Alcuin of York (735ish-804) is a giant on whose shoulders all of Western education stands, whether we realize it or not. He was a teacher of teachers as well as a curator and cultivator of culture. He developed the use of lower case letters and the alphabet essentially as we know it today. He revived and standardized the classical liberal arts that have been a conduit of learning for higher education for more than 1200 years. He spoke truth to power, insisting that rulers must be men of character, wisdom, and mercy. He taught and encouraged women students at a time when women were not supposed to be educated. He corrected Jerome’s Latin Bible (the Vulgate) to give the people a reliable copy of God’s word. He wrote poetry, produced books, built libraries, and invented the question mark. And we know from his letters to his friends—who were many and faithful—that he had a fantastic sense of humor.
Alcuin wanted nothing more than to cultivate the moral imagination in each of his fellow human beings and equip them to flourish.