“My reading is botchy,” the American novelist, short story author, and essayist Flannery O’Connor wrote to a friend in February 1954. “I have what passes for an education in this day and time, but I am not deceived by it.” I remembered this bit of wisdom today as I visited with members of our MICDS Class of 2022 and celebrated their final day of school.
The completion of an education—in the case of our seniors, the completion of high school—is not the same thing as the completeness of an education, as O’Connor understood. That she, a person so thoroughly dedicated to a life of letters, would describe her reading as “botchy” is a caution to all of us never to misconstrue a little knowledge for a lot. I am proud, of course, of the educational attainments of our senior class, just as I am confident in their bright prospects for future attainments; but however much they may learn, it will amount to no more than an infinitesimal fraction of the sum of human knowledge, which itself will ever pale against all that remains to be known.
Humility is the secret of O’Connor’s wisdom, just as it was the secret of Socrates’ wisdom 24 centuries earlier. In Plato’s Apology, Socrates seeks out a conversation with a fellow Athenian famous for his intellect. “When I left him,” Socrates recalls, “I reasoned thus with myself: I am wiser than this man, for neither of us appears to know anything great and good; but he fancies he knows something, although he knows nothing; whereas I, as I do not know anything, so I do not fancy I do. In this trifling particular, then, I appear to be wiser than he, because I do not fancy I know what I do not know.” This is one translation of Plato’s Ancient Greek original in any case. Here is another translation: an incomplete education beats a complete education every time.
Although they have not yet arrived at their official MICDS finish line—graduation is still 16 days away after all—I applaud our seniors for today’s milestone achievement nevertheless. Class of 2022, you now have what passes for an education. Congratulations! I hope that you will not be deceived by it. How wonderful it is to be a work in progress.
Always reason, always compassion, always courage. My best wishes to you and your families for a very joyful weekend. See you in May!
Head of School