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


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#101 ElizaG

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Posted 07 May 2016 - 01:40 PM

I think these approaches [ETA:  "Great Books" taught with a Christian apologetic emphasis] 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. 

I just came across something in a blog post about Andrew Pudewa that reminded me that I have similar concerns about the John Senior type of emphasis.   Both "Good Books" and "Christian Great Books" -- when used as focused pedagogical methods -- appear to take their justification not so much from traditional child-rearing, nor from Montessori-style scientific observation of the child, but from the personal experience of adult converts.   For instance, here's the passage:

 

"Andrew shared how he was raised in a home where the religion was sailing, and dabbled in a New Age cult as a teenager. Eventually, as a young man, he discovered the joy of faith in Christ. He asked himself later what in his background could possibly have led him to a deep embrace of the gospel. The answers were rather surprising: Nature and Fairy Tales."

 

Which is great, if that's what worked for him.  But does it mean that an emphasis on nature and fairy tales is a "method" that would best prepare the path for all children everywhere?  I feel as if that's how it's being presented, a lot of the time.   

 

We don't tend to see this connection being made in the biographies of of saints raised in devout Christian homes, or in older Christian writings on education.  It doesn't fit with my own experience, either, although -- like both Pudewa and Senior -- I was raised in a nominally religious atmosphere, and went through a stage of being drawn to "new age" ideas.   Without getting into the various factors that drew me back, I'm pretty sure that frogs and fairy tales don't rank especially high on the list. 

 

I don't know what to make of this whole trend.   Is it an attempt to seem neutral?  As in, these parents and teachers want the children to know and love Christ as they do, but don't want to seem like they're biasing them in that direction - since, as Fr. Henle says, traditional adult-to-child "formation" is considered suspect these days? 

 

 

 

[ETA clarification]


Edited by ElizaG, 07 May 2016 - 01:52 PM.

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#102 Ordinary Shoes

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Posted 07 May 2016 - 02:34 PM

I just came across something in a blog post about Andrew Pudewa that reminded me that I have similar concerns about the John Senior type of emphasis.   Both "Good Books" and "Christian Great Books" -- when used as focused pedagogical methods -- appear to take their justification not so much from traditional child-rearing, nor from Montessori-style scientific observation of the child, but from the personal experience of adult converts.   For instance, here's the passage:

 

"Andrew shared how he was raised in a home where the religion was sailing, and dabbled in a New Age cult as a teenager. Eventually, as a young man, he discovered the joy of faith in Christ. He asked himself later what in his background could possibly have led him to a deep embrace of the gospel. The answers were rather surprising: Nature and Fairy Tales."

 

Which is great, if that's what worked for him.  But does it mean that an emphasis on nature and fairy tales is a "method" that would best prepare the path for all children everywhere?  I feel as if that's how it's being presented, a lot of the time.   

 

We don't tend to see this connection being made in the biographies of of saints raised in devout Christian homes, or in older Christian writings on education.  It doesn't fit with my own experience, either, although -- like both Pudewa and Senior -- I was raised in a nominally religious atmosphere, and went through a stage of being drawn to "new age" ideas.   Without getting into the various factors that drew me back, I'm pretty sure that frogs and fairy tales don't rank especially high on the list. 

 

I don't know what to make of this whole trend.   Is it an attempt to seem neutral?  As in, these parents and teachers want the children to know and love Christ as they do, but don't want to seem like they're biasing them in that direction - since, as Fr. Henle says, traditional adult-to-child "formation" is considered suspect these days? 

 

 

 

[ETA clarification]

 

I think you make a very good point here.

 

I think some of this is due to what you wrote about these men and their particular enthusiasms. They like something. It speaks to them. Helped them along a journey, whatever. And then they begin writing about how *it's* the thing everyone must do. They like fairy tales so we all should like Andrew Lang.

 

I too have a hard time placing their "enthusiasms" into the minds of the pre-20th century saints that I've read.

 

I was raised in a religious Catholic post VII family. We went to Mass every week and prayed although I was never exposed to any traditional piety like the Rosary, other Marian devotions or the saints. I discovered those things on my own as an adult. I don't think of myself as a revert because I'd always been a believer even though I'd gone through a period in my 20's where I didn't go to Mass regularly. Nature and fairy tales had actually no influence on my decision to learn more about my faith and to take it more seriously.


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#103 ElizaG

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Posted 07 May 2016 - 09:01 PM

Thinking back to the early history of the GB movement in Victorian England -- especially the desire to bring culture to the working classes, and the sense of literature as a substitute for religion -- I think it can be seen as something that developed out of the Evangelical tradition of missionary outreach.   That gives a different perspective on the question. 

 

For instance, Sunday schools were originally intended as a way to reach children whose parents were fallen-away, or were members of other religious groups, rather than those whose parents who were active members of Protestant churches.   It was taken for granted that the latter group of parents would already be seeing to their own children's religious training.  In the same way, the original GB classes were trying to reach adults whose family traditions of literary culture (or lack thereof) weren't considered up to snuff.   

 

In the USA, the Sunday school developed a sort of "mission creep," where it became seen as something for all families.  It also spun off the Chautauqua movement, which had similar goals to the Great Books movement . 

 

According to Wikipedia, the UK Sunday school movement started in the late 18th century, and taught both literacy and religion to working children.  It's considered the precursor of their national school system.

 

So there are some intriguing connections and parallels there. 

 

I have to stop reading about Sunday schools, and start getting ready for Sunday... it's really interesting, though.  I had no idea that a lot of them were set up in the style of the Panopticon:huh:

 

 

[Edited - fixed a typo]


Edited by ElizaG, 07 May 2016 - 09:21 PM.

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#104 Ordinary Shoes

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Posted 08 May 2016 - 01:47 AM

The Sunday School thing is interesting. I remember being surprised to learn that Sunday School was something that divided Protestant churches in the 19th century.

 

I wrote my earlier post in about 5 minutes as I was running out the door so I'll revisit it. What lead me back to the Church in my 20's was a good old fashioned fear of hell. Somehow ingrained into my subconscious during my 1970's Catholic childhood despite the felt banners and folk Masses. Not in a Redemptorist mission sort of a way but it did the trick.

 

I remember hearing a story from an FSSP priest (who was probably a Seniorite, BTW) about 2 young men who returned from a camping trip in the wilderness haunted by an evil spirit. The young men went to a priest who did an exorcism. I remember the priest telling us that most cities and towns had enough houses and churches that had been blessed to keep evil spirits away but not in the country. That story has been in my head for 20 years and is what I think of when I read about nature and the outdoors.

 

And Pudewa has gone off to live the "Benedict Option" in the middle of nowhere Oklahoma. Not to make light of Clear Creek. I've supported the monastery over the years. The monks surely come into the monastery infected with modernism like all of us. But they don't need to invent a traditional way to live because they follow the Rule of St. Benedict. Those of us outside the monastery walls don't have an ancient book we can follow so we're much more on our own. 

 

 



#105 ElizaG

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Posted 08 May 2016 - 11:35 AM

I don't want to entirely reject the idea of a Catholic homesteading movement.   Some of those projects seem to have worked quite well, to the point of having their own liberal arts college (which, for the purposes of this thread, is going to have to stand as a benchmark for literary culture). 

