2010-06-24 / View From the Middle

Graduation Time! Roger Bacon Had A Word For It!

View From The Middle
By Charles Rogers

L et me take this personal opportunity to congratulate my grandson Michael Rogers, who graduates this very day from Old Bridge High School in New Jersey with honors and at the top of his class. He’s going on to Syracuse University (on a full scholarship) this year and will be majoring in — guess what? Communications!

I hope you don’t mind sharing in my pride in this guy who has worked so hard and made his parents Chris and Phyllis, his younger sister, Dana (another winner!), and his “Grampa Chuck” (duh, that’s me!) so proud! ***************** R oger Bacon, the Franciscan philosopher and scholar said, when speaking of education and knowledge, that it is insatiable and, at the same time interchangeable with appetite. That sounds reasonable, even for a friar who, in the 13th century, followed some of the principles of alchemy, but still retained his priestly honor.

I know of this not because I’m a scholar myself — far from it — but I happened to go to, and graduate from, Roger Bacon High School in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Oh, yes, we were taught by Franciscan priests. For those not familiar with that order, these are the “friars” you see in the movies, the “monks” wearing the long brown robes belted with ropes that featured a long extension with three knots separated equally down its length. The knots indicated Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience and other steps in solitudinous prayer, but we knew the knots were specifically put there so they would put a little more emphasis when the teachers would smack us students across the back or the hands when we needed discipline.

I know this sounds as if I grew up in the Middle Ages (I’m not THAT old!), but the educational philosophy taught by Bacon and his successors — and the methods of teaching — continue to be successful lo those many years. The joke among graduates through the years was, of course, “Sure it was successful. And I have the welts to prove it!”

It was (is) indeed a good school, though. And I’m proud to have been a student there. The curriculum was “old school” stuff, including subjects that, well, I don’t think I’ve heard of too much elsewhere — at least in recent years. When did you last hear of students failing a grade because they got a lower mark than 70 in Latin? How about Shakespeare? We were also taught — rather we learned (by way of the accursed rope) — about respect and consideration and manners, too.

And it was by design that the logo inscribed by the architect (it was gothic architecture, of course) above the entrance to the school building said, in Latin: “Mens Sana In Corpore Sano”, which translates to “A Sound Mind In A Sound Body.”

That was the philosophy not only of Roger Bacon himself but eventually by we who lived by it. When we were being taught of the writings of William Shakespeare, particular emphasis was put on his collaboration with education when he was quoted, endlessly: “Ignorance is the curse of God; knowledge is the wing wherewith we fly to heaven.”

As we graduated, we were grateful to have learned some of these fundamentals of life. Going on to college became a more natural process for many of us, thanks to the four years of professional, wise guidance. I am grateful for that kind of education, not necessarily because of its conservatism but because of its emphasis on expanding my mind.

We should all be thankful to our teachers, especially at this time of graduation. We’ll look back and remember either individuals or the schools themselves and, perhaps, smile inwardly with satisfaction.

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