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Proverbs & Fables

PETER ABELARD, the medieval scholar once wrote a text called ‘Sic et Non’, which translates from the Latin as ‘Yes and No’. In the text he picks out contradictory quotations from religious writing. He then asks a question to be answered ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ with reasons. It is believed the text was written for students and so Abelard leaves the answers and the reasons open to them.

Proverbs often express the common sense of a time and culture. They offer short cuts to judgement but they are often contradictory. Do they always express good sense? We could present proverbs to pupils in the spirit of Peter Abelard and ask, ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ – do the proverbs deserve thier longevity and, when they contradict each other, what questions should we ask? Fables, in the words of Polish fable writer by Ignacy Krasicki (1735–1801): ‘should be brief, clear and, so far as possible, preserve the truth.’ Like proverbs, fables are structured to offer practical wisdom and, of course, they are always questionable.

In the proverbs and fables section of p4c.com we have collected together items to provide opportunities for inquiry in the the spirit of Peter Abelard’s Sic et Non. Our key document will give you ideas on how you might use them with your pupils. We won’t repeat these ideas for every item. We’ll just give you the texts extra ideas that are not generalisable to all texts.

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