bell hooks, who died yesterday, referenced Thomas Merton in a chapter, "Eros, Eroticism, and the Pedagogical Process":
“There is not much passionate teaching or learning taking place in higher education today. Even when students are desperately yearning to be touched by knowledge, professors still fear the challenge, allow their worries about losing control to override their desires to teach. Concurrently, those of us who teach the same old subjects in the same old ways are often inwardly bored—unable to rekindle passions we may have once felt. If, as Thomas Merton suggests in his essay on pedagogy ‘Learning to Live,’ the purpose of education is to show students how to define themselves ‘authentically and spontaneously in relation’ to the world, then professors can best teach if we are self-actualized. Merton reminds us that the ‘original and authentic “paradise” idea, both in the monastery and in the university, implied not simply a celestial source of theoretic ideas to which Magistri and Doctores held the key, but the inner self of the student’ who would discover the ground of their being in relation to themselves, to higher powers, to community. That the ‘fruit of education... was in the activation of that utmost center.’ To restore passion to the classroom or to excite again the place of eros within ourselves and together allow the mind and body to feel and know desire.” (bell hooks, Teaching to Transgress [New York: Routledge, 1994], p. 199)
“The purpose of education is to show a person how to define himself authentically and spontaneously in relation to the world-not to impose a prefabricated definition of the world, still less an arbitrary definition of the individual himself. The world is made up of the people who are fully alive in it: this is, of the people who can be themselves in it and can enter into a living a fruitful relationship with each other in it. The world is, therefore, more real in proportion as the people in it are able to be more fully and more humanly alive: that is to say, better able to make a lucid and conscious use of their freedom. Basically, this freedom must consist first of all in the capacity to choose their own lives, to find them¬ selves on the deepest possible level. A superficial freedom to wander aimlessly here or there, to taste this or that, to make a choice of distractions (in Pascal’s sense) is simply a sham. It claims to be a freedom of ‘choice’ when it has evaded the basic task of discovering who it is that chooses. It is not free because it is unwilling to face the risk of self-discovery.
The function of the university is, then, first of all to help the student discover himself: to recognize himself, and to identify who it is that chooses.” (Thomas Merton, Love and Living [New York: Harcourt, 1985], p. 3-4)