Aquinas, like his predecessors, had an ardent interest in education, knowledge and reality, the concept of the soul as rational and immortal, and the interrelatedness of free will and human action. He believed that the greatest knowledge one could have was the knowledge of God. With this in mind he placed a great value on reason but he considered it to be less reliable than revelation when it comes to knowing God. Aquinas believed that revelation was the surest way to know God and to know his teachings. In the absence of revelation, however, one can reach God through reason and the use of rigorous logic. Thus, for Aquinas there were two routes to knowledge: revelation and human reason.
Aquinas’s contributions to education are huge. He sees the parents as the primary educators especially the mother who acts as the child’s first teacher. After family comes the church which too acts as a primary influence on a young child; both family and church was to teach the child moral behaviour according to the principles of divine law. In the Summa Contra Gentiles (III), Aquinas gives a brief analysis of teaching which he describes as assisting someone else to come to know or understand something. Some persons, Aquinas explains, are capable of independent discoveries or of starting a deductive path that eventually ends with knowledge. They are able to do this without the aid of a teacher, while others may possess the potential for knowledge but lack the means of making it actual. In other words, Thomas agrees that knowledge exists in potency in the students, but this does not mean that the student has the knowledge, but that he can acquire it if something acts upon it. These individuals must learn from the instructions of others, therefore it is the teacher’s task to use language in the form of lectures or discussion to demonstrate to the student the reasoning needed to arrive at knowledge of the topic under consideration. In other words, to teach is to instruct and to learn through instruction is to follow the path marked out by the teacher.
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