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Thoughts on Great Books Curriculum (e.g. Angelicum/GBA)?


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#51 Targhee

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Posted 28 March 2016 - 07:44 PM

I think we're nearly all in a similar boat, because traditional classical education did serve such a small minority.  By the time any of my known ancestors were able to stay in school past the 8th grade, the system was pretty much defunct everywhere.   Even the vestiges, such as Fr. Donnelly's work, had almost disappeared by the 1940s - and the context for understanding them had been completely swept away. 

 

I'm not sure that definitions are what we need, either.   The top-down, "theory -> practice" approach might actually be the major problem with modern education.  The old-time classical systems weren't based on a definition; they were based on the handing down of specific, embodied practices that had been found effective.  In other words, they were more of an art than a science. 

 

Another thing I've picked up from my reading is that all education is local.  It took me years to get some sort of grasp of "the history of classical education," and once I had it, I realized that it didn't bring me any closer to answering the question of what to teach my children.   To do that, I had to look at the history of specific systems, and then read more detailed descriptions of individual schools within those systems (e.g., Stonyhurst and Boston College for Jesuit education).  On what basis were they founded?   How were their teachers trained?  What books did they use?   What was distinctive about their teaching style?   What was controversial about them?  What was the students' way of life, outside the classroom?  What reforms did the school undergo?  What were their graduates known for?  

 

At that point, I finally felt able to start making connections with modern books and methods, and with the sorts of things I'm trying to achieve in our homeschool.   I've made some gradual changes based on what I've learned, but I think it's important to practice radical acceptance of our lack of understanding, and give up any sense of urgency to "figure it out."   Children can do just fine when they're raised and educated without the very best practices in every area.  Consistency and calm are worth a great deal.  :001_smile:  Even if we don't end up helping our children nearly as much as we'd like, we can keep educating ourselves, and inspire them to do the same.  And maybe help our grandchildren.   Culture is a long-haul project. 

 

Because of all this, it seems to me to be futile for an individual, or even an organization, to try to "restore classical education" in some general sense.   We have to choose one or more examples of the tradition - whether or not we have any personal connection to them - and try to renew them, discarding unnecessary additions, restoring things that were lost, and bringing in new ideas from outside.   While the "Great Books movement" seems to have been far too big a break (in content, pedagogy, and goals) to count as an example of the tradition, it could be a source of those new ideas. 

 

For the average US homeschooler coming from a Protestant background, the old-time academies might be one interesting starting point.  The local academy was the sort of classical school that many board members' ancestors would have attended, if they'd had the opportunity and inclination.  Even if they had to work their way through by sawing wood, a la President Garfield.  :001_smile:

 

Yes. I think my problem is insecurity, so that when practices (and results) seem uncertain I grasp more desperately to "figure it out."  I do agree though, we have to move forward.


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#52 Momto4inSoCal

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Posted 28 March 2016 - 09:34 PM

I think we're nearly all in a similar boat, because traditional classical education did serve such a small minority. By the time any of my known ancestors were able to stay in school past the 8th grade, the system was pretty much defunct everywhere. Even the vestiges, such as Fr. Donnelly's work, had almost disappeared by the 1940s - and the context for understanding them had been completely swept away.

I'm not sure that definitions are what we need, either. The top-down, "theory -> practice" approach might actually be the major problem with modern education. The old-time classical systems weren't based on a definition; they were based on the handing down of specific, embodied practices that had been found effective. In other words, they were more of an art than a science.

Another thing I've picked up from my reading is that all education is local. It took me years to get some sort of grasp of "the history of classical education," and once I had it, I realized that it didn't bring me any closer to answering the question of what to teach my children. To do that, I had to look at the history of specific systems, and then read more detailed descriptions of individual schools within those systems (e.g., Stonyhurst and Boston College for Jesuit education). On what basis were they founded? How were their teachers trained? What books did they use? What was distinctive about their teaching style? What was controversial about them? What was the students' way of life, outside the classroom? What reforms did the school undergo? What were their graduates known for?

At that point, I finally felt able to start making connections with modern books and methods, and with the sorts of things I'm trying to achieve in our homeschool. I've made some gradual changes based on what I've learned, but I think it's important to practice radical acceptance of our lack of understanding, and give up any sense of urgency to "figure it out." Children can do just fine when they're raised and educated without the very best practices in every area. Consistency and calm are worth a great deal. :001_smile: Even if we don't end up helping our children nearly as much as we'd like, we can keep educating ourselves, and inspire them to do the same. And maybe help our grandchildren. Culture is a long-haul project.

Because of all this, it seems to me to be futile for an individual, or even an organization, to try to "restore classical education" in some general sense. We have to choose one or more examples of the tradition - whether or not we have any personal connection to them - and try to renew them, discarding unnecessary additions, restoring things that were lost, and bringing in new ideas from outside. While the "Great Books movement" seems to have been far too big a break (in content, pedagogy, and goals) to count as an example of the tradition, it could be a source of those new ideas.

For the average US homeschooler coming from a Protestant background, the old-time academies might be one interesting starting point. The local academy was the sort of classical school that many board members' ancestors would have attended, if they'd had the opportunity and inclination. Even if they had to work their way through by sawing wood, a la President Garfield. :001_smile:


I don't know about the calm part lol. It often feel like chaos in my household but ultimately they are learning more at home than they were when they were enrolled in public school. I don't have any hopes of creating a true classical school but in reading all of these neo-classical books it occurred to me that they were making their own interpretations of an age old methodology and since I tend to question everything I wanted to look at the methodologies myself and see if I can come to the same conclusions or connections that they have made. Can I really teach logic with a memoria press book? Obviously this is a fairly recent book, how have they created a workbook based on this subject or is it another experiment? Is the translation from subjects like grammar and rhetoric to stages a good modern interpretation? Will it accomplish critical thinking the way classical education did at one point? The modern schools have admitted to their failures in writing and our math pisa scores speak for themselves but I want to know if this is really the answer. I don't really want to teach my children based on experimentation of modern homeschool theories or anecdotal evidence. I don't really know where that leaves me though. In any event I know they are learning and I am not really doubting my ability to teach them. I have always been drawn to humanities and reading TWTM it excited me to think I could raise my children to think in a different way and understand how to debate, write, speak and logically view things in the way that some of the greatest thinkers in our history have done. It may just be an over romanticized view of something that is not what I think it is and is not realistic to today's era or within my current abilities. I don't plan on giving up my search for answers though. Maybe in another few years I will be posting that it gave me none of the answers I was looking for but for now at least I am enjoying the self education.

Edited by Momto4inSoCal, 30 March 2016 - 11:56 PM.

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#53 LostCove

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Posted 22 April 2016 - 01:21 PM

Via Alan Jacobs, I came across this bit of W.H. Auden's review of Adler's How To Read a Book and thought of this thread:

If the reading of adults is as inefficient as Professor Adler asserts – and I agree with him – it is because most of them are reading only in order to escape from their own thoughts or to be socially respectable. If they are to improve, the first thing to say to them is not — “You don’t read enough,” or “You read bad books,” but — “You read far too much. You haven’t the slightest idea what kind of a person you are or what you want to know, and it is no use your trying to read at all until you have, and are compelled to admit to the truth you discover is most disagreeable. To read the Iliad because Professor Adler tells you it is good is no better than reading the Saturday Evening Post because your neighbor reads it. No one can tell you how to become a civilized person. There is no ready-made answer because, to become civilized, you will have to be reborn.”


Here's the piece it came from, which is short and worth reading.

Edited by LostCove, 22 April 2016 - 10:14 PM.

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#54 ElizaG

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Posted 22 April 2016 - 06:19 PM

Thanks, LostCove.  I enjoyed reading Auden's thoughts. 

 

I've found a couple more books that might be of interest:  Chicago's Left Bank and The Aspen Idea.   Aspen was a major part of the GB phenomenon.  The author of the first book is amusing; he describes the town as a suburb of Chicago, and also as the businessmen's yacht (those being the men from the "great men's fat books classes").  

 

Somewhere along the line, I noticed that Adler's own degrees were in empirical social science -- specifically, experimental social psychology -- rather than philosophy.   I must have seen this before, but didn't think about it at the time.  It's surprising, given his desire to detach philosophy from natural science (addressed here by Charles de Koninck), and also to eliminate the role of the emotions (confirmed here in a tribute by his friend Deal Hudson), both of which put him at odds with traditional Thomistic/Aristotelian thinking.  I though this was just some quirk of his, that he simply didn't have much interest in empirical research or what made people tick, but apparently that wasn't the case.   Odd.


Edited by ElizaG, 22 April 2016 - 06:21 PM.


#55 ElizaG

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Posted 22 April 2016 - 06:38 PM

For those who aren't willing to neglect their households for the length of time it would take to read those books, here's a shorter version.

 

"Elevated Discourse:  How the University of Chicago, the great books craze, and a love of Goethe helped create the Aspen Institute " (Carrie Golus, University of Chicago magazine, 2014)

 

The first photo...   :lol:



#56 Spudater

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Posted 22 April 2016 - 08:26 PM

Okay, I think my brain just exploded. So are you guys referring to Adler's specific pedagogy when you say Great Books? I thought one of the few things in common between all the different methods, old and new, referred to as classical education was that they included reading the great literature, poetry, history, philosophy, science, theology of western civilization. Am I wrong? 😦

#57 Momto4inSoCal

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Posted 23 April 2016 - 01:06 AM

Okay, I think my brain just exploded. So are you guys referring to Adler's specific pedagogy when you say Great Books? I thought one of the few things in common between all the different methods, old and new, referred to as classical education was that they included reading the great literature, poetry, history, philosophy, science, theology of western civilization. Am I wrong? 😦


Well ElizaG is definitely more qualified than me to answer but it sounds like you are refering to Neo-Classical education which is generally based on Dorothy Sayers ideas. Medieval Classical Education is not the same thing. I've also noticed many people seem to refer to the one room school house of the US as Classical and while we had some classical schools those schools were not classical. Great Books movement was a movement that began with Adlier and Hutchins at the University of Chicago as they were trying to bring back some of the elements of a liberal arts education that was at one point pretty standard in the colleges. They started these discussion groups that were book clubs that would read through a list of books amd discuss them. They ended up teaming with Encyclopedia Britannica and publishing what they called The Great Books. The Neo Classical movement does seem to often include Great Books studies. From the little I've read traditional classic education was so soaked in latin you studied a lot of Cisero, Caesar, Aristotle by translating the text but it doesn't sound like they did anything close to a great books study. They learned how to speak, argue, write based on many ancient text so they knew them but it was a different type of studying. They weren't flying through a book a week answering a few questions and moving on. I keep feeling like the more I read the more questions I have and I am realizing how little I really understand about the history of education.
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#58 Spudater

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Posted 23 April 2016 - 08:38 AM

So would the education Tolkien and Lewis recieved be considered classical? From what I can tell it would have fit somewhere between those two descriptions. Certainly they were both extremely well read. It seems like most things I've read from previous periods take it for granted that their audience (the educated) would catch a pretty stunning array of literary references.
How would they even know what to include in a canon of Great Books unless there was more or less a consensus that those were books you ought to have read to be truly educated?

#59 Spudater

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Posted 23 April 2016 - 08:57 AM

So is the issue with Adler's Great Books program the pedagogy: no experts outside of the test, flying through things too fast?
I'm confused with what you said about classical education. Do you mean the reading was narrower and a means to an end (becoming a skilled orator)?
There was an old thread on here about classical vs neoclassical that I think elizag commented on that made so much sense to me. I wish I was tech savvy so I could link it

#60 ElizaG

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Posted 23 April 2016 - 10:12 AM

All of them did involve reading great literature.  

