Champion, M W. (2019). Tradition and habituation in rhetorical and monastic education at Gaza. J. R. Stenger. Learning Cities in Late Antiquity: The Local Dimension of Education 212-229. London, United Kingdom: Routledge.
[Extract] In the following analysis of aspects of education in Gaza, I aim to put ancient and modern worlds into mutually illuminating dialogue, contributing to understanding significant aspects of Gazan education and raising potentially productive questions for the ‘learning city’ paradigm. The ‘learning city’ approach may provide a useful heuristic framework for evaluating aspects of the success of education in Gaza, while the Gazan experience may simultaneously help scholars identify, describe and justify principles essential for for education which enhances human flourishing. With these twin aims in mind, this chapter offers case studies of two different albeit overlapping educational cultures in sixth-century Gaza – the classical rhetorical ‘schools’ and the surrounding monasteries. In the first case study, I briefly describe key features and social structures of Gazan ‘schools’ at levels above basic grammatical training, before arguing that a creative use and misuse of classical traditions was crucial for intellectual innovations and the process of forming students’ character through education. The case study points both to the centrality of informal networks and the role of tradition and local cultures in learning communities, while questioning models that privilege conflict when characterising Christian-pagan relationships in Gaza. The second case study highlights education in a rather different mode – monastic education as habituating monks into humility. It contributes to recent scholarly debates about what made monastic.
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