I don’t know whether anyone is trying to teach freethinking these days.  Both of my examples are from the past.  I suspect, however, that the authority factor between student and teacher makes it difficult.

My first example is from an era when freethought was not encouraged at all.  In the education of John Emerson Roberts, in the 1870s, the focus was on orthodoxy.  There was no acknowledgement of Darwin.  And the method?  Here is what one textbook author said about how to study:

            Let the lesson which was recited on one day be invariably reviewed on the day succeeding. . . . .As soon as any considerable progress has been made in the work, let review from the beginning be commenced. This should comprehend for one exercise as much as had been previously recited in two or three days; . . . As soon as the whole portion thus far recited has been reviewed, let a new review be commenced, and continued in the same manner; and thus successively until the work is completed. . . .(Francis Wayland, Elements of Moral Science)

What a dreadful way of learning to think!  Yet, my own education was not much better.  I made it through the Ph. D. in Classical Archaeology without learning to think for myself.  Later I learned about alternative theories about goddesses and lost history.  But this was little more than replacing a new “orthodoxy” for the old.

Dr. Roberts changed his ideas as he continued to read new material after he left school.  When did I become a freethinker?  I’m still trying to pinpoint that change – it was a slow process.

More on Dr. Roberts’s new ideas to come.  And for more on the man himself, see Books page.


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