 

Most of them didn't set a goal of reading "the great books," in the sense of some comprehensive list of books that were considered important for everyone to read, and that were supposed to provide an education pretty much by themselves.   That sort of plan seems to have originated in the 19th century, as described in this article by Carnochan (which I think I linked to way back in the infancy of this thread).  

 

The methods that came before GB tended toward intensive study of a much smaller amount of material, with explanations from a master teacher to fill in the background knowledge and teach the relevant language arts (e.g. grammar, poetics, rhetoric).   History and poetry were read this way, as were speeches, letters, and essays.   Prose fiction was considered lighter, and wasn't studied until quite recently.

 

As for the other subjects you've listed, it depends.  In many religious traditions, theology was only taught in seminaries.  Philosophy was an advanced subject that was usually taught mainly through lectures and other oral work.   Science, when it was included in a classical course, was usually taught much as it is today, with lectures, demonstrations, recent textbooks, and lab work.  

 

People certainly could, and did, self-educate by reading classic books on any or all of these subjects.  But they would have to come up with their own study methods, and choose the books for themselves -- or have their reading guided by someone they knew.  There was no movement to promote a certain way of doing it on a mass scale. 

 

I hope that makes some sense.  :001_smile:


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#61 ElizaG

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Posted 23 April 2016 - 12:44 PM

So would the education Tolkien and Lewis recieved be considered classical? From what I can tell it would have fit somewhere between those two descriptions.
 

Yes, they were educated in the British classical system of their time, which was still quite traditional in the very early 20th century.  The British schools, and the Catholic classical schools, seem to have been the last hold-outs in English-speaking countries.

 

Certainly they were both extremely well read. It seems like most things I've read from previous periods take it for granted that their audience (the educated) would catch a pretty stunning array of literary references.

People who were classically educated were generally well-read and knowledgeable, but they didn't learn most of that material in school.   Reading books, poems, and essays, and discussing ideas, were just part of their social environment.   Victorian middle- and upper-class women, such as Charlotte Mason, were often just as well-read as the men (if not more so), and they were only rarely classically educated.   And John Taylor Gatto has suggested that the US population used to be quite well read, often with minimal formal schooling. 

 

This attitude continued, in some circles, into the early 20th century.  I was looking at a British middle-school composition text from the 1940s or 50s, and the author assumes that the children will all have read Goldsmith's The Vicar of Wakefield.   This might not have been true - she might have been a bit out of touch - but I still found that interesting.  I think movies, radio, and TV must have made a big difference in people's habits. 

 

So the question is - if we think something has been lost, how do we retrieve it?   For homeschoolers, I think trying for this sort of general culture is much more feasible than trying for classical education of the Ciceronian type, but it's also less easy to describe, because it was something that happened outside of formal structures.

 

In one of the Ella Frances Lynch threads, I mentioned a review of CM's notebooking methods. 

 

Thinking more about notebooks -- this is from a review of [The Living Page] at Mystie's blog:

 

"This is a vision of education as reading broadly, copying down the sentences that call out to you, slowing down and contemplating as well as collecting and analyzing.  Charlotte Mason didn’t make this up.  She observed that this is what interested, educated people do; so, she says, let’s introduce children to this practice and see if they don’t remain interested and become educated thereby."

 

It seems to me that CM, the Great Books movement, and other types of mass-scale "liberal education," have tried to make the bulk of the population more educated, by walking them through some of the activities that an educated person might do.  It's a noble idea, but I'm not sure it works particularly well in a canned format.   I think Auden put this very well, in the piece LostCove posted above.


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#62 Targhee

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Posted 23 April 2016 - 12:55 PM

I think, from what I read linked in this thread as well as past reading, a critical difference between the GB model and the remnants of classical education that persisted through the turn of the last century is the first esteems the book (the content, the ideas) to be the maker of the classical mind while the latter esteems the pedagogy (the methods, the resulting ability to reason). Both most certainly used great books, but in very different ways. And for the latter group the inclusions and exclusions from the canon were probably less important than for the former.
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#63 Targhee

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Posted 23 April 2016 - 01:18 PM

It seems to me that CM, the Great Books movement, and other types of mass-scale "liberal education," have tried to make the bulk of the population more educated, by walking them through some of the activities that an educated person might do. It's a noble idea, but I'm not sure it works particularly well in a canned format.

Well said. So let me ask this, if we wished to help people become biologists by dissecting out the biologists' activities and having the untrained, non-biologist copy them - you must have a Great Microscope (and standard slide set) and look at the slides, focusing on them carefully, and make notes upon what you see - do you think they would become biologists?

It's an imperfect analogy, but my point is that the biologist is versed in a body of knowledge, but also a way of thinking and evaluating the observations and phenomena of the natural world. His habits and secondary skills, like using the microscope and taking notes, are a reflection of his training and not the pathway to it.

Imitation is not the same as reproduction.
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#64 Ordinary Shoes

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Posted 23 April 2016 - 02:27 PM

NM


Edited by One of the Jennifers, 24 April 2016 - 01:25 AM.


#65 Kfamily

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Posted 23 April 2016 - 02:44 PM

 

 

It seems to me that CM, the Great Books movement, and other types of mass-scale "liberal education," have tried to make the bulk of the population more educated, by walking them through some of the activities that an educated person might do.  It's a noble idea, but I'm not sure it works particularly well in a canned format.   I think Auden put this very well, in the piece LostCove posted above.

 

I'm still sorting my thoughts out on this topic, but I'm curious as to why walking someone through the activities of an educated person would not work well? To me, CM, in particular, envisioned an interconnection between these activities and one who was truly educated, because the activities lend themselves towards habit building and a training of the mind to be observant and thoughtful and then, in turn, being thoughtful and observant goes back to supporting the habits and activities of an educated person.

 

For example, nature study isn't just about taking a sketch book outside on a walk through the park; it's about training the child/mind to hone their observation skills and learn to transfer these observations to their own body of knowledge as well as developing the mind in areas such as categorizing, organizing, classifying and more. This development of the mind is essential to creating a person of science. And this person of science would then apply his/her mind developments and habits towards sorting through newly accumulated knowledge, since even educated people will always continue to learn.

 

What then does make up the methods needed to create an educated person?  Should the focus be on skills and mind development through a short but selective list of books, tools and teaching method? Will the student read widely and deeply outside of lesson times as a result of a having mind that has been well-developed? My fear with the latter method is that too many children will feel deprived of not having access to a variety of ideas on which they can make connections personal to them and then, as a result, drive out their love of learning.

 

 

ETA: I should also add that I would never assume that the educated person could be created only by emulating the habits and practices of an educated person....I guess I'm thinking, for me, that I should strive for a middle ground between both ideas.


Edited by Kfamily, 23 April 2016 - 03:01 PM.

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#66 ElizaG

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Posted 23 April 2016 - 04:37 PM

So let me ask this, if we wished to help people become biologists by dissecting out the biologists' activities and having the untrained, non-biologist copy them - you must have a Great Microscope (and standard slide set) and look at the slides, focusing on them carefully, and make notes upon what you see - do you think they would become biologists?

This is an interesting point, because it gets into what Michael Polanyi calls "personal knowledge."

 

It's pretty widely accepted that you can't get a PhD without personal mentoring.  Why is this?  Because it involves research, not just a body of knowledge, and research is something you do.   It involves many small actions, attitudes, and responses that can't be put across in words.  They have to be caught, rather than taught. 

 

Reading for self-education is also something you do.  We tend to ignore this, and think of the book just as a vehicle for knowledge, but there are a lot of mental and even physical actions involved, especially with a text that we find difficult. 

 

- I don't understand that word.  What do I do now?  Look it up, or just go on?

 

- Where can I find out more about this person the author just mentioned?  How do I avoid getting side-tracked?

 

- Argh, this novel is boring.  Should I keep reading it or not?  It's highly recommended by so-and-so.   

 

- As a debutante who never mastered fractions, this work on hyperbolic geometry is puzzling me.  Now what?  (Example courtesy of Auden.  :laugh: ) 

 

- There's a lot going on here, and I'm having trouble keeping track.  Should I take notes?   On loose paper, or in a bound notebook?  (Yes, I've been known to get bogged down in these sorts of decisions!)

 

- I'm only a quarter of the way through this book, but I want to start this other one as well.  Is that okay?   How many are too many?

 

- I'd like to discuss the book with other people.  How should I go about that?

 

 

Adler notwithstanding, it's pretty obvious that there's no one answer to any of these questions.  As with many situations in life, we learn how to handle them mostly from some combination of other people's modeling, and our own trial and error. 

 

John Senior and his fellow professors at the IHP had the idea of sitting together and talking to each other, while the students watched them.  This might have helped their students learn to think and talk, but I'm not sure it did much to help them learn how to read a book.  There's also some research on the original GB program that suggests that the greatest effects were in the area of social interaction, which wasn't a stated goal of the method (though, given Adler's background, who knows).  I guess this does make sense, because the students are expected to read the book before the discussion.   So in both programs, it seem that they're doing that part on their own, without any modeling from either the teacher or the other students. 

 

If we do know how to read a certain type of book, how do we pass this skill on to others?  I don't see any way other than by modeling it -- i.e., by getting together with them and going over some passages, which are necessarily going to be fairly short.   

 

The traditional classical course was a highly condensed version of this.  Students were taught how to read, and how to write, and given some proficiency in the ancient languages, and introduced to classical culture, all at the same time.   Here's an article from Princeton in the 1890s that describes the merits of this approach, in comparison to other types of liberal education.

 

"Should the Degree of Bachelor of Arts be Conferred on Students Without Greek or Latin?" -- Andrew F. West


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#67 Spudater

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Posted 23 April 2016 - 10:39 PM

[quote name="ElizaG" post="6962224" timestamp

The methods that came before GB tended toward intensive study of a much smaller amount of material, with explanations from a master teacher to fill in the background knowledge and teach the relevant language arts (e.g. grammar, poetics, rhetoric). History and poetry were read this way, as were speeches, letters, and essays.

This is pretty similar to the way I was taught the great books in college as an honors program. The whole Adler method I had never heard of until now (I am reading the link "Great Books: Panacea or What?" Right now and it's very interesting). Actually I think that honors program was in the top three of most valuable educational experiences I had and is a big part of the reason I want to homeschool high school someday. That link did remind me of the difference between my first year and second year teacher (who was part of my decision to drop it). The first year teacher provided a lot of context for us, asked socratic questions, pointed out our logical fallacies, and enjoyed the conversation just as much as we did when it veered from Antigone to the Greek idea of duty to parents compated to the Christian and what that means to us today. The second teacher sat back and watched us like he was judging a debate until he became so irritated by our mistakes he would interrupt with a mini-lecture (and sometimes complaints about our what ARE they teaching these days!). He also insisted on our reading every page of every work inthe syllabus...so we read ALL of St. Augustine's City of God in 2 1/2 weeks! It was insane.
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#68 ElizaG

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Posted 24 April 2016 - 01:26 PM

I'm still sorting my thoughts out on this topic, but I'm curious as to why walking someone through the activities of an educated person would not work well? To me, CM, in particular, envisioned an interconnection between these activities and one who was truly educated, because the activities lend themselves towards habit building and a training of the mind to be observant and thoughtful and then, in turn, being thoughtful and observant goes back to supporting the habits and activities of an educated person.

What I'm thinking about are activities along the lines of, "Okay, children, today we're all going to 

 

have a Socratic discussion (like philosophers)

observe insects (like entomologists)

make notebooks (like educated old-time people)

 

or something else that the teacher or parent would never have been inclined to do until she read about it in a teacher's guidebook, someone's blog, etc.   

