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Quotes: Thomas Cahill

A few quotations from Mysteries of the Middle Ages by Thomas Cahill.

To what point Islam has advanced in this development is a question beyond the scope of this book. But it may be said without fear of contradiction that Islamic society and Christian society have been generally bad neighbors now for nearly fourteen centuries, often eager to misunderstand each other. We stand in desperate need of contemporary figures like al-Malik al-Kamil and Francis of Assisi to create an innovative dialogue. We in the West must come to accept that a people numbering 1.3 billion and parked at our door for a millennium and a half will not go away. This is a force that cannot be conquered but must be reckoned with. Similarly, the Islamic East must come to terms with the immense spectrum of the Christian/ post-Christian West, a variegated society twice as large as Islam. We will not go away either.

I couldn’t have said it better. There is a middle ground between Bush’s war hawkery and uberliberal hang-wringing over the perceived sins of the West. Both positions are equally ignorant. This is our civilization and we have to keep it for future generations and defend it from both foaming, blind patriotism and self-flagellating guilt.

Regarding the Roman-inspired university curriculum of medieval students consisting of grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric:

That so much time was devoted to what would today be compressed into a single course with a title such as “Freshman Comp” meant that, unlike contemporary graduates, all the graduates of medieval universities were truly literate and markedly skilled in an impressive repertoire of communication techniques.

It’s a point I’ve maintained for some time that students aren’t taught to defend their ideas with logic and argument. This neglect makes them technically skilled but essentially illiterate members of society. A government system like democracy that depends so much on input from its populace is in ill-suited hands.

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