 

I do think ltlmrs is on to something, though, because both of the ones I can think of offhand -- Prince Gallitzin's, and the one that's developed informally around Madonna House -- were more or less founded by members of the Russian nobility.  :laugh:   



#106 LostCove

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Posted 15 May 2016 - 01:46 PM

Late to this branch of the discussion, but surely part of the appeal of the nature and good books "method" is that it is ecumenical. My sense is that many people advocating it and families drawn to it are fine talking to their own children about their more particular "faith commitments," but maybe are more interested in finding "common ground" for connecting with the wider homeschool community.


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#107 LostCove

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Posted 18 May 2016 - 02:35 PM

So, I've been reading more of the Jesuit Educational Quarterly, and it's really given me some better language to articulate the difference I see (and experienced as an undergrad) between the GB approach and the older/more traditional/literary humanist approach to "texts." The newer approach sees texts primarily as vehicles of ideas, but the older approach saw them as externalizations of personality. Fr. Bull's article in this issue was particularly helpful. Here's a brief bit:

 

 

[To say that an educational system is "formalistic"] means merely that the student is to be put in contact with the "forms" of the great masters. It means that their whole experience is to be re-presented (i.e. to be present again) in the inner life of the student. He is to become instructed not only in the fact of who the author was; nor of what he thought; nor even of what he imagined and felt. The student is bent toward trying to experience within himself that totality of idea, imagining, and feeling of which form in the sense of mere extrinsic style, is but the externalization. If he is interested in the style predominantly, it is because the style in this full sense, is the man. And man, not thing, must be the object of literary study

 


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#108 justamouse

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Posted 18 May 2016 - 04:10 PM

So, I've been reading more of the Jesuit Educational Quarterly, and it's really given me some better language to articulate the difference I see (and experienced as an undergrad) between the GB approach and the older/more traditional/literary humanist approach to "texts." The newer approach sees texts primarily as vehicles of ideas, but the older approach saw them as externalizations of personality. Fr. Bull's article in this issue was particularly helpful. Here's a brief bit:

 

I love this. 

I think some of us by instinct do the latter. 

I don't know what propels some to follow the former--I see it as a lack, somehow. Like teaching what you haven't read (and what you must measure), so you have to follow a hollow format. 

Kinda like my siggy.


Edited by justamouse, 18 May 2016 - 04:11 PM.


#109 LostCove

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Posted 18 May 2016 - 08:05 PM

I love this. 

I think some of us by instinct do the latter. 

I don't know what propels some to follow the former--I see it as a lack, somehow. Like teaching what you haven't read (and what you must measure), so you have to follow a hollow format. 

Kinda like my siggy.

 

Maybe, but I had some pretty well-read professors who taught the Great Books as mainly about ideas, so for some I think it must be a deliberate choice.



#110 ElizaG

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Posted 27 May 2016 - 05:37 PM

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've been thinking about this, off and on, since you posted it.

 

In my non-scientific, non-historianish way, I start by thinking of Renaissance humanistic education as having crystallized in the 1599 Ratio Studiorum.

 

Then rewind to, say, Vittorino da Feltre (1378-1446), who was one of the early figures in the revival of this sort of education. 

 

That is a long time!   And in between, there was:  New communications technology (printing press).  Public immorality.  Waste.  Greed.  Political unrest.  Religion was very messed up.   Sounds kind of familiar.

 

But if we go back before Vittorino - before the humanistic education system starts to take shape -- we have the poets, especially Petrarch (1304-1374) who was influenced by Cicero's letters.

 

And before him, of course, there was Dante (1265-1321) who pioneered the use of the vernacular, and was also influenced by classical writers (most notably Virgil), and by the troubadors.

 

As far as I can tell, both Dante and Petrarch had sort of the generic education of their time.   Then they got heavily into the ancient classics, and other "old-fashioned poetry," on their own. 

 

I guess we could call this the stage of "poets rule; universities drool."   And we could say that the poets really drove the whole thing. 

 

I'm not sure how this maps on to our own time, but it's making me feel better about my plan to teach Bob Dylan lyrics in high school.  :laugh:



#111 ElizaG

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Posted 27 May 2016 - 10:16 PM

Just realized that we have a book by Marrou about the troubadors!  Les troubadours... not sure if it's been translated.  It's shelved with numerous other "good books" that I haven't got around to reading yet.

 

And in what's likely just an amusing coincidence, if you line up Walter Scott (b. 1771) with Dante, then Longfellow (b. 1807) lines up with Petrarch.

 

Then Fr. Donnelly (b. 1869) and Maria Montessori (b. 1870) line up with Gasparinus de Bergamo, the grammarian who taught Vittorino da Feltre.   And Ella Frances Lynch (b. 1882) with Vittorino himself.    Yes, this is a stretch.   To compare the prestige of their schools, I guess we'd have to take "children of the Harvard admissions director" as the modern equivalent of "children of the King of Mantua."   Which might not be that far off, actually.  :laugh:

 

And the invention of the printing press lines up with the invention of computers.

 

Which would put us... when?  Right about the time Macchiavelli wrote The Prince

 

Okay, now I'm going to stop this little experiment... it's starting to freak me out...  :leaving:



#112 ElizaG

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Posted 28 May 2016 - 10:20 AM

Everything I read about Renaissance writing and education points back to Cicero, who is not on the Angelicum/GBA list.  [ETA: Not quite true; they do list two of his treatises, but not his letters or speeches, which were very important in the traditional curriculum.]

 

In 11th and 12th grade, they do recommend a beginning Latin text that has excerpts of his work.    This doesn't fit with their chronological sequence, and it also raises the question of why students would start a beginner's Latin course in 11th grade, if they've been studying it since 3rd.  

 

So their curriculum doesn't just need more poets and orators.  It needs a grammarian, stat!  :laugh:   And maybe an honors track, because I'm guessing that the reason for all those beginner courses is that some students couldn't keep up.   Dropping some of the required reading might help.  But even in the early days of the JEQ, the thinking was that not all students had the motivation and aptitude for the full program of classical language studies.   This goes back to what Fr. McGucken said -- that universal high school would make the traditional system unworkable.   But Western culture seems to depend on some part of the population having access to the Latin and Greek classics, in the original.

 

So there are two things I'd like to see from companies such as Angelicum or Kolbe: 

 

1)  Providing for a 6- or 7-year classical path, with some attempt at integrated language studies (English, Latin, Greek, & a modern language) as recommended by Fr. Donnelly, using textbooks and video tutorials as needed. 

 

2)  Providing for a broader, but still humanistic, poetic, and linguistic path, with a variable level of difficulty, as found in the women's academies. 

 

I don't know if they would go for this; they seem pretty heavily invested in the GB model.  Although -- confusingly -- Kolbe's "Ignatian Education in the Home" booklet recommends Fr. Donnelly's Principles of Jesuit Education in Practice.   Which maybe one or two people actually read, back when they had to find a copy from a library or through an offline bookseller (the thought of it!  How did anyone learn anything, in those days? ;) ). 

 

For now, if we want to do something like either of the above, we have to make our own lists and plans.   Which turns out to be not that hard for #1, and kind of fun for #2.  :001_smile:


Edited by ElizaG, 28 May 2016 - 10:30 AM.

