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The Humanistic Educational Thought in Rabelais’s The Giant

In medieval France, feudal culture and ideology dominated. The main purpose of education is usually to cultivate priests who serve religious theology in order to consolidate feudal rule. The Renaissance is a movement in which the emerging bourgeoisie in Europe revolted against the religious authority in the Middle Ages, broke the old values, and created a movement in line with the new ideological and cultural tradition of the bourgeoisie. This is bound to strongly attack the religious theology which occupied the dominant position in the Middle Ages. Humanists affirm “man”, believe that man is the center of the universe, advocate a healthy, optimistic and positive outlook on life, and mainly cultivate a new person who is in line with the goals of the bourgeoisie, that is, “capable of writing and fighting, mastering modern scientific knowledge, and having lofty moral character.” This is the social requirement of the Renaissance.

The educational purpose shown in Rabelais’s works is formed on this basis, which is to cultivate a “giant” with freedom of personality in line with the times. Therefore, in Biography of the Giant, Rabelais shows a beautiful picture of humanistic education by describing the education process of Gao Kangda and Pang Pang Guye.

1. Criticize academic education and advocate personality emancipation

In Biography of the Giant, Rabelais boldly exposes the absurdity of scholastic education. He believes that scholastic education can only destroy human nature, and educate children with good nature into confused and indecisive fools, thus making people unable to form sound reason, and thus unwilling to think, unable to think. In his works, Rabelais’s criticism of scholastic education mainly shows that he used exaggerated and absurd language to describe in detail the process of Gaokangda’s acceptance of scholastic education. Gaokangda first followed a famous theological doctor, Shiba Khluffe, who taught Gaokangda to read block letters for more than five years, until he could recite them backwards, and then taught him to read almanac, and then read for more than ten years, Until the teacher of Gaokang University died of illness. Later, Grange Gujie invited another teacher to Gaokang University, who continued to teach him with the teaching-duck method. Although Gao Kangda worked tirelessly, he did not achieve any results. Instead, he became more and more dull and stupid. Cognizant of the seriousness of the problem, Granguet immediately dismissed the “erudite” school teacher. Rabelai said by others, “It is better not to learn anything than to read such a book with such a teacher, because their knowledge is only dead things, and their wisdom is only stupid and pretending to be smart playthings, which will only destroy the good and noble mind, and only waste the good time of youth.” Rabelai has mercilessly exposed and criticized the emptiness and ignorance of academic education through the process of accepting academic education at Gaokang University.

2. Advocate knowledge and pay attention to comprehensive development

The purpose of education is to impart knowledge and cultivate the ideal person for all-round development, which is what Engels called a versatile and knowledgeable giant in terms of thinking ability, enthusiasm and personality. In the Middle Ages, feudal rulers and churches pursued obscurantism and stifled science and creation. Rabelais opposed the theology and ignorance advocated by the church. He respected knowledge and affirmed it. Whether Gao Kang shouted “drink, drink” when he was born, or Pang Gu E’s Greek meaning “the whole world is thirsty”, or Pang Gu E and others finally found the oracle “drink” on the bottle, all of these show the people’s thirst for knowledge in the Renaissance. In addition, Rabelais also wrote the scene of “talking after drinking” in his works. Gao Kangda is about to be born. Gao Kangda’s father found many citizens to share dinner with him. During dinner, many drinkers began to speak freely.

In order to achieve the goal of cultivating people with all-round development, Rabelais concreted knowledge into an encyclopedic curriculum system for teaching in The Giant. He advocates a wide range of teaching content that can develop intelligence and improve personal ability. When Pang Pang Gu was studying in Paris, Gao Kangda systematically proposed the course content in his letter. In fact, This is also the education outline in Rabelais’s mind: “I need you to learn various languages, such as Greek and Latin, and the most important is Hebrew. In literature and art, I need you to learn music, geometry and arithmetic. In the legal level, you need to be familiar with the provisions of justice. I also want you to study things in nature carefully. Finally, you need to refer to the medical works of various countries to read in detail and master comprehensive and rich knowledge.” French scholar Durkheim said: “The center of all knowledge systems in Rabelais is’ knowledge ‘, which mainly has two levels. One is related to the universe, things and nature. The other is knowledge about social level, that is, people’s beliefs, theoretical principles and other knowledge. Rabelais wants to convey these to young people in the mode of education”.

Rabelai also attaches great importance to the harmony of body and mind, the unity of morality and intelligence. For example, the work describes that under the education of his teacher, Bonoklat, Gao Kangda not only learned a lot of knowledge, but also took physical exercises to improve his physical quality. The sports of Gaokangda included almost all the sports at that time, and the sports were also combined with military sports, such as horse riding, fencing, jumping, etc. Under the training of these items, Gao Kangda has achieved remarkable results. He can jump from one horse to another when galloping; He can defeat 10 enemies by himself. At the same time, Rabelai believes that physical exercise is important, but in addition to having a healthy body, we also need to have a good moral concept. “Since God created man, human beings have no right to distinguish between good and evil. Although human beings are born with evil, human nature is good. Some people become bad because they are teased by fate or manipulated by others. Human beings have a warm desire to survive and be good. If they can be properly guided, they can generally get happiness.”, Rabelais has repeatedly stressed the importance of moral education. Gao Kangda quoted Solomon’s words to warn Pang Gu: “Wisdom does not enter the despicable soul, and lack of awareness of knowledge is enough to cause the bankruptcy of the soul.” Gao Kangda also told his son that learning knowledge is not to show off, but “to protect your home and help your relatives and friends.” All of these highlighted the importance of Rabelais on moral education. Rabelais also attaches great importance to aesthetic education and the cultivation of people’s minds by education. The aesthetic education Gao Kangda accepted in his works is to learn music. In the Middle Ages, music belonged to religion. But in his works, Rabelais removed the religious nature of music and reinterpreted music with the secular spirit. Therefore, in the end, Gao Kangda has no understanding of violin and cello. Obviously, in Rabelais’s mind, to grow into a giant, the armed force of knowledge is the most important. The knowledge here is not only limited to the humanistic knowledge in books, but also includes sports, moral education, aesthetic education and other aspects of knowledge. This is completely in line with the concept of cultivating all-round development talents advocated by modern education.

As a humanist, Rabelais publicized the humanistic education thought in the form of literature and art, fully reflecting the progressive requirements of the emerging bourgeoisie. His Biography of the Giant bitterly satirized the feudal system and scholastic education in the Middle Ages, sharply criticized the harm of feudal education to people at that time, and praised the important role of humanistic education in cultivating people. At the same time, while creating a wonderful world of giants, Giant Biography has also made a new educational concept take root and sprout in the conservative land, and thrive until it becomes a towering tree.


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