus knew this only too well. Aristotle of course is a classic example, as we see in this quote.
I’m afraid that the evidence we have here in the Western world suggests that we have tipped the balance far too much in the direction of mind, very often at the expense of heart. Yes, both knowledge and heart are great human dimensions to develop.
If one had to choose between them, then perhaps we should choose heart rather than mind.
P.S. What’s your feeling about education? Please let us know by leaving a comment. It will help others.