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#113 Ordinary Shoes

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Posted 28 May 2016 - 10:54 AM

Everything I read about Renaissance writing and education points back to Cicero, who is not on the Angelicum/GBA list.  [ETA: Not quite true; they do list two of his treatises, but not his letters or speeches, which were very important in the traditional curriculum.]

 

In 11th and 12th grade, they do recommend a beginning Latin text that has excerpts of his work.    This doesn't fit with their chronological sequence, and it also raises the question of why students would start a beginner's Latin course in 11th grade, if they've been studying it since 3rd.  

 

So their curriculum doesn't just need more poets and orators.  It needs a grammarian, stat!  :laugh:   And maybe an honors track, because I'm guessing that the reason for all those beginner courses is that some students couldn't keep up.   Dropping some of the required reading might help.  But even in the early days of the JEQ, the thinking was that not all students had the motivation and aptitude for the full program of classical language studies.   This goes back to what Fr. McGucken said -- that universal high school would make the traditional system unworkable.   But Western culture seems to depend on some part of the population having access to the Latin and Greek classics, in the original.

 

So there are two things I'd like to see from companies such as Angelicum or Kolbe: 

 

1)  Providing for a 6- or 7-year classical path, with some attempt at integrated language studies (English, Latin, Greek, & a modern language) as recommended by Fr. Donnelly, using textbooks and video tutorials as needed. 

 

2)  Providing for a broader, but still humanistic, poetic, and linguistic path, with a variable level of difficulty, as found in the women's academies. 

 

I don't know if they would go for this; they seem pretty heavily invested in the GB model.  Although -- confusingly -- Kolbe's "Ignatian Education in the Home" booklet recommends Fr. Donnelly's Principles of Jesuit Education in Practice.   Which maybe one or two people actually read, back when they had to find a copy from a library or through an offline bookseller (the thought of it!  How did anyone learn anything, in those days? ;) ). 

 

For now, if we want to do something like either of the above, we have to make our own lists and plans.   Which turns out to be not that hard for #1, and kind of fun for #2.  :001_smile:

 

I'm sure it's here somewhere and I'm having a hard time keeping up but do you have examples for #2? 



#114 ElizaG

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Posted 28 May 2016 - 01:21 PM

I'm sure it's here somewhere and I'm having a hard time keeping up but do you have examples for #2? 

There are some links to vintage catalogues from girls' schools somewhere on the boards -- I posted at least one, and so did ltlmrs.  But I'm not sure they'd be especially useful, as these curricula were always more a product of their time, so their choice of literature and electives often seems dated.   ("Today we're studying Ruskin, followed by the making of wax fruit, and then we have to clean up before your harp lesson."   :laugh: )

 

The modern academic high school/prep school curriculum -- with its concern for breadth, and its focus on literature -- developed out of this type of course.  If you keep the math, science, and social sciences from taking over, and take out the "university methods" in the humanities in the earlier years, then it's also quite useful as a model. 

 

I don't know about the way things went in the US public high schools, but the US Catholic schools, and public school systems in Commonwealth countries, seem to have stayed close to that pattern until at least the 1930s, and much later in some places.   Three out of four of my children's grandparents followed secondary and college curricula that were on the more traditional side [eta: and the fourth one kind of did too, come to think of it].  Even the public schools I attended were somewhat more humanistic than the US system.  So once I was aware of the history behind all this, "what to do" was more obvious than it was with the classical course.   But I'll look for some examples from that era.   They're a bit hard to track down, because they're old enough to be hard to find, but not pre-1923 -- so they're often not viewable online, even if they turn out to be in the public domain.

 

A large part of the motivation behind my research was my disappointment -- I think "horror" might actually be a more accurate word -- at the realization of what "writing" consisted of in US homeschool curricula.    There was just this huge disconnect from my own experience and values.   The core writing was nearly all academic, and any vaguely traditional methods (free writing, "neo-classical progym," sentence composing, etc.) were used as isolated supplements, if they were used at all.

 

The thread that really got me thinking about this was one in which some respected board members said that forms such as narrative and letter-writing were for elementary, not high school.   This isn't a classical POV, and it doesn't seem very practical to me, either.  As an adult, I could still benefit greatly by working on my letter-writing skills.  We could say that this whole discussion forum is dependent on our letter-writing skills. 

 

So, to me, it's really less about following a certain model or book list, and more about modifying the current standards in a way that fits with our educational values and preferences.

 

The classical curriculum, on the other hand, does have a fairly rigid model, so the examples are much more valuable. 

 

Traditionally, the narrower mostly-classical curriculum was almost exclusively for boys (to prepare for leadership in various fields), and the broader mostly-modern one was more for girls (to prepare them to maintain the culture in the home and society).   But today, we can give each child the choice.   For me, the most important take-home message is both of these types of curricula are valuable, and they're both necessary for a healthy and balanced culture. 

 

The Great Books movement has effectively displaced many of the secondary studies that were traditionally considered more "feminine," such as art, music, and modern languages.  At the same time, it's deprived both boys and girls of the training of the emotions that they received in the study of poetry and rhetoric.   There are a lot of things I could criticize about the movement, but this is the aspect that makes me really steamed.   It just seems inexcusably ignorant. 

 

 

Sorry... got a little carried away there... I will try to find you those links.  :laugh:


Edited by ElizaG, 28 May 2016 - 01:25 PM.

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#115 Ordinary Shoes

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Posted 28 May 2016 - 02:23 PM

 

 

I don't know about the way things went in the US public high schools, but the US Catholic schools, and public school systems in Commonwealth countries, seem to have stayed close to that pattern until at least the 1930s, and much later in some places.   Three out of four of my children's grandparents followed secondary and college curricula that were on the more traditional side [eta: and the fourth one kind of did too, come to think of it].  Even the public schools I attended were somewhat more humanistic than the US system.  So once I was aware of the history behind all this, "what to do" was more obvious than it was with the classical course.   But I'll look for some examples from that era.   They're a bit hard to track down, because they're old enough to be hard to find, but not pre-1923 -- so they're often not viewable online, even if they turn out to be in the public domain.

 

 

  

 

Thanks. 

 

My parents attended public high school in a Texas city in the 1950's. I've always believed they received a much better education than I did at my public 1980's high school. My parents read and memorized poetry. They were expected to read many classic 19th century english novels as well as Shakespeare and Chaucer. My 1980's english classes were similar but required less reading and no memorization. I'm sure the kids at my high school today are reading even less than we did as the cycle continues. 

 

My mother never believes me when I tell her that she received a better education than I did. How could that be? It was the 1950s after all. Everything is better in modern times.  :rolleyes: I think her attitude explains why no one seemed to care when all of this was erased. Everything old is bad and everything is always improving. "Why would anyone learn Latin?" Direct quote from my mother. 


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#116 ltlmrs

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Posted 01 June 2016 - 02:13 PM

My parents attended public high school in a Texas city in the 1950's. I've always believed they received a much better education than I did at my public 1980's high school. My parents read and memorized poetry. They were expected to read many classic 19th century english novels as well as Shakespeare and Chaucer. My 1980's english classes were similar but required less reading and no memorization. I'm sure the kids at my high school today are reading even less than we did as the cycle continues. 

