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On Being and Becoming in Devotion

By Galina Krasskova

I was talking to one of my professors recently and we were lamenting the sad state of education in this country. We see it specifically with our Latin classes, since so many of the skills that once would have been basic to any young scholar’s education from day one are now sorely missing. One of those, perhaps the most crucial, is the art of memory. (I’m going somewhere with this, I promise!). Students don’t memorize anymore. It’s become a dirty word. I once got into a rather heated argument with a high school teacher when I quoted a Latin aphorism, one that turns up in quite a few cultures (I first learned it in Russian): “repetition is the mother of learning.” Oh no, she opined, that is awful. It stifles creativity. It doesn’t teach critical thinking wah wah wah. I, having come from a ballet background, where you can be as creative as you want once you have disciplined yourself to high technique by daily, ongoing repetition, laughed in her face. It explains so much about our educational culture. There’s so little understanding that careful, thoughtful, thorough repetition is one of the keys to both learning and excellence. By the time students get to me, while they are ready and willing, most have never had to exercise their faculties of memory and they struggle, unable to master the paradigms and morphology of Latin grammar without a great deal of pain. It’s not that they don’t want to commit to memory, it’s that they don’t know how. Lately, I’ve been pondering the effect these attitudes may have on our devotional lives.

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