Education Through Imitation

Imitation is an important, but often forgotten, element of education.

In the contemporary world, imitation is often seen as plagiarism. But in the medieval and ancient world, imitation was the key to learning. The medievals and ancients understood imitation as the only way to become an excellent poet, craftsmen, or orator.

For example, Aristotle says in The Poetics, “The instinct of imitation is implanted in man from childhood… and through imitation learns his earliest lessons; and no less universal is the pleasure felt in things imitated.”

Beginning in childhood, humans learn by imitating other humans. Babies begin emulating the sounds of words before they can articulately speak. Eventually, children will have a grasp of language themselves, often repeating common phrases that they hear from their parents, teachers, or peers.

St. Paul in his first epistle to the Corinthians says, “Therefore I urge you, imitate me. For this reason I have sent Timothy to you… who will remind you of my ways in Christ.”

St. Paul is not wanting Christians to lose sight of Christ. Instead, Paul wants Christians to imitate Paul so that they can learn to imitate Christ better. In seeing Paul and imitating him, they become holier. Once they are holier, they then can imitate Christ better.

The Church understands the importance of imitation in education, and so holds up saints as great examples for all to follow. Here at The Saint Constantine School, we have four houses, and each house is represented by a saint. Each of these saints lived in different circumstances, and exhibit different virtues.

Are you politically or socially influential? Be like Helen. Use your influence with wisdom and perseverance.

Are you young? Be like Lucy. Courageously hold true to what is right, even in your youth.

Are you a mother? Be like Anne. Through the many difficulties of parenthood, dedication and moderation will bear great rewards.

Are you persecuted? Be like Elizabeth. Endure, and vigilantly serve others who are in need.

We must look to all the saints, and other models of excellence, so that we may become excellent ourselves.

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