 

My mother never believes me when I tell her that she received a better education than I did. How could that be? It was the 1950s after all. Everything is better in modern times.  :rolleyes: I think her attitude explains why no one seemed to care when all of this was erased. Everything old is bad and everything is always improving. "Why would anyone learn Latin?" Direct quote from my mother. 

 

Yup, this attitude is typical.  DMIL was raised by a mother who could recite long poems by heart as well as lengthy passages from scripture and the only book DMIL remembers actually owning growing up was a Bible.  Her father would teach them about the world around them as they walked back and forth to work in the fields so she knows so much about natural history.  Added to this, she went through a one-room school house memorizing poetry and speeches, learning to write letters and is the hardest working, most competent housekeeper I know to boot.  As I've mentioned before she's got siblings and cousins with names like Minerva and Virgil, so the classical connection can't be that far removed.  That said, I've often reflected on the fact that she'd have made a much better teacher-mother than I do and should be a natural ally in what I'm trying to accomplish.  And yet she thinks we're nuts for a) not sending our kids to school and b) at the very least embracing modern graded education if we must homeschool (which is what the other homeschoolers in the family did).  I wish this attitude was just limited to my Scotch-Irish relatives, but my parents and siblings -- whose Soviet education was far superior to that of their American peers -- also think I'm nuts for not following Common Core.   :huh:   Ah well, people are funny.


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#117 Ordinary Shoes

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Posted 02 June 2016 - 12:23 AM

Yup, this attitude is typical.  DMIL was raised by a mother who could recite long poems by heart as well as lengthy passages from scripture and the only book DMIL remembers actually owning growing up was a Bible.  Her father would teach them about the world around them as they walked back and forth to work in the fields so she knows so much about natural history.  Added to this, she went through a one-room school house memorizing poetry and speeches, learning to write letters and is the hardest working, most competent housekeeper I know to boot.  As I've mentioned before she's got siblings and cousins with names like Minerva and Virgil, so the classical connection can't be that far removed.  That said, I've often reflected on the fact that she'd have made a much better teacher-mother than I do and should be a natural ally in what I'm trying to accomplish.  And yet she thinks we're nuts for a) not sending our kids to school and b) at the very least embracing modern graded education if we must homeschool (which is what the other homeschoolers in the family did).  I wish this attitude was just limited to my Scotch-Irish relatives, but my parents and siblings -- whose Soviet education was far superior to that of their American peers -- also think I'm nuts for not following Common Core.   :huh:   Ah well, people are funny.

 

Well to be fair, it's easy to be nostalgic for a time that we never lived in. In the case of my mother, it's hard to get past the "it was the 1950s!" argument when she can't forget that she attended schools with no African Americans and drank out of whites' only drinking fountains. Her family came from a "sundown town." 



#118 ltlmrs

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Posted 02 June 2016 - 06:58 AM

Well to be fair, it's easy to be nostalgic for a time that we never lived in. In the case of my mother, it's hard to get past the "it was the 1950s!" argument when she can't forget that she attended schools with no African Americans and drank out of whites' only drinking fountains. Her family came from a "sundown town." 

 

Actually, very little of what colors my own outlook is nostalgia and its certainly not for the 1950s.  I can't be nostalgic for a time that wanted to destroy itself and I'd rather take the Universal Church and classical education over what either my parents (Soviet Russia) or DMIL (protestant America) had.  That said, human sentiments unenlightened by the Whig theory of history have been that what we have now is worth preserving and passing down, moderns tend to want to tear down the past out of guilt.  Every generation has their problems: in 1950s America individuals were prevented from fully participating in society based on particular external characteristics under the misguided banner of "I'm better than you," in the 2010s they are murdered for it in utero for even more frivolous reasons.  I guess my point is not really to be uncharitable towards either my parents or DMIL, to bash them, nor to ignore the evils of their days, but to marvel at how much a want for material improvement can override the instinct to pass down what one has to one's own children.  Along that same vein, and to bring it back to the great books discussion, I marvel at how the (early and modern) proponents of great books that arose as a reaction to this "modern is better" view of education could come up with simply reading and discussion of sundry books as their vision of a restored traditional education that in reality promoted an acquisition of a body of knowledge with sweat and toil (I'm thinking of the classical languages and large quantities of works that were learned by heart).



#119 ElizaG

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Posted 02 June 2016 - 10:10 AM

(...) I marvel at how the (early and modern) proponents of great books that arose as a reaction to this "modern is better" view of education could come up with simply reading and discussion of sundry books as their vision of a restored traditional education that in reality promoted an acquisition of a body of knowledge with sweat and toil (I'm thinking of the classical languages and large quantities of works that were learned by heart).

Something I find interesting about technological society is that it doesn't value physical work or hands-on artistry of any kind (including motherhood).  The GB movement is one example of this.  We're just minds stuck inside machines, interacting with "great ideas" that are stuck inside language.   And yet, this society seems to feed materialism.  :huh:



#120 ElizaG

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Posted 02 June 2016 - 10:51 AM

Thinking about, say, John Senior and Thomas Fleming -- they also seem detached, but in a different way.  They appreciate the material aspects of traditional culture, but, from what I can tell, they see them as the parts that others do.  So we're going to take our students to look at the farmer on his land.  Or write about the dinner we had at a very good Italian restaurant by a historic bridge.  And so on. 

 

It's interesting that in the 19th century, "cultured" women were expected to be able to sing (in multiple languages), dance, play the piano, paint, sculpt.   Men were not, from what I've seen, even though visual and physical arts had been a part of systems of male education in the past.   The Jesuit schools used to have their dramas, but even that seems to have faded.  By the 20th century, the only regular opportunity for physical artistry that was left for the young men was in sports.  And Hutchins, notably, even wanted to get rid of that. 

 

It's as if the male elite just shoved all the responsibility for the physical side of our existence onto the women, and some mysterious "other people" (slaves? peasants?) who should be taking care of it.   But they didn't make any provisions for their education in these skills.   Because, apparently, they're not important.  Even to those who would assert that they're very important.  

 

To me, this sort of irrational behavior points to a deep-seated psychological problem in society as a whole.   



#121 ElizaG

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Posted 23 June 2016 - 08:16 PM

Following up on the request for examples of non-classical curricula that were put together along more traditional and humanistic lines:

 

It turns out that there are lots of vintage Canadian textbook lists online (scanned from the collection of a graduate school of education), but they're not terribly enlightening.  They go pretty much like this:

 

English Grammar

English Reader

English Composition

 

French Grammar

French Reader

 

Latin Grammar

Latin Reader

Latin Prose Composition

 

  :laugh:   And the newer book lists are even less enlightening, even if they have trendier titles.

 

For language arts, though, I found a copy of an English textbook for 11th and 12th grade that was published in 1961.  It's the third edition (first edition was in 1937), and it's sort of a weird hybrid of traditional methods and models, and some pretty cheesy dumbed-down exercises.   As with the US Jesuit textbooks from that era, it's easy to see in hindsight that the system was under a lot of strain.  The Jesuits thought that this was because of universal high school, which meant that many students weren't up to the traditional level of work.   On the other hand, Hilda Neatby, a Canadian historian and education critic of the 1950s, would have put more of the blame on the "progressive" ideology that displaced the handing on of liberal culture throughout the children's school years.   There are some quotations here in an Amazon review of her book, So Little for the Mind.  