 

If the teacher is already strongly motivated to do this sort of thing, and has some background knowledge, then it's a different situation.  She might not need prepared materials, and if she chooses to use them, she'll be using them as a tool, more than as a method.

 

I don't think the first situation is the worst thing ever; it just doesn't seem like a great idea, nor an efficient use of the teacher's time.  In Western culture, we have a long tradition of learning from the example of parents and teachers.  We also have a long tradition of people self-educating by reading, or just by trying things out.   And of course, we all do both at different times.   

 

What's not so well established is whether or not it's fruitful for us to be instructed by someone -- homeschooling parent, teacher, GB seminar leader, whoever -- who's just stepping us through materials and procedures written by someone else, and would be "out of her depth" if asked to teach without them.  Due to the rapid growth of the US educational system in the 19th and 20th centuries - when the demand for teachers greatly exceeded the supply, and the number of subjects kept expanding - this sort of thing has become the norm.   We see it all the time in public schools, homeschool co-ops, and parish religious education classes.  God bless these people for wanting to help.  But I feel as if it's created a load of fakery.  At best, it's passing on ideas and skills that are disconnected from one another, and from people's real-life experiences and motivations.  As one of the Aspen seminar skeptics put it in that article above, the results are often "a mile wide and an inch deep." 

 

Sorry for being so negative here.  I do see hope, but we have to be willing to humble ourselves, and acknowledge those areas where we're either completely uneducated, or have been "pseudo-educated" beyond our real capabilities.  We can model being observant (if we are), and loving nature (if we do).  We can try to better ourselves, and our families, in many ways.  We just can't skip to the fancy parts, even if they represent the sort of person we want to be.  They have to be built on a solid foundation in our own thoughts, habits, and tastes.   Otherwise, we'll end up creating a Potemkin homeschool, which might look great to passers-by, but isn't providing our children with the real thing. 

 

Of course, there are also times when the mother acknowledges her limitations, and isn't trying to teach or lead per se, but is learning "from the ground up" alongside her children.  This seems all right in moderation, but it tends to take a lot of time that might be better used in other ways.   Not just the mother's time, but the child's.  Once they're old enough to study on their own, I think we often slow them down.  So we need to find a balance there. 

 

One thing that I think might help would be for classically-inclined homeschoolers to stop focusing on the Great Books and Great Conversation, and turn instead to the Good Books and what we might call the Good Conversation.   :001_smile:  Even in curricula that were influenced by John Senior's thinking, the tendency is to see the value of the "Good" in terms of preparation for the "Great."   I think this is all wrong.  My sense is that most of us might only able to dip a toe into the Great Conversation, but we can all be full participants in the Good one, starting in childhood, and continuing through all of life's distractions. 

 

On a practical level, the original "Good Books" list had sections for older teenagers and adults.  Angelicum/GBA truncates this, stopping the "Good" in 8th grade, and switching to the "Great."  This removes a lot of the educational value of the Good Books, because many of them are better suited to the mature reader.  The idea of leaving them behind at age 14 is just absurd.   Of course, students could keep reading them in their spare time, but looking at Angelicum's high school reading list, I doubt they'd have time for that.

 

As for me, I'm going to take a break from thinking about education, and enjoy The Vicar of Wakefield, which I - shockingly! - have never read.  :D


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#69 Kfamily

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Posted 24 April 2016 - 01:43 PM

 

 

One thing that I think might help would be for classically-inclined homeschoolers to stop focusing on the Great Books and Great Conversation, and turn instead to the Good Books and what we might call the Good Conversation.   :001_smile:  Even in curricula that were influenced by John Senior's thinking, the tendency is to see the value of the "Good" in terms of preparation for the "Great."   I think this is all wrong.  My sense is that most of us might only able to dip a toe into the Great Conversation, but we can all be full participants in the Good one, starting in childhood, and continuing through all of life's distractions. 

 

I completely agree!

 

On a practical level, the original "Good Books" list had sections for older teenagers and adults.  Angelicum/GBA truncates this, stopping the "Good" in 8th grade, and switching to the "Great."  This removes a lot of the educational value of the Good Books, because many of them are better suited to the mature reader.  The idea of leaving them behind at age 14 is just absurd.   Of course, students could keep reading them in their spare time, but looking at Angelicum's high school reading list, I doubt they'd have time for that.

 

This is a good idea. In fact, it seems that in the past, many of the Great Books were not actually studied as intently in high school at all, but saved for college.

 

As for me, I'm going to take a break from thinking about education, and enjoy The Vicar of Wakefield, which I - shockingly! - have never read.  :D

 

I haven't read it either!! :) It's on my list...a very long list. :)


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#70 ElizaG

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Posted 24 April 2016 - 05:13 PM

Kfamily, I just came across an old post of yours:

 

Are these literature selections still important for students today?

 

It has another helpful list of "Good Books" - quite different from Senior's, and better in some ways.  Thanks for sharing it!  :001_smile:   We might not study all of these in our house, but I'm going to make sure that all of us read or listen to them. 

 

Many of these can be read aloud to children in the elementary grades, perhaps with a bit of editing.  (I just had to look up the phrase "bagnio pander" from Goldsmith.  I don't really feel like explaining that right now, and knowing my children, they would ask.  So I'm glad to be reading it myself first.)   


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#71 justamouse

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Posted 25 April 2016 - 04:59 PM

What I'm thinking about are activities along the lines of, "Okay, children, today we're all going to 

 

have a Socratic discussion (like philosophers)

observe insects (like entomologists)

make notebooks (like educated old-time people)

 

or something else that the teacher or parent would never have been inclined to do until she read about it in a teacher's guidebook, someone's blog, etc.   

 

If the teacher is already strongly motivated to do this sort of thing, and has some background knowledge, then it's a different situation.  She might not need prepared materials, and if she chooses to use them, she'll be using them as a tool, more than as a method.

 

I don't think the first situation is the worst thing ever; it just doesn't seem like a great idea, nor an efficient use of the teacher's time.  In Western culture, we have a long tradition of learning from the example of parents and teachers.  We also have a long tradition of people self-educating by reading, or just by trying things out.   And of course, we all do both at different times.   

 

What's not so well established is whether or not it's fruitful for us to be instructed by someone -- homeschooling parent, teacher, GB seminar leader, whoever -- who's just stepping us through materials and procedures written by someone else, and would be "out of her depth" if asked to teach without them.  Due to the rapid growth of the US educational system in the 19th and 20th centuries - when the demand for teachers greatly exceeded the supply, and the number of subjects kept expanding - this sort of thing has become the norm.   We see it all the time in public schools, homeschool co-ops, and parish religious education classes.  God bless these people for wanting to help.  But I feel as if it's created a load of fakery.  At best, it's passing on ideas and skills that are disconnected from one another, and from people's real-life experiences and motivations.  As one of the Aspen seminar skeptics put it in that article above, the results are often "a mile wide and an inch deep." 

 

Sorry for being so negative here.  I do see hope, but we have to be willing to humble ourselves, and acknowledge those areas where we're either completely uneducated, or have been "pseudo-educated" beyond our real capabilities.  We can model being observant (if we are), and loving nature (if we do).  We can try to better ourselves, and our families, in many ways.  We just can't skip to the fancy parts, even if they represent the sort of person we want to be.  They have to be built on a solid foundation in our own thoughts, habits, and tastes.   Otherwise, we'll end up creating a Potemkin homeschool, which might look great to passers-by, but isn't providing our children with the real thing. 

 

Of course, there are also times when the mother acknowledges her limitations, and isn't trying to teach or lead per se, but is learning "from the ground up" alongside her children.  This seems all right in moderation, but it tends to take a lot of time that might be better used in other ways.   Not just the mother's time, but the child's.  Once they're old enough to study on their own, I think we often slow them down.  So we need to find a balance there. 

 

One thing that I think might help would be for classically-inclined homeschoolers to stop focusing on the Great Books and Great Conversation, and turn instead to the Good Books and what we might call the Good Conversation.   :001_smile:  Even in curricula that were influenced by John Senior's thinking, the tendency is to see the value of the "Good" in terms of preparation for the "Great."   I think this is all wrong.  My sense is that most of us might only able to dip a toe into the Great Conversation, but we can all be full participants in the Good one, starting in childhood, and continuing through all of life's distractions. 

 

On a practical level, the original "Good Books" list had sections for older teenagers and adults.  Angelicum/GBA truncates this, stopping the "Good" in 8th grade, and switching to the "Great."  This removes a lot of the educational value of the Good Books, because many of them are better suited to the mature reader.  The idea of leaving them behind at age 14 is just absurd.   Of course, students could keep reading them in their spare time, but looking at Angelicum's high school reading list, I doubt they'd have time for that.

 

As for me, I'm going to take a break from thinking about education, and enjoy The Vicar of Wakefield, which I - shockingly! - have never read.  :D

 

Only you could make me come post. :p 

I don't quite disagree with you (especially on my days when I have spoken with a mom who is trying to save her child's education, and hasn't even understood yet how her own education is lacking-and she doesn't care, which is the part that sends me reeling) but I DO think that we have to be hopeful, and encouraging. Especially since most new homeschoolers have no other alternatives but to try this whole experiment out. 

What I can offer from my own experience, is that my own sad education had glimpses of the great. And I would say that my oldest and now graduated students got --something. Lol. I saw where I needed to go, but the wheels were wobbly, and I was busy having twins--and more babies. BUT, what they got was still better than public school, and that has proven itself. Just taking them out of the system was honestly most of the reason they were able to do well. The rest was grace. 

As I learned more myself, (so this is my 13th year homeschooling, and I would say about year 7) I started to finally get the wheels on. I had more books under my belt. And they were good and great books. I voraciously read the best books on education, also (which I still do). 

But, most parents have no idea how bad tier children's or their own education is when they start on this journey, and we need to be there to hold their hands and say no, it's not the best, but it's where you can start and that's what matters the most. 

(And, don't forget that so many of Senior's students became priests/religious--there was *something* there. And perhaps he was just trying to fill up the holes he saw, no? Not strike out and say THIS is the way to do it. I am willing to bet that no one was more surprised than he at the success the IHP was). 



 


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#72 ElizaG

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Posted 25 April 2016 - 06:45 PM

but I DO think that we have to be hopeful, and encouraging. Especially since most new homeschoolers have no other alternatives but to try this whole experiment out. 

I do agree with the first part.  I don't want to be discouraging in general.   

 

But I don't agree that most new homeschoolers have no alternatives to heavy dependence on someone else's methods (if that's what you're saying).   If a mother can read well enough to find her way to a thread like this, and is motivated enough to consider it, then she's capable of internalizing the skills needed to teach her children -- heart to heart, mind to mind -- to the point where they can teach themselves.  Ruth Beechick, the Bluedorns, the Moores, Art Robinson, Ella Frances Lynch all knew this.  Most people today won't go for it, because we have so much stuff, so many methods and theories, that -- in exchange for some of our time, flexibility, and perhaps money -- will paper over the big gap in our parental confidence and know-how.  And if we peel those away, that gap is pretty scary to look at.  And fixing it requires a big change in our habits, and quite possibly a lowering of our expectations for externally recognizable achievements, at least in the short term.   

 

I don't think that this gap is mainly due to shortcomings in our own schooling, in terms of books read, thinking skills, etc.  I think it comes more from the modern attitude that teaching and "developing curriculum" are specialized fields.   Home education has always been a normal part of family life -- for Christians, it's something we're all quite explicitly called by God to do -- and the academic side of it was only gone from the US scene during the years when it was declared illegal, roughly from the 1930s to the 1960s.  (I suspect this would never have happened if education hadn't been professionalized in the first place.) 

