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Balzac, Honoré de - Comédie Humaine – On schools

Identifier

027950

Type of Spiritual Experience

Background

At age ten Balzac was sent to the Oratorian grammar school in Vendôme, where he studied for seven years. His father, seeking to instill the same hardscrabble work ethic which had gained him the esteem of society, intentionally gave little spending money to the boy. This made him the object of ridicule among his much wealthier schoolmates.

Balzac had difficulty adapting to the rote style of learning at the school. As a result, he was frequently sent to the "alcove", a punishment cell reserved for disobedient students. (The janitor at the school, when asked later if he remembered Honoré, replied: "Remember M. Balzac? I should think I do! I had the honour of escorting him to the dungeon more than a hundred times!") Still, his time alone gave the boy ample freedom to read every book which came his way.

Balzac worked these scenes from his boyhood—as he did many aspects of his life and the lives of those around him—into La Comédie Humaine. His time at Vendôme is reflected in Louis Lambert, his 1832 novel about a young boy studying at an Oratorian grammar school at Vendôme. The narrator says : "He devoured books of every kind, feeding indiscriminately on religious works, history and literature, philosophy and physics. He had told me that he found indescribable delight in reading dictionaries for lack of other books."

In 1814 the Balzac family moved to Paris, and Honoré was sent to private tutors and schools for the next two and a half years. This was an unhappy time in his life, during which he attempted suicide on a bridge over the Loire River.

In 1816 Balzac entered the Sorbonne, where he studied under three famous professors: François Guizot, who later became Prime Minister, was Professor of Modern History; Abel-François Villemain, a recent arrival from the Collège Charlemagne, lectured on French and classical literature; and, most influential of all, Victor Cousin's courses on philosophy encouraged his students to think independently.

A description of the experience

Today brings the sad, glad tidings that Mrs. Abraham Lincoln has passed from that darkness which had fallen upon her path through this life, out into the light and joy of that life toward which her vision has so long been strained.

Modern education is lethal to children.... We stuff them with mathematics, we pummel them with science, and we use them up before their time. Balzac, Honore de and George Saintsbury (Translator). The Human Comedy. 1845.

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The questioning spirit is the rebellious spirit. A rebellion is always either a cloak to hide a prince, or the swaddling wrapper of a new rule.
Balzac, Honore de and George Saintsbury (Translator). The Human Comedy. 1845.

The source of the experience

Balzac, Honoré de

Concepts, symbols and science items

Concepts

Symbols

Science Items

Activities and commonsteps

Activities

Suppressions

Home schooling

Commonsteps

References