When I was a teenager my mother came home one day and said she was going to do a PhD in literature. She wanted to write about George Herbert, a great Christian poet from the 17th century. For the next few years my mother studied George Herbert’s poems, lovingly working over every line and syllable. You could see that reading poetry really made her come alive. She was in her element, a fish in water.
And because my mother likes to talk, she shared all her discoveries with me. Every week she had something new to talk about. She wasn’t trying to teach me anything. She was just enjoying herself, doing something she loved, and sharing it with anyone who would listen.
Most healthy adolescents in Queensland have never heard of anyone named George Herbert. But by the time my mother had graduated with her PhD, I knew many of Herbert’s poems by heart. They had become as familiar to me as the pots and pans in our kitchen. Walking to school sometimes I would revolve one of his poems in my mind, examining it from different angles, admiring the way it had been put together.
At the time I didn’t understand what was happening to me. But looking back on it now it is all very clear. My mother’s love of poetry was as infectious as the flu, and I had caught it. I had become a student of literature. Before I went to university, before I enrolled in any degree, I had already received the most formative educational experience of my life. I had discovered the existence of poetry. I had learned that the best reading is slow reading: the kind of reading my mother was doing when she carefully contemplated the poems of George Herbert, wrestling with them over months and even years and never letting go until they had conferred their hidden blessing.
When I think about education today, I think of this experience and of the mysterious process by which my mother’s love of poetry became my own.
Great educators are the ones who love something just because it’s there – a poem, a period of history, the anatomy of ants, or whatever – and who devote such loving attention to it that other people start paying attention too. When you see somebody gazing intently into the sky, you can’t help taking a look as well just to find out what’s there. My mother spent years of her life gazing intently at poems, and eventually I followed her gaze and discovered for myself what all the fuss was about. I began to love what she loved – and this love has shaped the whole course of my life.
This is why liberal arts education is so life-changing. It’s a method of education that isn’t based on filling our heads with information. It’s about learning how to pay attention to worthwhile things. Attention leads to love, and love draws us out beyond ourselves into a wider world. It makes us more fully human, more alive, than we were before.
What’s new at Millis?
It has been an exciting few weeks as students have begun a new year at the Millis Institute. At our matriculation ceremony, we welcomed the new liberal arts students and formally received them into the scholarly community. The ceremony was held outdoors under the blessing of the kookaburras and the eucalyptus trees. Students wrote their names in the matriculation book and received their academic robes from Dr Jeannie Trudel, the President of CHC; and Dr Rod St-Hill, Vice President (Academic), closed the proceedings with the Scholar's Prayer by the 13th-century theologian Thomas Aquinas.
Last week students and faculty enjoyed our first formal hall of 2018. We proceeded into the dining hall in academic robes, where we shared a meal and heard from our guest speaker, Dr Jeannie Trudel. During dessert it was announced that four Millis students have been awarded CHC scholarships of $2,500 each. With the support of these scholarships, the students will travel to the UK this year to participate in the Oxford Summer School program, where they will take courses in literature, philosophy, and history – all as part of their Bachelor degree at the Millis Institute.
In other news, enrolments are now open for our new postgraduate degree, the Graduate Diploma in the Liberal Arts. The unit on “Thinking Logically: Foundations of Liberal Arts Study” is available in intensive mode during the mid-year winter semester; while the units “The Examined Life in Modern Culture” and “Thinking Theologically: Foundations for Interpreting Western Civilisation” will be available in second semester.
If you’re looking to join a vibrant learning community where you can deepen your thinking, read great books, and explore the big ideas, the Graduate Diploma in the Liberal Arts might just be for you! Contact email@example.com for more details.This is a text block. You can use it to add text to your template.