 

So anyway... here's what the textbook covers.

 

11th grade:

 

Words: history of the English language, common questions of usage (60 pages)

Sentences:  unity, coherence, common grammar problems, imitating effective structure (50 pages)

Paragraphs:  what they are, topic sentences, details, compare/contrast, etc. (30 pages)

Expository essays:  choosing a subject, thesis statement, planning & outlining, drafts, etc. (15 pages)

Explanatory writing:  defining, explaining differences, giving directions (15 pages)

Paraphrase & precis (20 pages)

Descriptive writing (45 pages)

Social letters (15 pages)

Business letters (25 pages)

Business calls and interviews (10 pages)

 

12th grade:

 

Words:  finding the exact word, figures of speech (15 pages)

Sentences:  conciseness, force, variety, sound & rhythm, imitating model sentences (30 pages)

Paragraphs (6 pages)

Prose style:  use of models, devices for effective prose (23 pages)

Research essays:  choosing subject, stating thesis, stages of writing the essay, etc. (15 pages)

Writing reports and reviews (15 pages)

Informal essays: idea, style, models (10 pages)

Literary appreciation and criticism (27 pages)

Precis writing (14 pages)

Logical fallacies, propaganda, etc. (10 pages)

Mass media (10 pages)

Discussion and debate (25 pages)

Short story: study & writing (35 pages)

One-act play: study & writing (6 pages)

Public speaking (15 pages)

 

There's also an attached handbook that covers grammar & usage, common spelling problems, poetic meter, library skills, and parliamentary procedures. 

 

Whatever the shortcomings of the textbook itself, this aproach is much closer to what Fr. Donnelly describes in Principles of Jesuit Education in Practice.  Literary forms and devices are studied to teach the student how to use them.   Models are used extensively, and style is fundamental, not a frill.   Narrative, description, and epistolary rhetoric hold their own.   Literary criticism for its own sake, and writing about literature, are only introduced at the very end of the 12th grade -- the age at which, in the classical system, students would have graduated from "college."   Because the high school curriculum is the college curriculum.   


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#122 Momto4inSoCal

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Posted 23 July 2016 - 10:25 PM

I'm bringing back this thread to post this article on the socratic method. I know it's been discused here that the socratic method isn't really based on Socrates but I thought this article gave a really good history on the pedagogy. It also gives a brief history of the great books method.

http://www.holycross...things_past.pdf

 

"This is not to say that educators completely dismissed the historical
figure of Socrates. They did not. Many continued to reference the fact that
Socrates taught by asking questions. The claim, of course, was indistinct,
leaving undefined the nature of his questions, their tone, their number,
their purpose, and so on. But it was repeated so often that many under-
standably perceived the statement as having captured the essence of
Socratic practices. Rather than viewing that basic truth about asking ques-
tions as the beginning of a puzzle to which we have few additional answers,
many saw it as a complete picture. Such a perspective would have allowed
an educator to call nearly any kind of practice Socratic as long as questions
were involved."

 


Edited by Momto4inSoCal, 24 July 2016 - 07:56 PM.


#123 ElizaG

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Posted 31 August 2016 - 03:39 PM

I hope you don't mind my introducing another angle. 

 

The Harkness method -- which was promoted in prestigious American prep schools starting in the early 1930s -- seems very similar to the original GB discussion method, which originated at Columbia University and Cooper Union in the late 1920s.  The only difference I can find is that Harkness involved a specially built table, whereas the plebs and colleges were free to use whatever furniture they had handy.    ;)  

 

This leads me to wonder:  was there a connection between them?   It seems very likely, since both sets of creators were said to be inspired by the Oxford tutorial system, which they modified in very similar ways.  (For example, see the interview with Buchanan & Barr linked on page 1 of this thread, and "Harkness Learning:  Principles of a Radical American Pedagogy".)   But I can't turn up any references on this. 

 

Another question that comes to mind:  what teaching methods were prep schools such as Exeter using before Harkness?   In some places, I've read that the system was based on "recitations," in which the teacher asked questions, and there was a somewhat competitive atmosphere in which the most confident students clicked their fingers to ask the teacher to call on them.   This sounds similar to the recitation method that was standard in old-time public schools and academies, as we've discussed a bit in the big EFL thread.   In other places, though, I've read that Harkness replaced a system of "lectures."  Which was it?  Were both lectures and recitations used, and if so, how did this work?   And what role did independent study and out-of-class peer coaching play in this system? 

 

Last question:  could the pedagogy that Harkness replaced be traced back to colonial times, and perhaps to some strand of the European classical tradition?  Or was this approach itself a product of earlier reforms?

 

I'm not getting my hopes up for a full answer right away -- just putting these questions out there, so I don't forget about them.  :001_smile:  


Edited by ElizaG, 31 August 2016 - 03:44 PM.

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#124 ElizaG

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Posted 01 September 2016 - 02:14 PM

I should clarify that even though the outward set-up looks the same, the original Harkness classes and the original Great Books classes would have had different content.   GB had a prescribed book list, and was strict about "sticking to the text" and discouraging students from bringing in their own background knowledge.  I haven't seen anything to suggest that the top prep schools followed these standards (or limitations, depending on how you look at it).   

 

In practice, when the methods are used in public or "neo-classical" schools, I don't know if these differences still hold.  I just found a recent Kindle pamphlet, by a teacher from Veritas School in Oregon, that jumbles the two together completely:

 

Conquering the Harkness Method:  Helping Your Learner Succeed in Socratic Discussions

 

The pamphlet begins, not with anything about Harkness, but with a paragraph about Mortimer Adler being interviewed by William F. Buckley on Firing Line:huh:

 

For those who might want to read the whole thing, here's a 2012 blog post that's almost identical.  And a 2015 PDF.   (It looks as if the author chose to publish the Kindle version under a pseudonym, for some reason, years after posting it publicly under his own name.)

 

The Amazon blurb says:

 

The Harkness Method, also known as a "Socratic Seminar," continues to gain popularity within the US. However, many students and parents struggle to adopt this radically different style of learning. This book provides more insight into the Harkness Method and how you can help your learner succeed.

 

Edward A. Fitzpatrick gave some reasons why "Socratic" and "seminar" aren't accurate descriptions of the Hutchins/Adler GB model, and most of his points apply to Harkness as well.  The "Harkness Learning" article also gets into this distinction, with diagrams that show the expected flow of discussion across the table:

 

H (and GB): mostly student-to-student

Socratic: mostly teacher-to-individual-student

 

The author of the pamphlet does acknowledge this difference, but still keeps bringing in Socrates' name.  Although, on the school's web site, the adjectival form is written in lower case.   Now that's something I haven't seen before.    And the sidebar blurb on the author's blog even puts "harkness" in lower case.  Could these just be mistakes, or is he trying to make them into generic terms with some watered-down meaning?  I guess there's no trademark law that covers the interests of dead educationists.   :laugh:

 

As far as I can tell, all this school has done is to bring their upper high school classes more in line with the original GB discussion model, vs. the currently popular Christian apologetics version (which their founders likely adopted from Logos School).   So I don't know why they see the need to add a new description. 

