Quintillian on Education

Quintilian on Education

From Institutio Oratoria Book I

Without natural gifts technical rules are useless. Consequently the student who is devoid of talent will derive no more profit from this work than barren soil from a treatise on agriculture. (pr 26)

I would, therefore, have a father conceive the highest hopes of his son from the moment of birth. If he does so, he will be more careful about the groundwork of his education. For there is absolutely no foundation for the complaint that but a few men have the power to take in knowledge that is imparted to them, and that the majority are so slow of understanding that education is a waste of time and labour. On the contrary you will find that most are quick of reason and ready to learn. Reasoning comes as naturally to man as flying to birds, speed to horses and ferocity to beasts of prey: our minds are endowed by nature with such activity and sagacity of the soul is believed to proceed from heaven.

Those who are dull and unteachable are as abnormal as prodigious births and monstrosities, and are but few in number. (I:1)

The American education system is modeled on Roman example. What I can’t figure out is why some teachers choose to embrace the first thought, and ignore the second. The system is filled with gatekeepers who selectively pick who is talented and who is not, as if the failure to excel rests entirely on the student and not the teacher.