 

Earlier generations of parents would have looked for outside help when their children wanted to learn things that they didn't know themselves, or if the parents wanted or needed to spend their time doing something else.  But it would never have occurred to them that they were incompetent to teach their children what they did know.  This is something we see all the time now, and it's a toxic situation.  I will fight it with everything I have.  :willy_nilly:  ;)

 

As for the hand-holding, ITA that we need that.  But homeschool support groups seem to have fewer and fewer DIYers, and I'm not sure how guidance for something so personal can be achieved online.  It's definitely a challenge. 


Edited by ElizaG, 25 April 2016 - 06:47 PM.

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#73 Momto4inSoCal

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Posted 25 April 2016 - 10:15 PM

 

 

 

 

What's not so well established is whether or not it's fruitful for us to be instructed by someone -- homeschooling parent, teacher, GB seminar leader, whoever -- who's just stepping us through materials and procedures written by someone else, and would be "out of her depth" if asked to teach without them.  Due to the rapid growth of the US educational system in the 19th and 20th centuries - when the demand for teachers greatly exceeded the supply, and the number of subjects kept expanding - this sort of thing has become the norm.   We see it all the time in public schools, homeschool co-ops, and parish religious education classes.  God bless these people for wanting to help.  But I feel as if it's created a load of fakery.  At best, it's passing on ideas and skills that are disconnected from one another, and from people's real-life experiences and motivations.  As one of the Aspen seminar skeptics put it in that article above, the results are often "a mile wide and an inch deep." 

 

Sorry for being so negative here.  I do see hope, but we have to be willing to humble ourselves, and acknowledge those areas where we're either completely uneducated, or have been "pseudo-educated" beyond our real capabilities.  We can model being observant (if we are), and loving nature (if we do).  We can try to better ourselves, and our families, in many ways.  We just can't skip to the fancy parts, even if they represent the sort of person we want to be.  They have to be built on a solid foundation in our own thoughts, habits, and tastes.   Otherwise, we'll end up creating a Potemkin homeschool, which might look great to passers-by, but isn't providing our children with the real thing. 

 

Of course, there are also times when the mother acknowledges her limitations, and isn't trying to teach or lead per se, but is learning "from the ground up" alongside her children.  This seems all right in moderation, but it tends to take a lot of time that might be better used in other ways.   Not just the mother's time, but the child's.  Once they're old enough to study on their own, I think we often slow them down.  So we need to find a balance there. 

 

One thing that I think might help would be for classically-inclined homeschoolers to stop focusing on the Great Books and Great Conversation, and turn instead to the Good Books and what we might call the Good Conversation.   :001_smile:  Even in curricula that were influenced by John Senior's thinking, the tendency is to see the value of the "Good" in terms of preparation for the "Great."   I think this is all wrong.  My sense is that most of us might only able to dip a toe into the Great Conversation, but we can all be full participants in the Good one, starting in childhood, and continuing through all of life's distractions. 

 

On a practical level, the original "Good Books" list had sections for older teenagers and adults.  Angelicum/GBA truncates this, stopping the "Good" in 8th grade, and switching to the "Great."  This removes a lot of the educational value of the Good Books, because many of them are better suited to the mature reader.  The idea of leaving them behind at age 14 is just absurd.   Of course, students could keep reading them in their spare time, but looking at Angelicum's high school reading list, I doubt they'd have time for that.

 

As for me, I'm going to take a break from thinking about education, and enjoy The Vicar of Wakefield, which I - shockingly! - have never read.  :D

 

 

 

I have often told DH that my twins will be getting a much better education than my girls have since I feel more grounded in my educational philosophies and will have gone through all the materials twice by the time I get to them. So I understand your thoughts on a parent trying to understand a curriculum herself while simultaneously teaching it. I also believe that in order to homeschool it takes a lot of dedication (read time) to self educate if you don't already possess the knowledge needed to fully understand a subject. At the same time having just finished a few books on our last century of education I believe homeschool can at a minimum recreate an education similar to what you would be receiving in the public school. I would say looking at our first year of homeschooling that it was a disaster. I bought everything my friend told me to buy opened the books for the first time on the first day and plowed through a bunch of books that were not very well suited for my children. The year before that my girls were in a very high rated public school. My oldest was doing great, as the teacher all told me. She didn't have any problems, turned in all her work and even received student of the month for being such a good student. My second daughter was the complete opposite. She was diagnosed with ADHD and I was told she was at the bottom of the class and was even told by one teacher she had never seen any child as bad as her. The doctor who diagnosed her was shocked that her teacher was telling me she was not even hitting benchmark. He said she tested very high on the intelligence test. I pulled them both out of school and in that one year, that I would mark as a failure, my daughter caught up in every subject she was behind on. By the end of the second year she was a year ahead. My oldest, who I had been told was doing great, was actually struggling in a lot of subjects. The problem was she is quiet and never asked questions. She didn't disrupt class, turned in her work but didn't understand any of it. There's no question in our household that homeschooling has been an enormous improvement. I also have friends who taught their older children basically by handing them the book and walking away and their children have done fine. I understand this is anecdotal evidence but at least for us it has worked. 

 

As far as learning along side your child taking up too much time. I will admit filling in my educational gaps has almost engulfed my life at this point. I go to bed reading books, when they play outside or at the park I am reading, I use online time to research but it's ignited a passion in myself that I haven't had in a long time. I had a rough upbringing and never really had a chance at receiving a good education. I was reading at college level by 3rd grade but my home situation was so bad I couldn't focus on school. I loved reading though and this has brought back that love. I can't really think of a better way to spend my time. 

 

I am still torn on the great books. I know for myself understanding the origins of certain thought processes (ie Rousseau's influence on educational theories of the 19th century) have helped me to understand so much more about where we are as a society today. What I don't know is if I can force my children to care or understand some of these idea's, especially in 7th or 8th grade as Veritas Press suggest. Where I struggle is knowing in college they will most likely never have a chance to read any of these books. My girls are interested in science majors so my hopes for a liberal college education are pretty low. Would it be better to give them a somewhat hollow version of the great books and at least they have read them than for them to never have read any of them at all? I still have time to figure it out though so I will keep reading :)   


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#74 ElizaG

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Posted 25 April 2016 - 11:52 PM

I am still torn on the great books. I know for myself understanding the origins of certain thought processes (ie Rousseau's influence on educational theories of the 19th century) have helped me to understand so much more about where we are as a society today. What I don't know is if I can force my children to care or understand some of these idea's, especially in 7th or 8th grade as Veritas Press suggest. Where I struggle is knowing in college they will most likely never have a chance to read any of these books. My girls are interested in science majors so my hopes for a liberal college education are pretty low. Would it be better to give them a somewhat hollow version of the great books and at least they have read them than for them to never have read any of them at all?

When you say "never," do you mean never during their formative years, or never ever

 

Many GB curricula, both secular and Christian, seem to aim at providing a selection of primary documents that cover "what everyone age 18+ needs to know," especially regarding different ideologies.   I feel like there's a sort of desperation there.  As I mentioned earlier, several of the early GB advocates were associated with the post-WWII world government movement.   They felt that democracy and life itself were in peril, and teaching the Great Ideas to everyone would save us.  And then came the Christian curricula, such as VP, that are setting out to equip students to do battle against some -isms they believe to be wrong. 

 

I'm coming at this from a different perspective.  For one thing, it seems impossible to teach about the intellectual history of the West, entirely from primary sources, by the age of 17, and really do it justice.   For another, I believe that education is the handing on of culture, and that's not the same as equipping young people for a war.  (Unless it's a culture of war, and that's something I really want to avoid.)  So this gets back to the question of why each family values literature, and what we hope to accomplish by having our children study it as a school subject. 

 

For my part, I'd be happy to have my high schoolers learn about the -isms in some quicker way -- say, from textbooks or popular history books.  The literature curriculum would be more for traditional classical purposes, such as developing language skills, forming taste, and learning about human nature in a poetic way (i.e., through examples, rather than through theories).   Taken together, I think these could give them a very solid set of tools to participate in society, and to enjoy, evaluate, and create media throughout their lives.  


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#75 Ordinary Shoes

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Posted 26 April 2016 - 01:46 PM

Thanks for the KFamily booklist. Appears to be a very “do-able,” not intimidating list.

 

I’ve come a long way since I began this thread and not only because I sent DD to school. Two years ago, the Angelicum list would have intrigued me. Looking at it now makes me exhausted.

 

A few years ago, I was pretty enchanted by all of this; the “great conversation,” John Senior, Circe, James Taylor, Andrew Kern, etc. I’ve changed. I’d thrown up my hands and concluded that my efforts should be focused on consistently doing the “good,” not worrying about the “great.”

 

And as I’ve stepped away from it, I have a bit more jaundiced view of those men. John Senior, in particular, is a complicated man. Restoration of Christian Culture is an angry book. I don’t how to understand his issue with recorded music other than dismissing it as a “get off my lawn!” rant. It’s elitist and angry. He may have influenced many vocations and conversions but he died in the SSPX. Some would say that his affiliation is not relevant to his “good” book list. I don’t know. Regardless it seems relevant to me when I look at Senior’s list and shake my head. 

 


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#76 ltlmrs

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Posted 26 April 2016 - 02:36 PM

Haven't been on here in ages, come back to this:

 

What I'm thinking about are activities along the lines of, "Okay, children, today we're all going to 

 

have a Socratic discussion (like philosophers)

observe insects (like entomologists)

make notebooks (like educated old-time people)

 

or something else that the teacher or parent would never have been inclined to do until she read about it in a teacher's guidebook, someone's blog, etc.   

 

If the teacher is already strongly motivated to do this sort of thing, and has some background knowledge, then it's a different situation.  She might not need prepared materials, and if she chooses to use them, she'll be using them as a tool, more than as a method.

.....

As for me, I'm going to take a break from thinking about education, and enjoy The Vicar of Wakefield, which I - shockingly! - have never read.  :D

 

and :svengo:

 

This is probably my favorite WTM post of all time.

 

:thumbup:

 

Of to read the rest of the thread.

 



#77 Momto4inSoCal

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Posted 26 April 2016 - 03:50 PM

When you say "never," do you mean never during their formative years, or never ever

 

Many GB curricula, both secular and Christian, seem to aim at providing a selection of primary documents that cover "what everyone age 18+ needs to know," especially regarding different ideologies.   I feel like there's a sort of desperation there.  As I mentioned earlier, several of the early GB advocates were associated with the post-WWII world government movement.   They felt that democracy and life itself were in peril, and teaching the Great Ideas to everyone would save us.  And then came the Christian curricula, such as VP, that are setting out to equip students to do battle against some -isms they believe to be wrong.

 

I'm coming at this from a different perspective.  For one thing, it seems impossible to teach about the intellectual history of the West, entirely from primary sources, by the age of 17, and really do it justice.   For another, I believe that education is the handing on of culture, and that's not the same as equipping young people for a war.  (Unless it's a culture of war, and that's something I really want to avoid.)  So this gets back to the question of why each family values literature, and what we hope to accomplish by having our children study it as a school subject. 

 

For my part, I'd be happy to have my high schoolers learn about the -isms in some quicker way -- say, from textbooks or popular history books.  The literature curriculum would be more for traditional classical purposes, such as developing language skills, forming taste, and learning about human nature in a poetic way (i.e., through examples, rather than through theories).   Taken together, I think these could give them a very solid set of tools to participate in society, and to enjoy, evaluate, and create media throughout their lives.  