 

Sorry to be cynical, but with GB/"neo-classical" becoming quite mainstream, I have to wonder if this has to do with wanting to associate with the elite. 

 

"Hey, this will distinguish us from the rest!   Hurry, buy the furniture!"   :leaving:



#125 Momto4inSoCal

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Posted 14 September 2016 - 12:28 AM

 Finally coming back to this... Our first two weeks of school were some what disastrous. Throwing two more kids in the mix has proven a little more difficult than I had thought it would be and to top it off all 4 kids contracted hand foot and mouth disease. Happy 2016 school year. 

 

The Great Books discussion group guidelines seemed to be very different from what was going on in the college setting. At the college level there was much more teaching or at least guidance.  From what I've read it sound like the problem with the discussion groups was the lack of qualified people to lead them.  As such they would have the leader of the group just keep the group on the topic at hand but no allow any other interference or background knowledge. Background knowledge or lack of is one of my biggest issue's with their approach. These books really need to be read in the context of the time and culture they were written.  This article was written long after the publishing of the great books but Motimier Adler explains his teaching methods in it http://www.colorado...._faculty_83.pdf

 

 Having the circular table reminds me of Dewey's criticism of the standard classroom set up of "rows of ugly desk placed in geometrical order" which he felt stifled learning. I've noticed people in the Neo-Classical movement refer often to Adler. I went to the Great Homeschool Convention and attended a session where the speakers from Classical Academic Press, Memoria Press, IEW and one other that I can't remember were answering questions and I heard Adler referenced quite a few times. It's interesting to me that everyone seems to realize the link the movement has to great books but no one in the great books movement seemed to feel what they were doing was attached to classical education (although I know the term wasn't around at the time). 

 

I haven't read much on the Harkness method other than the article you linked I will have to research that more. So far to me along with the Socratic method it sounds like another pedagogy after the multitude that came in the early 1900's. 

 

I think the draw to classical is the idea that there is this whole methodology that is centuries old and has it's roots in the beginning of western history. I'm sure part of the draw is the idea of an elite education but I also think people feel a lack of connection to their culture, at least in the US, and classical education feels like participating in something that was part of our ancestors. Just don't pull back the curtain to see the true history  :laugh:



#126 ElizaG

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Posted 14 September 2016 - 11:23 AM

I don't have Fitzpatrick's book handy, but he pointed out that Adler was inconsistent in his advice about how Great Books should be studied, even for adults.  This was decades before his "Paideia Proposal," which is the subject of the article linked above, and takes things in a whole other direction. 

 

It would be interesting to go through Adler's writings and talks, and see if there was some sort of pattern to these differences (year? type of audience?), or if he just kept changing his thinking.   Either way, it certainly conflicts with the idea that this is some sort of timeless method.  

 

Something else I noticed about that article is that he divides the teacher's activity into "interrogative" and "declarative" speech, and says that the latter should always be at the service of the former.   According to what I've read about child development (e.g. RDI theory), this is 100% backwards.  Human verbal communication is based on declarative language, because it's conducive to shared experience, which is what creates social bonds.  Of course, this assumes that the ultimate meaning of life is the love of God and his creation, not the love of knowledge for its own sake (philosophy).  

 

So I think the neglect of the emotions in the GB approach is actually its central weakness -- not just something I personally find objectionable. 

 

And it's still completely baffling to me that Adler's doctorate was in psychology.  :huh:


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#127 ElizaG

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Posted 14 September 2016 - 02:54 PM

Have we talked about John Erskine?  He was a famous professor and socialite in his day, and is credited as the originator of the GB movement in the United States.   On another web site, someone has mentioned that he was also Adler's chief instructor and mentor at Columbia, and the one who encouraged him to go for a PhD (despite not having a bachelor's degree).    If true, this is odd, since Erskine was a professor of English, not psychology or philosophy.  But then, Adler's education seems to have been unconventional the whole way along.  

 

Anyway, Erskine is remembered for his essay, "The Moral Obligation to be Intelligent," which was seen as a justification for the (controversial) decision to base the General Honors course on the study of literature in translation, rather than in the original languages.

 

Maybe we should discuss this essay?   On first reading, from a Catholic perspective, and just on the grounds of logic, his arguments are seriously lacking.  In a way, it's the inverse of the case that was made in the 1930s Jesuit Educational Quarterly.

 

JEQ contributor:  "Our heritage of English literature is mostly non-Catholic, and thus is not moral enough.  We should sequester ourselves away from this, and create a new canon that uses Thomistic philosophy as a yardstick."

 

Erskine/Columbia:  "Our heritage of English literature is based on Christian morality and Anglo-Saxon ideals, and thus is not intellectual enough, which means that it's not moral enough (because, despite what our forefathers might say, intelligence is synonymous with virtue).   We should burst out of these chains, and create a new canon based on Great Ideas from world literature."

 

The net result, in both cases, was that the traditional canon was looked down on, and literary art and cultural tradition gave way to philosophy and ideology.   And we lost common ground.   The Columbia undergraduates got a moral and intellectual free-for-all, and Catholic students were given a little sandbox (which wasn't even particularly safe, in hindsight, given the adulation that was showered on Eric Gill    :leaving: ). 

 

Anyway, I'd appreciate your thoughts on the essay. 

 

If it really was the founding document of the Great Books movement, I can't imagine why any Catholics would have thought this trend could be the answer to our problems.   :huh:

 



#128 nrg

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Posted 15 September 2016 - 03:38 PM

I would like to diverge from the path a bit to add a small something to this conversation. My youngest, now 23, participated throughout his high school years in the unfortunately titled, "Socratic seminars" referenced above. This program changed his life, his way of seeing the world, his ability to work through a concept and then an argument, his eagerness to read and boosted his confidence that he could approach all kinds of dense text, and refined his writing skills.  He read every assigned word, wrote out every essay response, crafted a major paper each semester, and spent 2 hours each week discussing the reading with the class and course teacher. The content matched his developmental needs as he grew from age 14-18. He made friends in class whom he has met "in real life" and with whom he maintains contact years later.  Whatever more finely tuned or carefully honed approach one might find, this one really hit the spot for my son and I would not change a thing. 

 

As an older, "retired," homeschool mom, I can speak to the wisdom of the perfect developmental match providing greater worth than the most challenging academics (although this program was quite challenging) or the most well-matched philosophical underpinnings. 

 

Now back to the more academic analysis...

 

PS He also took their poetry class, twice with different selections, and is now a great poet and poetry enthusiast. 


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#129 Momto4inSoCal

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Posted 15 September 2016 - 06:49 PM

I don't have Fitzpatrick's book handy, but he pointed out that Adler was inconsistent in his advice about how Great Books should be studied, even for adults.  This was decades before his "Paideia Proposal," which is the subject of the article linked above, and takes things in a whole other direction. 

 

It would be interesting to go through Adler's writings and talks, and see if there was some sort of pattern to these differences (year? type of audience?), or if he just kept changing his thinking.   Either way, it certainly conflicts with the idea that this is some sort of timeless method.  

