In the Preface to his Didascalicon, Hugh of Saint Victor observes that intellect comes to each man or woman in different measure. Some are blessed with a profound intellect, while “there are many persons whose nature has left them so poor in ability that they can hardly grasp with their intellect even easy things.” Of the latter he identifies two types of people: the one who in their poor intellect “struggle after knowledge with all the effort they can put forth and who, by tirelessly keeping up their pursuit, deserve to obtain as a result of their will power what they by no means possess as a result of their work.” Some, however, who possess little intellect choose to remain ignorant and refuse to learn. In response to such people, Hugh of Saint Victor writes: “Not knowing and not wishing to know are far different things. Not knowing, to be sure, springs from weakness; but contempt of knowledge springs from a wicked will.”
On the other hand, many are born with an astounding intellect and use it wisely, and the combination of their giftedness and effort will lead to great things. Yet the temptation of laziness or being distracted by the cares of the world is prevalent even among those who are gifted with intellect. Hugh of Saint Victor writes of them that they “bury the talent of God in earth, seeking from it neither the fruit of wisdom nor the profit of good work. These, assuredly, are completely detestable.”
Although we could certainly delineate these categories further, Hugh of Saint Victor has helpfully identified four types of learners, two virtuous and two sinful. As a classical Christian educator, my goals are to awaken wonder, inspire the imagination, help students know and love the good, the true, and the beautiful, and make disciples for the kingdom of God. Therefore, although some students may struggle with their grades, I want to praise them for making the most out of their intellect, while other students, though receiving good grades, should receive godly rebuke and correction that we pray leads to repentance. I want to be the kind of educator that is measured not by my students’ grades or standardized test scores, but by how many of my students are seeking to maximize the gift of intellect (in whatever measure) God has given them.
Hugh of Saint Victor, Didascalicon, Trans. Jerome Taylor (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991), 43.