 

My girls do not have my love for reading. I have not given up and I have cut screen time, added library time, given extra bed time for reading. They read here and there but mostly they read what I've assigned to them. I am really hoping at one point they will love reading and read for pleasure but even if they do will they really decide to pick up Aristotle? Latin does bring in some of the great books since they will be translating text but there is a lot more I would love to teach them before they are out of my realm of influence. I'm thinking maybe I can just write up exactly what idea's I want them to learn and understand and put together my own program. My draw to Veritas Press (or Anglican we are not really tied to VP or a particular sect of Christianity) was the online option which would free up my time so that I can focus on my twins. I do think the amount of books they aim to cover in a year is ridiculous. 

 

I didn't realize one of VP's goals in their program was to teaching against other religions. I will have to look at it more closely. That has never been one of my goals. As far as faith goes, my goal is more along the lines of giving my children a foundations so that they can dispute the doubts that creep into everyone's mind at one time or another.  Everyone will make have to make a choice of which spiritual path to follow (or not follow) and I want to make sure they understand what we believe and why before they make that choice. And as for the great books go I like having faith tied to it because it ads a moral filter. What about Hitler's philosophy is off in Mein Kampf. Why hasn't communism worked out? Isn't living in peace as equals a great idea? Where do the idea's of child centered education come from? Is man naturally good? Let's examine Tolstoy's philosophy and see why it inspired Martin Luther and Gandhi. 

 

Now obviously I realize you can look at these books from a secular point of view but as a Christian your answers would be different. Other people may not believe our world is "fallen", they may believe people are naturally good so a biblical view many times will be different. 



#78 ElizaG

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Posted 26 April 2016 - 06:45 PM

I didn't realize one of VP's goals in their program was to teaching against other religions. I will have to look at it more closely.

From what I've seen, it's not so much about other religions (though there might be some of that).  It's more about evaluating non-Christian ideologies, pretty much in the way you've described in the last part of your post.   

 

I think these approaches can have value as a sort of "crash course in worldview" for converts or reverts, or young adults who didn't have a good formation.   Especially if they're done in person.

 

As for homeschooled children, though... maybe I'm completely out to lunch here, but from what I've observed with a limited sample, when they understand the basics of our faith (even at a third-grade level), and have some knowledge of reality (again, just from childhood experiences), then it's fairly blatantly obvious to them why, say, Hitler or Rousseau were wrong.  Their eyes get all big when they realize some people think this way.  "But didn't they know... [insert wisdom of the innocents]?"  

 

I would like to work with that, and provide them with the means to strengthen their sense of truth, goodness, and beauty.  Not go through some master list of worldly ideas, and address them one by one.  If that makes sense. 

 

And I think it does matter what Christian tradition you're looking at, because there are some very major differences in their understanding of how we can relate to non-believers.   For instance, presuppositionalism is an -ism that has strongly influenced some of these courses, including VP's.  I don't know where you stand on that, but it's not the Catholic way of doing things.  Angelicum is almost certainly going to have a different way of looking at the ancients, for example. 

 

This is from ChristianBook.com's page on Omnibus 1:

 

Covering literature, history, and theology from a solidly Reformed perspective, editors Douglas Wilson and G. Tyler Fischer weave their understanding of God's providence and sovereignty throughout history. Emphasizing the importance of understanding presuppositionalism, evaluating worldview, and having a Christo-centric understanding of the world, the authors clearly set out the goal of their work:

 

"We do not learn logic and rhetoric simply to become more competent than our peers. We do it to take dominion in the name of Jesus Christ."

 

Onward, Great Books Soldiers!  :huh:


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#79 ElizaG

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Posted 26 April 2016 - 08:23 PM

Hi ltlmrs!  Good to see you.  Hope all is well.   :001_smile:

 

One of the Jennifers, I've been feeling somewhat the same way.  These authors (and I'll add Thomas Fleming to the list) are such a mixed bag, with some useful ideas mixed with large doses of either crankiness or vague enthusiasms.  What I've come to realize over the last few years is that, if I knew enough to figure out which parts were worth following, I wouldn't need their advice in the first place. 

 

I've found it better -- both as a Catholic, and as a homeschooler trying to understand classical education -- to try to immerse myself in the literature of the actual traditions that look promising, rather than the often sentimental portrayals by those who weren't personally grounded in them.   And from sentimentalism, it's a short step to various false "traditionalisms."  

 

Edward A. Fitzpatrick is pretty solid, for instance.  He's considered a conservative now, but in his time, he was quite ready to incorporate what was good from the latest educational theories.  He also collaborated on a catechetical series with a Jesuit priest, Gerard Smith, who defended De Lubac and had not-yet-acceptable views on ecumenism.  Senior would surely have had a cow.   :001_rolleyes:  (See, for instance, his criticism of Maritain on p. 16 of The Death of Christian Culture.)  Although he didn't even become a Catholic until the 1960s, he somehow felt equipped to judge all of 20th century theology.

 

"You lousy Ressourcement, get off my lawn!"    ;)


Edited by ElizaG, 26 April 2016 - 08:26 PM.

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#80 justamouse

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Posted 26 April 2016 - 10:38 PM

I do agree with the first part.  I don't want to be discouraging in general.   

 

But I don't agree that most new homeschoolers have no alternatives to heavy dependence on someone else's methods (if that's what you're saying).   If a mother can read well enough to find her way to a thread like this, and is motivated enough to consider it, then she's capable of internalizing the skills needed to teach her children -- heart to heart, mind to mind -- to the point where they can teach themselves.  Ruth Beechick, the Bluedorns, the Moores, Art Robinson, Ella Frances Lynch all knew this.  Most people today won't go for it, because we have so much stuff, so many methods and theories, that -- in exchange for some of our time, flexibility, and perhaps money -- will paper over the big gap in our parental confidence and know-how.  And if we peel those away, that gap is pretty scary to look at.  And fixing it requires a big change in our habits, and quite possibly a lowering of our expectations for externally recognizable achievements, at least in the short term.   

I totally agree.

 

I don't think that this gap is mainly due to shortcomings in our own schooling, in terms of books read, thinking skills, etc.  I think it comes more from the modern attitude that teaching and "developing curriculum" are specialized fields.   Home education has always been a normal part of family life -- for Christians, it's something we're all quite explicitly called by God to do -- and the academic side of it was only gone from the US scene during the years when it was declared illegal, roughly from the 1930s to the 1960s.  (I suspect this would never have happened if education hadn't been professionalized in the first place.) 

 

Agree again. 

 

Earlier generations of parents would have looked for outside help when their children wanted to learn things that they didn't know themselves, or if the parents wanted or needed to spend their time doing something else.  But it would never have occurred to them that they were incompetent to teach their children what they did know.  This is something we see all the time now, and it's a toxic situation.  I will fight it with everything I have.  :willy_nilly:  ;)

 

As for the hand-holding, ITA that we need that.  But homeschool support groups seem to have fewer and fewer DIYers, and I'm not sure how guidance for something so personal can be achieved online.  It's definitely a challenge. 

 

​From my experience, us do it yourselfers get hammered on for not explaining everything well enough, and not making a trail or writing our own curricula so others can follow it. I remember this part of the discussion from the old CiRCE threads--you'd have to come to my house and SEE it. I can't write a curriculum around it. But people *need* the curriculum because they are just standing in the middle of the woods no knowing where to turn, with a forest of trees around them. It's a very hard challenge. But we can't throw up our hands and not try, though, because I think our responsibility of a sort is to rediscover the road of the old ways. 

 

When you say "never," do you mean never during their formative years, or never ever

 

Many GB curricula, both secular and Christian, seem to aim at providing a selection of primary documents that cover "what everyone age 18+ needs to know," especially regarding different ideologies.   I feel like there's a sort of desperation there.  As I mentioned earlier, several of the early GB advocates were associated with the post-WWII world government movement.   They felt that democracy and life itself were in peril, and teaching the Great Ideas to everyone would save us.  And then came the Christian curricula, such as VP, that are setting out to equip students to do battle against some -isms they believe to be wrong. 

 

I'm coming at this from a different perspective.  For one thing, it seems impossible to teach about the intellectual history of the West, entirely from primary sources, by the age of 17, and really do it justice.   For another, I believe that education is the handing on of culture, and that's not the same as equipping young people for a war.  (Unless it's a culture of war, and that's something I really want to avoid.)  So this gets back to the question of why each family values literature, and what we hope to accomplish by having our children study it as a school subject. 

 

For my part, I'd be happy to have my high schoolers learn about the -isms in some quicker way -- say, from textbooks or popular history books.  The literature curriculum would be more for traditional classical purposes, such as developing language skills, forming taste, and learning about human nature in a poetic way (i.e., through examples, rather than through theories).   Taken together, I think these could give them a very solid set of tools to participate in society, and to enjoy, evaluate, and create media throughout their lives.  

 

 

Again I totally agree. 

There's a very interesting conversation going on on Andrew Kern's Facebook wall that is a part of this discussion, and he only mentions it in a comment on a post. 

That we are hundreds of years away from truly regaining what we have lost in Western Civilization education. And how truly the first part of that regaining, is living. That we first have to make home and family the center again, and that itself is a daunting task. And perhaps not reading ALL of the books is the answer, but baking the bread is the answer. And the rest will follow, but perhaps for your grandchildren, not quite your children. 

We love literature at our house because I've made reading a part of our family culture. We love it because I'm careful in choosing books, and those books tell the story of what it is to be human. I'm not about to toss my library. 

I'm not about saying Adler is THE way, or Senior is The way, or Hicks is The way. When I read Senior (Way back, now) I remember most clearly recognizing how and why the public school education was broken. Of course, I could have read Abolition of Man and come up with the same response, but Senior was the trail I was on. I didn't read Abolition until later. Matter of fact, I don't think I was *read* for Abolition at that time, but Senior was the next step for me. 


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#81 justamouse

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Posted 26 April 2016 - 10:39 PM

"If the teacher is already strongly motivated to do this sort of thing, and has some background knowledge, then it's a different situation.  She might not need prepared materials, and if she chooses to use them, she'll be using them as a tool, more than as a method."

I think they're trying to get there. And I don't begrudge them that. 



#82 Ordinary Shoes

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Posted 27 April 2016 - 12:02 AM

Again I totally agree. 

There's a very interesting conversation going on on Andrew Kern's Facebook wall that is a part of this discussion, and he only mentions it in a comment on a post. 

That we are hundreds of years away from truly regaining what we have lost in Western Civilization education. And how truly the first part of that regaining, is living. That we first have to make home and family the center again, and that itself is a daunting task. And perhaps not reading ALL of the books is the answer, but baking the bread is the answer. And the rest will follow, but perhaps for your grandchildren, not quite your children. 

We love literature at our house because I've made reading a part of our family culture. We love it because I'm careful in choosing books, and those books tell the story of what it is to be human. I'm not about to toss my library. 

I'm not about saying Adler is THE way, or Senior is The way, or Hicks is The way. When I read Senior (Way back, now) I remember most clearly recognizing how and why the public school education was broken. Of course, I could have read Abolition of Man and come up with the same response, but Senior was the trail I was on. I didn't read Abolition until later. Matter of fact, I don't think I was *read* for Abolition at that time, but Senior was the next step for me. 

 

This is all very true but baking the bread, when you can buy bread at the local grocery store, isn't the same as baking the bread without a supermarket. Baking bread, the new domesticity, agrarianism, whatever, are "lifestyle choices" in a consumerist society. The fact that we can choose that instead of something else (buying Wonder at the grocery store) sets us apart from almost every woman in history. The genie won't go back in the bottle easily. 

 

I suspect that many of the daughters of new domesticians will not follow in their mothers' footsteps. 

