13 Apr St Jerome and St Augustine, Pioneers in Open Access to Scholarly Writing
Education is a basic human right and one of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. In support of universal access to education, UNESCO advocates for Open Educational Resources (OER) as a strategic opportunity to improve the quality of education as well as facilitate policy dialogue, knowledge sharing and capacity building. Open Educational Resources are teaching, learning or research materials that are in the public domain or released with an intellectual property license that allows for free use, adaptation, and distribution. Most often OER are digital resources shared online through services such as OER Commons, which also offers Open Education Practice as a way for educators to network and improve education quality, and the Commonwealth of Learning, which promotes open and distance learning for global development through OER and other strategies.
In the spirit of leveraging the power of networks for social good, Pope Francis stated, “The digital world is a public square, a meeting-place where we can either encourage or demean one another, engage in a meaningful discussion or unfair attacks.” (Misericordiae Vultus, 23). (1/24/16, Communications)
Indeed, open access to academic resources for public good is a longstanding Catholic teaching, perhaps most compellingly demonstrated by St Jerome who said, “I hope that my own words receive no praise but that others’ sage words be understood as they are originally written down. The task is to elucidate obscure points, to touch only briefly on what is already clear, and to linger over things that are difficult to figure out.” He maintained libraries and distribution network for academic thought (Willinsky, 2018). St Augustine carried on the open approach to his work, saying anyone “should make a copy of what he finds and preserve it, and not begrudge lending it in his turn to someone asking to copy it” (Gamble, 1995).
Saint Jerome is the Patron Saint of Librarians, who are the stewards of knowledge in schools and communities. Today, over 2700 CEWA teachers and leaders have joined his cause as stewards of Catholic education resources and practice by sharing nearly 5000 resources in Claned. Their work in encouraging meaningful learning has been viewed over 100,000 times. Through sharing and collaboration networks like Microsoft Teams and Claned, LEADing Lights enables the CEWA community to engage in academic dialog and sharing to build capacity of teachers and leaders, and to improve education quality in schools.
Harry Y. Gamble, Books and Readers in the Early Church: A History of Early Christian Texts (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995), 138.
Jerome, Commentary on Galatians, trans. Andrew Cain, The Fathers of the Church, vol. 121 (Washington: Catholic University of America Press, 2010), 206.
John Willinsky, The Intellectual Properties of Learning: A Prehistory from Saint Jerome to John Locke (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018), open access final draft available from https://intellectualproperties.stanford.edu