Again we continue the series “The ends of education” and the “Ideal of the educated person”, from the perspective of the ‘Great Books of the Western World’, staying within the Roman period and Marcus Aurelius, who for my money can claim the title of father of graduate outcomes.
Roman Period – Marcus Aurelius
Marcus Aurelius possibly excuses the intolerably long lists of graduate outcomes favored by Universities when in his opening chapter he cites some 16 individuals, family, friends, and teachers who all through their engagement with him have taught certain life lessons and imparted certain qualities that he holds dear. And the 17th group he thanks is the gods, for having made provision of the other 16.
“To the gods I am indebted for having good grandfathers, good parents, a good sister, good teachers, good associates, good kinsmen and friends, nearly everything good.” P 241 (Book 11) second edition GBWW
The graduate outcomes he lists, or lessons that he has learned from significant individuals, include a cavalcade of virtues attained and vices avoided, together with a listing of sound choices. What is interesting however is it in not just this list of attributes but also the people responsible for imparting those attributes to him. It reads like an Oscar night thank you list that does not get edited short in any way.
For a contemporary consideration of graduate outcomes the interesting thing might be to note this attribution of who is responsible for what particular graduate outcome. For example, in terms of application in contemporary higher education does this mean that we expect certain faculties, and certain units to impart particular aspects of the list of graduate outcomes, or rather do we pretend that somehow they will all be covered in some way by every element of the university experience?
The ignorance that expects all things to do all element runs the risk of the old adage that gets posted up in communal kitchens in relation to dishes, “If every body thinks that it is somebodies job, nobody will do it.” Let me say too, if there are problems in the communal kitchen with dishes, there are certainly problems with graduate outcomes in our communal learning institutions.
Moving back to the text in regard to the 16 points they are in an abridged summary as follows:
1. Good morals and government of temper – Learnt from his grandfather.
2. Modesty and a manly character – Learnt from his father.
3. Piety, and abstinence from evil deeds and thoughts, and simple living – Learnt from his mother.
4. To spend well on education – Leant from his great grandfather.
5.Not to align with a party, to work hard, not to meddle and to avoid slander – Learnt from his governor.
6. To not be superstitious, harbor bitterness, be too passionate, to respect freedom of speech, value philosophy, and follow Grecian discipline – Learnt from Diognetus.
7. To be humble and learn, improving character and discipline, not to be speculative, nor to make a show of ones knowledge, or a show of ones benevolent acts. To have good manners and think deeply about matters, avoiding being too quick to support a position or determine the meaning of a book. – Learnt from Rusticus
8. The importance of free will and a steady purpose, and that reason is the primary faculty, as well as the importance of consistency in behavior and thought, and graciousness. – Learnt from Apollonius.
9. The need for a benevolent disposition and to govern ones family in a fatherly manner, having gravity with out affectation. Tolerating the ignorant, caring for friends, being free from passion and, noisy display or ostentation. – Learnt from Sextus.
10. To not be a faultfinder, and to be tolerant of those who are different in speech, (possibly foreigners in context and so this may be understood as a support for multi racial tolerance.). – Learnt from Alexander
11. To see duplicity and hypocrisy for what they are in fellow leaders. – Learnt from Fronto
12. Not to be to busy, pretend to be to busy, or say that I am too busy to others as an excuse. – Learnt from Alexander the Platonic.
13. To restore relationship with friends that I have a disagreement with, to speak well of my teachers, and to love my children. Learnt from Catulus.
14. To love my family, love truth and justice, to respect all, consider the rights of all as equal. To support freedom of speech and to respect and support government that works toward this. – Learnt from my brother Severus.
15. Self-government, focus, and cheerfulness in all circumstances – Learnt from Maximus
16. Mildness of temper and an unchangeable resolution in those things that have been determined, an avoidance of vainglory, a love of hard work and perseverance and a willingness to listen to those who want the common good. Firmness in fairness, self-control and a humility in regard to ones true place in the world, and a wiliness to forgive the failings of others. (The list continues substantially and is the longest entry, well worth reading in full.) – Learnt from his father
P 239-241 (Book 11) second edition GBWW
This is indeed a substantial list I will comment no further but leave space to reflect, and recommend reading this in the text directly.