 

ETA I think this is an example of the "potemkin village" ElizaG mentioned above. When baking bread is a personal choice, not a necessity, do we elevate that personal choice to something more than a choice? I think we all have a tendency to do this. But it really is *just* a personal choice. It might mean more than that to the person who choose it because it is imbued with meaning. Sometimes that personal choice is one of the things that we use to define ourselves. But because it is actually just another another personal choice amongst all of the other options in a consumerist society others won't choose as we do and will buy bread from the bakery. I know this is convoluted but there is something fundamentally different about having to do something and choosing to do something. 

 

 


Edited by One of the Jennifers, 27 April 2016 - 12:18 AM.

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#83 justamouse

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Posted 27 April 2016 - 08:58 AM

This is all very true but baking the bread, when you can buy bread at the local grocery store, isn't the same as baking the bread without a supermarket. Baking bread, the new domesticity, agrarianism, whatever, are "lifestyle choices" in a consumerist society. The fact that we can choose that instead of something else (buying Wonder at the grocery store) sets us apart from almost every woman in history. The genie won't go back in the bottle easily. 

 

I suspect that many of the daughters of new domesticians will not follow in their mothers' footsteps. 

 

ETA I think this is an example of the "potemkin village" ElizaG mentioned above. When baking bread is a personal choice, not a necessity, do we elevate that personal choice to something more than a choice? I think we all have a tendency to do this. But it really is *just* a personal choice. It might mean more than that to the person who choose it because it is imbued with meaning. Sometimes that personal choice is one of the things that we use to define ourselves. But because it is actually just another another personal choice amongst all of the other options in a consumerist society others won't choose as we do and will buy bread from the bakery. I know this is convoluted but there is something fundamentally different about having to do something and choosing to do something. 

Baking the bread was a metaphor for re-centering life around he home. Not being consumers. We're already not using the public school system, which is completely counter cultural, and, somewhat doing (some of us more purposefully) what ElizaG talked about--building culture. It may take more than our children, but my own children already are being producers, not consumers in their own life choices, so I have hope. 

 


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#84 Ordinary Shoes

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Posted 27 April 2016 - 11:09 AM

I don't mean to devalue anyone's choices. I'm pessimistic overall but I don't think that means that we shouldn't try. 

 

 



#85 ElizaG

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Posted 27 April 2016 - 11:33 AM

"If the teacher is already strongly motivated to do this sort of thing, and has some background knowledge, then it's a different situation.  She might not need prepared materials, and if she chooses to use them, she'll be using them as a tool, more than as a method."

I think they're trying to get there. And I don't begrudge them that. 

 

Mouse, I don't know who "they" are, but just wanted to make it clear that I have nothing against them.  Since I have no idea who they are.  :laugh:  

 

Again, I'm not bashing anyone, or saying that anyone should change what they're doing that seems to be working (see my previous post on that).   This is more on the whole-group attitude level.  I just really want to ditch the mindset that "following a procedure" is the natural default for newcomers who lack self-confidence.  And that "doing your own thing" -- for those who choose it -- is something that grows out of having used various methods and textbooks with multiple children, for some years, until we've internalized them.   I know this is how it's proceeded for many people here, but I don't think it's a model of some natural and inevitable process.  If we keep it up, I feel as if homeschooling is going to be detached from the home education of the past, and also from all of the many other aspects of raising children and keeping house, for which (most of the time) there is no "method."  

 

To put it a completely different way - which might make more sense - the feeling I've picked up from many threads on these boards is that most classically-oriented homeschoolers are more comfortable with full out unschooling, than with parent-led homeschooling that doesn't match up with their own expectations.   Apparently, while it might be a bit "out there" to think that an eight year old can be trusted to direct her own learning, it's far more radical to think that the child's parent can be trusted in this way.   There's no logic to this -- unless we agree with Rousseau! -- but then, homeschooling mothers of young children aren't known for keeping a tight hold on logic at all times (I think mine might be somewhere under the fridge :laugh:).  For instance, when we fall far short of our personal expectations to teach certain important things, many of us are inclined to feel that the responsible thing to do would be to pack it in and send the children to school.   Never mind that the school doesn't teach those things either.  The point is that we're failures, and so the right thing to do is to let someone else take over.   Maybe the school.  Or maybe the child himself. 

 

So anyway... imagine that we didn't feel that way.  And picture a family whose children are being taught at home -- by their parents, and possibly also by some parental substitutes, such as a governess, much older sibling, or aunt.   And the grown-ups all feel that it's their role, and within their competence, to teach and guide the child.  Even though they know they're not perfect, they feel no compulsion to follow an outside curriculum (unless the child is being prepared for something imminent, like college entrance exams).   They just do what seems right to them at the time.  Unschooling, with the parents providing direction.  

 

This seems like an oxymoron now, though I think it's what home education for most younger boys -- and for most girls, at every age -- actually used to look like.   And again, many of these adults, especially the women, had little formal education themselves. 

 

I think Kern's talk of "hundreds of years" is rubbish, frankly.   If we want families who really have the habits of praying together, working together, and reading good books together (ora et labora et studia), that can be achieved practically next week, if we want it badly enough, and if we're not expecting the "education-industrial complex" to show us the way.   The character of public schools might be largely determined by the culture, but the character of the culture is largely determined by the life of families.   I can't speak for any other groups, but if Catholic culture in the US is trashed, it's mainly because of individual Catholic families abandoning their responsibility as they grabbed slices of the pie (material wealth, movies, social clubs...).   Yes, the hierarchical Church went along with it - starting all kinds of organizations to take over what the parents should be doing - but they did this reluctantly at first, and only because the parents had already started putting their children into non-Catholic schools and programs.   Within a few decades, these organizations forgot their roots, and turned into a massive self-justifying bureaucracy, as might have been predicted.  But if you go back to the early years, it wouldn't have happened without parents who fed the beast. 

 

And the thing is, because I have a somewhat classical outlook, and like to read good old books (Cure of Ars, anyone?), I don't think people in the past were all that different.   So if we're going for these pie-in-the-sky visions of CiRCE, Senior, et al -- communities made up almost entirely of happy and virtuous peasants, who work the land, are also highly literate and cultured, etc.-- well, sure, I agree, that would take longer.  It would take more than hundreds of years.  Because it never existed.  Frankly, I have a lot more faith in the possibility of our manifesting Teilhard de Chardin's Omega Point, wiggy as that sounds. 

 

:leaving:

 

So here's what I'm saying to the new folks (or those who still feel clueless, four years after the CiRCE thread) :  forget trying to "restore civilization."  Just read books.  Classic books that challenge you.  Good or great, it's your choice.   And do the same with other media - music, art, etc.   And do stuff with your family -- stuff that can't be purchased.  It will be untidy; it will be amateurish; you will probably not come up with pictures worthy of a top 10 blog, let alone a "method" for publication.  Go for it.  :laugh:

 

(ETA:  added quote)


Edited by ElizaG, 27 April 2016 - 11:34 AM.

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#86 justamouse

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Posted 27 April 2016 - 05:24 PM

'They' are the moms and families just starting out, and slogging through the weeds and using the tools they find to help direct their homeschool. 

I think you mistake me. I don't disagree with you at all--this past post I wholeheartedly agree with. I took one way to get there--you took another way--but we both have come to the same conclusion. 

I would hate to say, 'this path is bad' to a mom starting out, who's looked to that help, blog, website for help. After years, they'll get to the same place that we have. I think it just comes with time and experience. 

And as far as Kern is concerned--I think you're optimistic. After teaching CCD for 4 years, and sitting through a town BOE meeting last night that made me want to set my hair on fire and spit nickels-it might be an *easy* thing to change the culture--if you have the *will*. Getting people to have the will--that's a lot of work. Which is where Kern is coming from, I think. 

As easy as your last paragraph is, just getting someone to SEE that they need to read books, even classic books, or do things that can't be purchased (when purchasing things is such a status symbol) even going to church, or choosing CCD over 4 sports games--this is a huge paradigm change that's easy for you and me, but a Mt. Everest to many walking down the street. 

 


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#87 ltlmrs

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Posted 27 April 2016 - 06:27 PM


So here's what I'm saying to the new folks (or those who still feel clueless, four years after the CiRCE thread) :  forget trying to "restore civilization."  Just read books.  Classic books that challenge you.  Good or great, it's your choice.   And do the same with other media - music, art, etc.   And do stuff with your family -- stuff that can't be purchased.  It will be untidy; it will be amateurish; you will probably not come up with pictures worthy of a top 10 blog, let alone a "method" for publication.  Go for it.  :laugh:

 

 

And what you mentioned earlier ElizaG, she should learn the things she wants to learn and is interested in.  But, if she learns along side or reads something just because it fits into a "classical education" pigeon hole kids will pick up on it and they don't like it when you're trying to make them learn something that you a) don't know and b) don't really care about or only care about it from a utilitarian standpoint.  That's why I hate the articles that extoll how wonderful Latin is for SAT scores.  If one wants to learn Latin along side one's kids because one really want to read Cicero in the original, by all means go ahead even if starting from scratch, but if you're trying to learn it because its something you think you should be doing it will be drudgery for everyone.  It would be better to outsource it to someone who is really enthusiastic about the subject or wait till the kid is big enough to develop an interest in it on their own (like 8's daughter who's really into languages).

 

I have to add, you gave me a kick in the butt to trust myself to really examine what I actually know and what I'm interested in and to teach that.  It turned out I knew a lot more than I thought, including about literature :lol:  and it's way better than anything a curriculum provider might produce AND it gets done even in the worst of times.  In the past, when people would ask me what I was doing I'd say, "Well, we're schooling bilingually, otherwise I'd just order MP or send them to the school where DH teaches."  No longer. I was actually disgusted with the last MP and CAP catalogs :scared: .  Why did I ever think that following their "thou must school 6 hours a day" pre-made plans and workbooks would be easier than doing what I already know and do well when life is topsy-turvy?

 

 

And the thing is, because I have a somewhat classical outlook, and like to read good old books (Cure of Ars, anyone?), I don't think people in the past were all that different.   So if we're going for these pie-in-the-sky visions of CiRCE, Senior, et al -- communities made up almost entirely of happy and virtuous peasants, who work the land, are also highly literate and cultured, etc.-- well, sure, I agree, that would take longer.  It would take more than hundreds of years.  Because it never existed.  Frankly, I have a lot more faith in the possibility of our manifesting Teilhard de Chardin's Omega Point, wiggy as that sounds.

 

Minor quibble but I personally know people/communities who are like this (though not sure why they'd have to all be peasants, some are but some of the ones I know personally are actual aristocrats, but they still cultivate the land; but speaking of peasants, I've always found it odd that DH's relatives have names like Minerva, Virgil, etc and most of them think he's weird because he likes Latin).  And these are organic communities, not Catholic Homestead Movement :leaving: .  It was/is rare, but it does/did exist.  In the South, at least, and in France, but I expect it is even more wide spread, I just don't personally know them.  The thing is though, these are folks who are not trying to start movements, they just live their lives and do what they've always done.  But, I agree with you that something like that could not be widespread via some sort of mass education GB system in the modern day world.


Edited by ltlmrs, 27 April 2016 - 06:35 PM.

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#88 okbud

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Posted 27 April 2016 - 06:37 PM

Oh man you guys, this thread is killin' it.

 

So good.



#89 Momto4inSoCal

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Posted 27 April 2016 - 08:00 PM

From what I've seen, it's not so much about other religions (though there might be some of that).  It's more about evaluating non-Christian ideologies, pretty much in the way you've described in the last part of your post.   

 

I think these approaches can have value as a sort of "crash course in worldview" for converts or reverts, or young adults who didn't have a good formation.   Especially if they're done in person.

