Montaigne’s own unorthodox childhood education played a role in shaping the way he thought about learning and about life. He spent his infancy in the countryside, his childhood immersed in Latin, and his adolescence in classes with older students at the Collège de Guyenne. Because of his father’s nontraditional ideas about education, as Bakewell states, Montaigne “grew up to be an independent-minded adult, following his own path in everything rather than deferring to duty and discipline” (55). He was a man who thought differently about the world around him and was comfortable with and successful in writing not only about something different, himself, but in a way that had never been done before, the personal essay. Montaigne’s nonconformity to social norms in academic upbringing and writing led me to wonder, what would he be like as a teacher? What does Montaigne believe about the acquisition of knowledge? Where would he fall under some different paradigms of teaching and learning?
STUDENT MINDS ARE EMPTY VESSELS INTO WHICH INSTRUCTORS POUR THEIR WISDOM.
In a traditional model of education, students are uncritical receivers of knowledge. They sit in the classroom, hastily taking down notes from a lecture or textbook, memorizing the information just long enough to regurgitate facts back on an exam or term paper. Seventeenth century English philosopher John Locke describes this paradigm of education as one where students are empty slates to be filled with the knowledge from their instructors. The minds of students are like “white paper, or wax, to be moulded and fashioned as one pleases” (Locke 179). Montaigne also explains this paradigm...
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...s to think for yourself and question everything, and Montaigne demonstrates how inquiry has affected his own life. The one piece of this pedagogy that does not seem to fit my conception of Montaigne as an educator is that the information comes from an instructor, or perhaps classical texts, to the student. This chain of information still has a very top-down approach and perhaps limits what we as learners are exposed to, even if we are thinking about and challenging the information we receive. There is also no room for anyone to make their own knowledge since everything is passed down from one to another. Montaigne certainly discovered that information can be gathered on your own by watching the world around you and learning from the experiences of ourselves and others. If this is the case, then what sort of educational method might be a solution to this problem?
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