 

Something else I noticed about that article is that he divides the teacher's activity into "interrogative" and "declarative" speech, and says that the latter should always be at the service of the former.   According to what I've read about child development (e.g. RDI theory), this is 100% backwards.  Human verbal communication is based on declarative language, because it's conducive to shared experience, which is what creates social bonds.  Of course, this assumes that the ultimate meaning of life is the love of God and his creation, not the love of knowledge for its own sake (philosophy).  

 

So I think the neglect of the emotions in the GB approach is actually its central weakness -- not just something I personally find objectionable. 

 

And it's still completely baffling to me that Adler's doctorate was in psychology.  :huh:

 

In reading various articles I think he was certainly inconsistent but I do wonder if he this was due to different audiences. Part of the time he was teaching a class at a college where I'm sure he had to have some sort of system to evaluate the students in order to turn in grades, and then he was involved in the great books discussion clubs which were aimed at adults that were not looking to be evaluated or receive credit. The great books program seemed to be more of a book club type of setting. I don't understand how this idea for educating adults ,who felt lacking in their education, turned into a way to teach high school students. As far as weakness in the program it depends, to me, on who you are talking about it being taught to- adults looking to further their knowledge base or high school students. I think the idea of allowing students to talk by questioning helped get them interested even if what they were talking about was/is totally off base. Gaining interest however doesn't mean they will be better educated. If all they hear is people talking for the sake of talking and opinions that are not really relevant to the text (weather the speaker realized it or not) then it may lead them to be full of incorrect knowledge. As far as the psychology I think a lot of people take one course and then change their mind later in life. I think a major problem with the program is people of faith trying to use a program that was created to be secular. It wasn't created to acknowledge that ultimately all we know comes from God. It was created to be a program that people of all faiths could sit around and join in on. It's really hard to get into all of these philosophical idea's if you have two people that have different grounds of belief.   

 

Have we talked about John Erskine?  He was a famous professor and socialite in his day, and is credited as the originator of the GB movement in the United States.   On another web site, someone has mentioned that he was also Adler's chief instructor and mentor at Columbia, and the one who encouraged him to go for a PhD (despite not having a bachelor's degree).    If true, this is odd, since Erskine was a professor of English, not psychology or philosophy.  But then, Adler's education seems to have been unconventional the whole way along.  

 

Anyway, Erskine is remembered for his essay, "The Moral Obligation to be Intelligent," which was seen as a justification for the (controversial) decision to base the General Honors course on the study of literature in translation, rather than in the original languages.

 

Maybe we should discuss this essay?   On first reading, from a Catholic perspective, and just on the grounds of logic, his arguments are seriously lacking.  In a way, it's the inverse of the case that was made in the 1930s Jesuit Educational Quarterly.

 

JEQ contributor:  "Our heritage of English literature is mostly non-Catholic, and thus is not moral enough.  We should sequester ourselves away from this, and create a new canon that uses Thomistic philosophy as a yardstick."

 

Erskine/Columbia:  "Our heritage of English literature is based on Christian morality and Anglo-Saxon ideals, and thus is not intellectual enough, which means that it's not moral enough (because, despite what our forefathers might say, intelligence is synonymous with virtue).   We should burst out of these chains, and create a new canon based on Great Ideas from world literature."

 

The net result, in both cases, was that the traditional canon was looked down on, and literary art and cultural tradition gave way to philosophy and ideology.   And we lost common ground.   The Columbia undergraduates got a moral and intellectual free-for-all, and Catholic students were given a little sandbox (which wasn't even particularly safe, in hindsight, given the adulation that was showered on Eric Gill    :leaving: ). 

 

Anyway, I'd appreciate your thoughts on the essay. 

 

If it really was the founding document of the Great Books movement, I can't imagine why any Catholics would have thought this trend could be the answer to our problems.   :huh:

I think the book you recommended (or was it someone else?) A Great Idea at the Time mentions Erkstein. I started reading the essay and I'll post back when I'm finished.

 

When I first started all of this reading one of my big questions was whether all of our accomplishments this century (computers, internet, going to the moon etc) were due in part to our educational system/pedagogies or in spite of it. As I've read on all of the different pedagogies of the 20th century I can't help but feel it was in spite of it. I think we got so excited with all the findings in psychology that we jumped a little too soon into science to figure out how to education children. We seemed to jump around so much eventually everyone forgot what education originally was. Great Books seems to be just another pedagogy in the multitude. I was recently talking to my cousin who is a teacher and she mentioned in 10 years of teaching she has been told to try some new pedagogy about every other year. Eventually I'm sure they all start to seem to same. Maybe for Catholics it just sounded different than all the rest of the idea's that were floating around and with names like Socrates and Aristotle associated with it it sounded good so they grabbed onto it. Reading information from all of the progressive educators no one seemed to know what the answer was just that we needed to move forward instead of back. This idea of anything modern seemed to be so appealing to everyone. It doesn't sound like anyone even considered looking to the way we educated children for so many centuries for answers. 



#130 LostCove

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Posted 16 September 2016 - 11:38 AM

Well, that Erskine piece was odd. Having just read The Love of Learning and the Desire for God, I found particularly galling his closing use of O Sapientia. 

 
He never really makes clear what exactly it is he means by intelligence. At some points it seems like a kind of common sense notion of smart-ness, at others, a technocratic rationality, but by the end, he seems to be talking about philosophical speculation. In any case, opposing the will and the intellect, suggesting it's some kind of either/or, is hardly consistent with classical ideas of those faculties. 
 
He also writes the "prejudiced roots of affection must be pulled up" before a man can be guided by intelligence. Erskine is presumably referring to immigrant students at Columbia here, who were apparently a matter of concern to him. But even so, in the classical understanding, the affections aren't weeds to be uprooted, but essential parts of the soul to be formed and guided to support the intellect - this is kind of the whole point of John Senior's thousand good books thing, which I saw referenced on a neoclassical school's website alongside the Erskine piece. 
 
I'd be curious to read what exactly opponents of Erskine's General Honors course had to say. In googling around, I've found plenty of references to the opposition, but nothing yet from the opponents themselves.
 
I did learn that Lionel Trilling was another of Erskine's students. I thought this piece about his literary criticism gave a good sense of where this kind of education seems to lead, in contrast to the aims of the older, literary humanist tradition:

Trilling was indeed an extremist in thought, or an extremist for thought. This marked his limitation as a critic of literature. He was singularly unstimulated by form and by the machinery of beauty. (He wrote about Keats as if Keats, too, was an intellectual.) He did not read to be ravished. He was exercised more by "the moral imagination" than by the imagination. And he grew increasingly suspicious of art. (He became especially absorbed, in his later years, by Rousseau's letter to d'Alembert.) In works of literature Trilling found mainly the records of concepts and sentiments and values. "For our time the most effective agent of the moral imagination has been the novel of the last two hundred years. It was never, either aesthetically or morally, a perfect form and its faults and failures can quickly be enumerated. But its greatness and its practical usefulness lay in its unremitting work of involving the reader himself in the moral life, inviting him to put his own motives under examination, suggesting that reality is not as his conventional education has led him to see it. . . ." In this regard, Trilling was a very unliterary literary critic. His conception of his critical duty was less professional and less playful--and bigger. The novels and the poems that he pondered were documents for a moral history of his culture. Finally he was a historian of morality working with literary materials...

 

This rings very true to my experience of Great Books-style education.