 

As for homeschooled children, though... maybe I'm completely out to lunch here, but from what I've observed with a limited sample, when they understand the basics of our faith (even at a third-grade level), and have some knowledge of reality (again, just from childhood experiences), then it's fairly blatantly obvious to them why, say, Hitler or Rousseau were wrong.  Their eyes get all big when they realize some people think this way.  "But didn't they know... [insert wisdom of the innocents]?"  

 

I would like to work with that, and provide them with the means to strengthen their sense of truth, goodness, and beauty.  Not go through some master list of worldly ideas, and address them one by one.  If that makes sense. 

 

And I think it does matter what Christian tradition you're looking at, because there are some very major differences in their understanding of how we can relate to non-believers.   For instance, presuppositionalism is an -ism that has strongly influenced some of these courses, including VP's.  I don't know where you stand on that, but it's not the Catholic way of doing things.  Angelicum is almost certainly going to have a different way of looking at the ancients, for example. 

 

This is from ChristianBook.com's page on Omnibus 1:

 

Covering literature, history, and theology from a solidly Reformed perspective, editors Douglas Wilson and G. Tyler Fischer weave their understanding of God's providence and sovereignty throughout history. Emphasizing the importance of understanding presuppositionalism, evaluating worldview, and having a Christo-centric understanding of the world, the authors clearly set out the goal of their work:

 

"We do not learn logic and rhetoric simply to become more competent than our peers. We do it to take dominion in the name of Jesus Christ."

 

Onward, Great Books Soldiers!  :huh:

 

Ahh, I looked at ism and thought Hinduism, Mormonism, Buddhism etc... I guess because I did see the Koran on the omnibus list. This thread was resurrected just in time for me. I was really worrying this year about how I was going to teach all of the great book. I felt that was the only way to give my children a good education but understanding where the great books movement began and that it wasn't really tied to classical education helps me let go of that burden. 

Now that you mention presuppositionalism I do remember having a conversation about that when I was going through catechism classes. My husband is Catholic and in order to marry in the church I had to convert to Catholicism but I grew up in a non-denominational Evangelical church. We are now raising our children in a non-denominational church. I've always tried to focus on what unites us rather than what divides us but I guess that might be confusing for my children.  Anyway, thank you so much for answering all my questions. I feel like everyone here has so much wisdom and all of you have given me so much to think about.  Now off to finish Emile lol. 


Edited by Momto4inSoCal, 27 April 2016 - 08:00 PM.


#90 ElizaG

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Posted 27 April 2016 - 11:11 PM

 

My husband is Catholic and in order to marry in the church I had to convert to Catholicism but I grew up in a non-denominational Evangelical church.

OT, but I wanted to make sure that others realize that the Catholic Church permits marriages between Catholics and Protestants.  I take the above to mean that you converted in order to have the full ceremony with a Nuptial Mass?   They're supposed to discourage conversion for that reason (or for any reason other than actually believing in it), for reasons that I guess are obvious to you by now.

 

 I've always tried to focus on what unites us rather than what divides us but I guess that might be confusing for my children.  

I don't think it would necessarily be confusing, but you'd be limited in the amount of theology and apologetics you could cover.   I mention that because you said in another thread that you planned to teach those subjects.

 

(And for what it's worth, going by that post I just linked, you don't sound anything like a presuppositionalist.  So I'm guessing you don't have to be concerned about that part, anyway.  :001_smile:)

 


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#91 ElizaG

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Posted 28 April 2016 - 11:40 AM

And as far as Kern is concerned--I think you're optimistic. After teaching CCD for 4 years, and sitting through a town BOE meeting last night that made me want to set my hair on fire and spit nickels-it might be an *easy* thing to change the culture--if you have the *will*. Getting people to have the will--that's a lot of work. Which is where Kern is coming from, I think. 

As easy as your last paragraph is, just getting someone to SEE that they need to read books, even classic books, or do things that can't be purchased (when purchasing things is such a status symbol) even going to church, or choosing CCD over 4 sports games--this is a huge paradigm change that's easy for you and me, but a Mt. Everest to many walking down the street. 

Okay - I wasn't talking about "changing the culture" in a broad sense, just building up the level of culture in our own families.   I think everyone on this thread is fairly motivated to do that.   And I'm very far from actively going around trying to convince others to do it (I'm in research and documentation, not sales and marketing ;)). 

 

What we've found in the EFL discussions is that we're often limited due to poor habits and ways of thinking.  One thing all Christians seem to agree on is that sin makes you stupid, and we've all picked up our share of stupidity through the years, from our own choices or other people's.  So I would have been more open to Kern if he'd put the emphasis on growing in virtue (which I know he does talk about, but I don't think it can be said too many times).  You know, the old "Heaven, not Harvard" line.  Because -- even though I used to think differently -- I now believe that it doesn't work to try to optimize both academics and spiritual growth.   But if we put spiritual growth first, then when we do turn our attention to our studies, there will quite likely be an intellectual boost as well.   For some of our less enthusiastic neighbors, this might make the difference between ignoring great books, and being motivated to read them.  Even if it's "only" the Bible or spiritual writings.  :001_smile:

 

Baking bread, while a good activity in itself, won't get us those effects.  Unless it's truly an essential duty of our state in life, such that baking it every day, even when we'd much rather be doing something else, is an exercise in virtue.  I think this might account for part of the difference that Jennifer noted.

 

Nor, I'd say, will slogging through Great Books, if done mainly for intellectual reasons, or in a way that feeds what Pope Francis (quoting de Lubac) calls spiritual worldliness -- i.e., doing "Christian stuff" with a mindset of pride and desire for power, rather than humility and service to others.   And this is really easy to fall into, especially when it comes to apologetics and controversial issues.  

 

So this is one reason why I think the GB "one size fits all" lists are misguided.  People are at different stages on their journey.   Some need the milk, some can have the meat, and others are able to sort out one from the other (and both from the Pop-Tarts).    :D


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#92 LostCove

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Posted 28 April 2016 - 12:57 PM

I'm really enjoying this thread, guys, thank you. My kids seem determined that I won't get to participate in it at length, but I wanted to share a quote from Henri Marrou's history of education in the ancient world that was very clarifying for me in thinking about "culture" and education. In Marrou's work, and, he argues, in the ancient world, culture “must be understood in its specifically French sense as ‘a personal form of the life of the mind,’ and not, as some ethnographers wrongly interpret it, in the sense of German Kultur, which means civilisation." And with that, I'm off to break up a fight.  :001_rolleyes:


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#93 LostCove

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Posted 28 April 2016 - 09:03 PM

One of the Jennifers, I've been feeling somewhat the same way.  These authors (and I'll add Thomas Fleming to the list) are such a mixed bag, with some useful ideas mixed with large doses of either crankiness or vague enthusiasms.  What I've come to realize over the last few years is that, if I knew enough to figure out which parts were worth following, I wouldn't need their advice in the first place. 

 

Word.

 

This is all very true but baking the bread, when you can buy bread at the local grocery store, isn't the same as baking the bread without a supermarket. Baking bread, the new domesticity, agrarianism, whatever, are "lifestyle choices" in a consumerist society. The fact that we can choose that instead of something else (buying Wonder at the grocery store) sets us apart from almost every woman in history. The genie won't go back in the bottle easily. 

 

I suspect that many of the daughters of new domesticians will not follow in their mothers' footsteps. 

 

ETA I think this is an example of the "potemkin village" ElizaG mentioned above. When baking bread is a personal choice, not a necessity, do we elevate that personal choice to something more than a choice? I think we all have a tendency to do this. But it really is *just* a personal choice. It might mean more than that to the person who choose it because it is imbued with meaning. Sometimes that personal choice is one of the things that we use to define ourselves. But because it is actually just another another personal choice amongst all of the other options in a consumerist society others won't choose as we do and will buy bread from the bakery. I know this is convoluted but there is something fundamentally different about having to do something and choosing to do something. 

 

I really, really want to resist the idea that, because of when we live, anything beyond, say, the ten commandments and the precepts of the Church, is a "personal choice." I mean, I agree with you and ElizaG that baking bread is not essential to growth in virtue. BUT, there has to be another way of thinking about these things besides consumer preferences - don't we all have unique talents, interests, temperaments that are givens and not self-generated "identities"? Isn't it better for me to figure out if I'm "supposed to" be baking bread (or reading Aristotle? or NOT reading Aristotle?) and do that than...not?

 

In the past, I've looked for a theory to justify my choices - a theory of classical education or Western civilization or child development or whatever - and then wanted to work out procedures from those theories. But what I'm starting to think is that it's enough to just do the things that give us true enjoyment - that is actually a reliable indicator of the kinds of things we should be doing as a family - and that figuring out the how is really a matter of diligently trying a bunch of stuff and observing what happens.

 

This turns out to require a pretty significant internal shift for me, because I have been so conditioned to ignore and discount my "emotions" as a guide to action that I actually kind of think that unless I feel really bad about myself and generally inadequate, I'm probably not trying to do the right thing. :laugh: I could be uniquely messed up in this respect, but I suspect not (thank you, Kant?). And following any number of procedures in this spirit seems unlikely to ever result in a self-confident mother and much more likely to result in the kind of discouragement and giving up that ElizaG discusses. This mindset sets one up to fail - probably by design.

 

I think Kern's talk of "hundreds of years" is rubbish, frankly.   If we want families who really have the habits of praying together, working together, and reading good books together (ora et labora et studia), that can be achieved practically next week, if we want it badly enough, and if we're not expecting the "education-industrial complex" to show us the way.   The character of public schools might be largely determined by the culture, but the character of the culture is largely determined by the life of families.   I can't speak for any other groups, but if Catholic culture in the US is trashed, it's mainly because of individual Catholic families abandoning their responsibility as they grabbed slices of the pie (material wealth, movies, social clubs...).   Yes, the hierarchical Church went along with it - starting all kinds of organizations to take over what the parents should be doing - but they did this reluctantly at first, and only because the parents had already started putting their children into non-Catholic schools and programs.   Within a few decades, these organizations forgot their roots, and turned into a massive self-justifying bureaucracy, as might have been predicted.  But if you go back to the early years, it wouldn't have happened without parents who fed the beast. 

 

One more thought from Marrou: he argues that education is a lagging indicator, NOT the midwife of a civilization. In addition to providing a lot of food for thought about what that implies about American civilization, this suggests that focusing on educational methods is precisely not what we should do even if we do want to "restore civilization." 


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#94 Ordinary Shoes

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Posted 29 April 2016 - 01:01 AM

Word.

 

 

I really, really want to resist the idea that, because of when we live, anything beyond, say, the ten commandments and the precepts of the Church, is a "personal choice." I mean, I agree with you and ElizaG that baking bread is not essential to growth in virtue. BUT, there has to be another way of thinking about these things besides consumer preferences - don't we all have unique talents, interests, temperaments that are givens and not self-generated "identities"? Isn't it better for me to figure out if I'm "supposed to" be baking bread (or reading Aristotle? or NOT reading Aristotle?) and do that than...not?

 

In the past, I've looked for a theory to justify my choices - a theory of classical education or Western civilization or child development or whatever - and then wanted to work out procedures from those theories. But what I'm starting to think is that it's enough to just do the things that give us true enjoyment - that is actually a reliable indicator of the kinds of things we should be doing as a family - and that figuring out the how is really a matter of diligently trying a bunch of stuff and observing what happens.

