Lesson XII: Alfred the Great and Western Education


Alfred The Great

Lesson XII: Alfred the Great and the Western Heritage of Education

Conducting: Steward. Opening Remarks/Announcements (Announce that at the end of the meeting we will: (i) sign up new members; (ii) ask for contributions on the website or take up a collection).

Steward: Explanation of Ethical Overlay. The purpose of the Ethical Overlay is to provide an overlay to ethical, moral and religious beliefs in areas of identity, family and heritage, to promulgate ethical and moral policy and to help each individual to become a better person and preserve the environment for future generations. Announcements will be at the end of the meeting.

Congregant: Opening words of Inspiration

During his lifetime in the 9th century AD, King Alfred the Great of England drove back the invasive onslaught of Danish Vikings, and unified the English kingdoms. His legacy as a defender, just lawmaker, dedicated scholar, and pious king shaped the world for centuries following. King Alfred’s thoughtful observations and exemplary life are a significant part of the heritage of Western civilization.

1st quote: The saddest thing about any man is that he be ignorant, and the most exciting thing is that he knows.

2nd quote: I desired to live worthily as long as I lived and to leave after my life, to the men who should come after me, the memory of me in good works.

3rd quote: He seems to me a very foolish man, and very wretched, who will not increase his understanding while he is in the world, and ever wish and long to reach that endless life where all shall be made clear.

Steward: We will now have a Moment of Silence for: __(decide locally)___. [about 20 second pause].

This music was written for piano by Claude Debussy in 1909/1910. It depicts the legendary cathedral of Ys, a town in northwestern France that was flooded anciently. The legends of how it flooded vary, but center around the just king of Ys, Gradlon, and his wicked daughter, Jahut. King Gradlon held the sole key to the gate in the dike surrounding the town, and presumably Jahut stole it and opened the dike at high tide, flooding the entire area. She perishes in the flood but her father escapes. Legend has it that on a calm day in the bay, you can hear the bells of the cathedral still ringing underneath the water. The emergence and subsequent re-submerging of this cathedral are what inspired Debussy to compose The Sunken Cathedral.

Steward: We will now have a discussion on the following topic:

Discussion: Alfred the Great and our heritage of education

There is a story that when Alfred was twelve, he was admiring a book his stepmother Judith owned of Saxon poetry. Some of his older brothers were in the room, and Alfred overheard his stepmother promise them that the book would belong to the first of them who would learn to read it. “The older brothers paid little attention to this proposal, but Alfred’s interest was strongly awakened. He immediately sought and found someone to teach him, and before long he read the volume to Judith, and claimed it as his own.” (from King Alfred of England by Jacob Abbott)

1) Discuss the value of literacy. What are some things that are only possible because we have a writing system and can read it?
2) Why is it important to be self-motivated in obtaining education?
a. What are some ways you’ve sought education outside of formal schooling?
b. What are some resources available today to continue our education throughout our lives?
3) King Alfred used his education to establish just laws.
a. What are some things you’ve been able to do because of your education?
b. Being educated inspires to action; ignorance is linked with inaction.
i. How have you seen yourself or others progress through learning?
c. Advances are only possible when we learn of what came before so we can build upon it.
i. Why is it important to learn about our Western heritage?
ii. What are some steps we need to take to advance knowledge of our heritage?
4) King Alfred encouraged education among those who could afford to receive it.
a. How can we educate and support the education of others?
b. When is it worthwhile to invest money in education, and how should it be done?

Congregant: Closing words of inspiration.

“Perhaps the chief aspect in which King Alfred’s character has attracted the attention of mankind, is the spirit of humanity and benevolence which he manifested, and in the efforts which he made to cultivate the arts of peace, and to promote the intellectual and social welfare of his people, notwithstanding the warlike habits to which he was accustomed in his early years, and the warlike influences which surrounded him during all his life. Everything in the outward circumstances in which he was placed tended to make him a mere military hero. He saw, however, the superior greatness and glory of the work of laying the foundations of an extended and permanent power, by arranging in the best possible manner the internal organization of the social state. He saw that intelligence, order, justice, and system, prevailing in and governing the institutions of a country, constitute the true elements of its greatness, and he acted accordingly.” (Abbott)

Extend an invitation/commitment to apply one thing learned this week.

Previous Lesson XIII: Joan of Arc
Next Lesson XI: Sagas of the Norse Vikings

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