 

This turns out to require a pretty significant internal shift for me, because I have been so conditioned to ignore and discount my "emotions" as a guide to action that I actually kind of think that unless I feel really bad about myself and generally inadequate, I'm probably not trying to do the right thing. :laugh: I could be uniquely messed up in this respect, but I suspect not (thank you, Kant?). And following any number of procedures in this spirit seems unlikely to ever result in a self-confident mother and much more likely to result in the kind of discouragement and giving up that ElizaG discusses. This mindset sets one up to fail - probably by design.

 

 

One more thought from Marrou: he argues that education is a lagging indicator, NOT the midwife of a civilization. In addition to providing a lot of food for thought about what that implies about American civilization, this suggests that focusing on educational methods is precisely not what we should do even if we do want to "restore civilization." 

 

I think this is a very good point. I think we all want to imbue our personal choices (meaning a choice that gives us joy, makes us more comfortable or whatever) with some kind of significance beyond our comfort or our happiness. I think mothers often believe that our wants, needs and desires are not worthy enough to dictate our choices. So we go looking for something else to justify those choices. There are several dangers in this. First, it discounts our perfectly valid wants, desires and needs. Second, if this theory, opinion, action, whatever is about more than just my choice then I begin to assume that others should make the same choice.

 

I want to believe that the choices I make for my family are more than just a "personal choice." However, it's not lost one me that my choices usually involve spending money which is a good indication that consumerism is involved.

 

Ironically I baked bread tonight. Not because of this discussion because Sunday is Easter and I made Pascha bread with my daughter. 



#95 ElizaG

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Posted 29 April 2016 - 07:49 PM

I want to believe that the choices I make for my family are more than just a "personal choice." However, it's not lost one me that my choices usually involve spending money which is a good indication that consumerism is involved.

It seems important to recognize that women's culture has historically been largely material.   For women who are homemakers, providing food and furnishings is a large part of our job of caring for our loved ones, and also a significant part of the way we interact with the outside world.   The Proverbs 31 woman bought items in the marketplace, and made some things to sell there, in addition to making things for use at home.   I'm guessing she had to make some choices about all that.   Would it have been better for her to dress her children like St. John the Baptist in the wilderness, to avoid consumption as much as possible?    Or to have just bought whatever was cheap and prominently displayed at the market, without thinking much about the quality, or the social and ecological effects of the way it was produced?  These might not be the most lofty issues, but they're choices that women really make on an ongoing basis, and they do go into making up both their personal culture and their Kultur (just typing that word makes me want to buy a VW and eat some knackwurst :laugh:). 

 

IIRC -- and I'm probably mangling this -- Aristotle and St. Thomas distinguished between goods such as knowledge, which can be shared freely without being used up, and material goods, which can't.   I find it possible to take more of a blanket position against the consumer mindset when it comes to the first category, which would include liberal education, and the teaching of skills to improve domestic life.   St. Paul told the older women to teach the younger ones to be keepers at home.  He didn't tell them to figure out how to monetize their mommy blogs.

 

With food, though, and other necessary goods in the second category, we can't very well opt out of consumption, or even minimize it below a reasonable level.  The question then is, what sort of consumers are we going to be?  And these decisions don't have to be completely self-centered and subjective on the one hand, or rigid and normative for everyone on the other.  It's about finding a balance.   Which I think is supposed to be easier as we grow in virtue.  I hope so, anyway!

 

 

 

ETA: replaced a phrase that fell out somehow


Edited by ElizaG, 29 April 2016 - 07:53 PM.

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#96 ElizaG

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Posted 30 April 2016 - 12:04 AM

I keep forgetting to post this link, which I came across recently:

 

Jesuit Education Quarterly, 1938-1970 (Archive.org)

 

This was a publication of the Society of Jesus in the United States.   It was meant for their eyes only, but given that one of their colleges has put it online, I think we're good.  ;)  As you might guess from the dates, many of the articles are on the subject of "uh-oh, how do we fix liberal education?"   Hutchins & company are mentioned quite a few times. 

 

You can search the OCR text version via Google -- for instance, here are the results for searches on "Great Books" and  "Donnelly."

 

Between this site and some books that arrived recently, I have a ridiculously large backlog of promising reading material (and I guess anyone else who's interested in the SJs' take on liberal education does now, too :001_smile:), so should probably take a break until I've made something of it.   Many thanks to everyone for such a stimulating discussion.  


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#97 LostCove

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Posted 30 April 2016 - 01:49 PM

I think this is a very good point. I think we all want to imbue our personal choices (meaning a choice that gives us joy, makes us more comfortable or whatever) with some kind of significance beyond our comfort or our happiness. I think mothers often believe that our wants, needs and desires are not worthy enough to dictate our choices. So we go looking for something else to justify those choices. There are several dangers in this. First, it discounts our perfectly valid wants, desires and needs. Second, if this theory, opinion, action, whatever is about more than just my choice then I begin to assume that others should make the same choice.

 

I want to believe that the choices I make for my family are more than just a "personal choice." However, it's not lost one me that my choices usually involve spending money which is a good indication that consumerism is involved.

 

Ironically I baked bread tonight. Not because of this discussion because Sunday is Easter and I made Pascha bread with my daughter. 

 

Hm, I think I'd want to flesh out this idea of "personal choice" a bit more. I see there being a difference between a "personal choice" based on a realistic assessment of one's temperament, talents, responsibilities, resources (all things that are givens, that you accept as coming from outside of yourself) and a "personal choice" that is the simple assertion of arbitrary will. The first does "have meaning" beyond an act of arbitrary, autonomous volition - it's the exercise of the virtue of prudence! And it's the virtue, not the act of choosing, that makes us happy!

 

I also disagree with the idea that the difference between us and those peasants back then is that we have choices, have the freedom to will, and they lived according to strict necessity. Getting in a bit above my pay grade here, but Aquinas said the will by nature is inclined to infinite goodness. When infinite goodness is not available (basically, for all of us not currently experiencing the Beatific Vision), we simply must choose between a variety of limited goods - this is where "personal choice" comes from, not a particular historical era or social structure. It is a necessary byproduct of our current human condition.

 

I think we get confused when we focus on individual actions and outcomes, when virtue is about faculties and habitual dispositions and actions. So, baking sourdough vs. buying Wonder bread vs. buying organic bread at Whole Foods vs. buying sourdough made from locally sourced GMO-free sprouted grains at the farmers' market? I can imagine situations in which all of those would be virtuous and also situations in which none of them would be virtuous.

 

In any case, we are stuck with virtue - there is no way to do an end run around it to the "correct" outcome, although consumerism (which I'd also want to distinguish from any instance of spending money) is one way we deny that - sentimental ideas about olden times when "Christian culture" did all the hard work for us is another. And I've certainly indulged in my fair share of both of those denials.  :001_rolleyes:

 

To try to bring this back to the actual topic of the thread, I think this is another way of getting at what ElizaG was saying with her Potemkin homeschool comment (if I'm wrong, I hope she'll correct me!): we can't get around the development of our own personal culture and our children's (the exercise of "educational virtue"?) by adhering to an educational method or purchasing a particular curriculum or having your kids read a particular list of books. True education is about formation, not information, as the Jesuits liked to say, about self-activity. Best to do a realistic assessment of ourselves and our education and move forward from there in trust, even if it seems to look more like Wonder Bread and there's someone over there hoping to sell us a sourdough boule (or, perhaps even more tempting, a few cookbooks that promise to teach us how to bake beautiful sourdough loaves and all the necessary equipment - digital scales, dough whisks, bannetons, a cast iron dutch oven...not that have any personal experience with this temptation). 


Edited by LostCove, 30 April 2016 - 01:55 PM.

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#98 LostCove

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Posted 30 April 2016 - 02:06 PM

I keep forgetting to post this link, which I came across recently:

 

Jesuit Education Quarterly, 1938-1970 (Archive.org)

 

This was a publication of the Society of Jesus in the United States.   It was meant for their eyes only, but given that one of their colleges has put it online, I think we're good.  ;)  As you might guess from the dates, many of the articles are on the subject of "uh-oh, how do we fix liberal education?"   Hutchins & company are mentioned quite a few times. 

 

You can search the OCR text version via Google -- for instance, here are the results for searches on "Great Books" and  "Donnelly."

 

Between this site and some books that arrived recently, I have a ridiculously large backlog of promising reading material (and I guess anyone else who's interested in the SJs' take on liberal education does now, too :001_smile:), so should probably take a break until I've made something of it.   Many thanks to everyone for such a stimulating discussion.  

 

OK, just spent a few minutes skimming through the first issue available there - neat! I'm curious about Edward A. Fitzpatrick and his project at Marquette now - don't suppose he's the author of any of your new books? This volume of the Proceedings of the NCEA seems to have some description of it, but I haven't had a chance to read through it yet.


Edited by LostCove, 30 April 2016 - 02:08 PM.


#99 ElizaG

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Posted 30 April 2016 - 09:58 PM

OK, just spent a few minutes skimming through the first issue available there - neat! I'm curious about Edward A. Fitzpatrick and his project at Marquette now - don't suppose he's the author of any of your new books? This volume of the Proceedings of the NCEA seems to have some description of it, but I haven't had a chance to read through it yet.

Thanks for sharing that link; his paper starts on p. 465, for those who might be hunting for it.    

 

Yes, some of the books are either by him, or from series that he edited:  the Marquette Monographs on Education, and the catechetical books.   That entire curriculum was called Religion in Life, and the student catechisms were rather unfortunately called The Highway to Heaven Series (if you search for them, be prepared to face many pictures of Michael Landon  :laugh:).   There seems to be very little about the project anywhere.   

 

As the president of Mount Mary, a Catholic women's college, he put together a curriculum that had a mixture of liberal and vocational subjects; it might be interesting to look at.   Sister Bertrande Meyers developed a curriculum along similar lines, but aimed specifically at the formation of religious teachers; it's available in her book, The Education of Sisters. 

 

In general, though, I think discussion of Fitzpatrick would fit better in the EFL thread.  He was the leading promoter of her ideas in mainstream Catholic educational circles, and published at least two of her articles in the Catholic School Journal.  

 

(Most of the above books are in the public domain, but not online.   My scanning pile should probably take precedence over the reading pile for now!)

 

 

[ETA correction:  Meyers, not Meyer]


Edited by ElizaG, 30 April 2016 - 10:01 PM.


#100 ElizaG

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Posted 04 May 2016 - 01:51 PM

In the June 1963 Jesuit Educational Quarterly, Fr. Henle (who was a philosopher, and only secondarily an author of Latin textbooks) expresses some thoughts about the relationship between moral and intellectual formation, which he says are "necessary conditions of each other's growth."   

 

He also writes about the difference between formation and "brain washing" or "psychological conditioning":

 

"This is a most delicate matter.  This calls for the highest kind of self denial and self control, for the highest kind of human sympathy and understanding and for the highest intellectual integrity in the Jesuit educator.  But it alone is true formation which is an internal free growth of the student and which is grounded in personal grasp of reality."

 

The first point seems to be overlooked by secular GB programs, and I think the second concern is often ignored by homeschoolers who take a "worldview" approach.   Even if we're trying to follow the path he describes, it's difficult today, when the trend in both "Classical Christian" and secular K-12 education is to present texts that are heavy in meaning (more than in language) at earlier ages.  Again, I feel as if there's a sort of desperation there, maybe combined with misguided ideas of efficiency.  As he says, "It is harder to go the long way round and have people grow into self-directed maturity." 

 

(On the other hand, his closing statement about the strength of then-current Catholic higher education -- going by the outward fact that a large majority of students still held orthodox beliefs and attended Mass -- now seems completely naive.  Judging by the next article, it probably did to many of his colleagues even at the time.)


Edited by ElizaG, 04 May 2016 - 01:54 PM.

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