 

I also found this article from the New Yorker, which heads in another direction halfway through, but which got me thinking about "Greatness" and how it differs from older ideas about the auctores, and the change from the texts themselves being the standard of taste to some cultural authority being the arbiter of which texts are in good taste and which are not. I also hadn't really thought much about the relation between the rise of the Great Books and changes in reading practices more broadly, although, duh.
 
ETA: On Adler's shifts over the decades, this book seems useful. There's a roundtable discussion here that got into some of those issues.

Edited by LostCove, 16 September 2016 - 11:43 AM.

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#131 LostCove

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Posted 18 September 2016 - 01:38 PM

I was looking back through Newman for the section where he discusses English literature, and got seriously sidetracked and decided I finally need to read The Idea of a University through completely. :laugh: But I also found this:

 

I consider knowledge to have its end in itself. For all its friends, or its enemies may say, I insist it is as real a mistake to burden it with virtue or religion as with the mechanical arts. Its direct business is not to steel the soul against temptation or to console it in affliction, any more than to set the loom in motion, or to direct the steam carriage; be it ever so much the means or the condition of both material and moral advancement, still, taken by and in itself, it as little mends our hearts as it improves our temporal circumstances. And if its eulogists claim for it such a power, they commit the very same kind of encroachment on a province not their own as the political economist who should maintain that his science educated him for casuistry or diplomacy. Knowledge is one thing, virtue is another; good sense is not conscience, refinement is not humility, nor is largeness and justness of view faith. Philosophy, however enlightened, however profound, gives no command over the passions, no influential motives, no vivifying principles. Liberal education makes not the Christian, not the Catholic, but the gentleman. It is well to be a gentleman, it is well to have a cultivated intellect, a delicate taste, a candid, equitable, dispassionate mind, a noble and courteous bearing in the conduct of life--these are the connatural qualities of a large knowledge; they are the objects of a university; I am advocating, I shall illustrate and insist upon them; but still, I repeat, they are no guarantee for sanctity or even for conscientiousness, they may attach to the man of the world, to the profligate, to the heartless--pleasant, alas, and attractive as he shows when decked out in them. Taken by themselves, they do but seem to be what they are not; they look like virtue at a distance, but they are detected by close observers, and on the long run; and hence it is that they are popularly accused of pretense and hypocrisy, not, I repeat, from their own fault, but because their professors and their admirers persist in taking them for what they are not, and are officious in arrogating for them a praise to which they have no claim. Quarry the granite rock with razors, or moor the vessel with a thread of silk; then may you hope with such keen and delicate instruments as human knowledge and human reason to contend against those giants, the passion and the pride of man.


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#132 Momto4inSoCal

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Posted 22 September 2016 - 11:39 PM

I've been reading the Erskine piece and it seems to go along with the prevailing feelings of progressive educators. The idea that intelligence will ultimately create the moral man. I've thought a lot about how the enlightenment period changed education and this piece seems to go along with that change. At one point it was believed that a man (or woman) needed strict enforcement of abstinence of vices to have good morals and character. The way they were raised and taught seemed to focus on self discipline. Also in reading the Ratio Studiorum they talked about books and certain books that weren't to be read to students so there was also the thought that you needed to keep away from things that will pull your focus away from what was right and true. The enlightenment ideal's of intellect changed so much in how we viewed raising children. It took a century to really catch on but ultimately people came to accept that the way to raise a child was not by teaching self discipline but by intellect. This book goes along with that. The ultimate virtue is intellect? Was not Solemn given the gift of wisdom? Did his wisdom help when he failed to follow the will of God? It is not a very encouraging read for anyone of faith that is interested in the great books. 

 

ETA: My takeaway was that he was defining intellect as wisdom, knowledge and reason. It's possible that his views were based on Aristotle's Ethics? It would make sense based on the classes he was teaching. 


Edited by Momto4inSoCal, 23 September 2016 - 12:08 AM.

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#133 ElizaG

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Posted 25 November 2017 - 04:24 AM

Hello again!

 

This time last year, I was looking more into the history of Great Books in America -- just how, exactly, did it get here?  According to one article on Columbia's web site, it developed out of the War Issues course.  I'm not sure that there really was such a direct connection, but War Issues turned out to be a rather stinky kettle of fish in itself.   Near the end of WWI, the US army took over college campuses and instituted what was pretty blatantly a propaganda course, meant to increase the students' enthusiasm for the war, and convince them of the need for harsh peace terms.   To achieve this attitude adjustment, the course used a new method of teaching, based around classroom discussion, essay writing, and independent reading of material provided by the teacher (with help from an official list of recommended books and pamphlets).   These new methods were evidently the forerunner of much of our current pedagogy, especially in prep schools and early college courses.   This is all well-documented in obscure history books, and is mentioned in some left-wing polemics.   The final report is also available online, and more or less speaks for itself, if you're interested.  

 

One of the leading figures behind the course was Frank Aydelotte, who wrote the above report.  He was a Rhodes scholar, and remained very involved as a secretary and historian of the program.   He went on to make some famous reforms at Swarthmore, but I gave up on trying to figure out what that was all about, as it didn't seem to have much to do with GB.

 

Well, his name just came up again.  While looking for old college English textbooks online, I came across one that he wrote in 1913, when he was at the University of Indiana.  It was published by the American branch of OUP, and puts a lot of emphasis on Victorian Oxonians such as Newman, Ruskin, and Arnold.    What strikes me most is his firmly expressed belief that the purpose of studying literature is, simply, "to understand the meaning."  In other words, it's all about the ideas.  

 

I was disturbed by what I read of this book, but realized that I was unable to explain why in any concise way.  There seemed to be no words for it.  After a bit more searching, though, it turns out that there are words after all:

 

"Frank Aydelotte, Oxford University, and the Thought Movement in America" by M. G. Moran (conference paper, 1992)

 

So much to talk about there, but it's already the middle of the night, so I'll leave it and see what you all think.   :001_smile:

 

 

 



#134 Spudater

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Posted 25 November 2017 - 09:09 AM

I haven’t read the article in Columbia, obviously, but having read your links I would guess the reason that connection is only found in a few obscure history books and some left wing polemicals is that the connection sounds extremely tenuous. The link didn’t list any connection between GB and the WWI course (unless the objective to help students appreciate the ideal of freedom in western civilization is shorthand for something not in your link). Aydelotte’s work to reform English 101 based on Oxford lines seem to support the idea that he wasn’t coming up with a brand new pedagogy, but merely tring to adapt the Oxford pedagogy to American universities (not very successfully). I don’t know enough about the differences between ENglish prep schools and American high schools back then to tell whether his failure might have been due to a lack of preparation in American students rather than a problem with the method itself.
It’s kind of funny, but I’ve had to deal with that on a micro level myself with my 11yo. I don’t remember ever being taught more than the basics of how to write an essay or argue a position. Maybe I was oneof those lucky people who don’t need much explicit instruction. It was a big surprise to me when dd crashed and burned on essay questions, and opened my eyes to how important it was to spend the next few years focusing on logic and the mechanics of composition if I want her to be able to tackle a GB program in high school (which I do).
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#135 ElizaG

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Posted 25 November 2017 - 07:33 PM

Sorry for being unclear. I was trying to be brief, and was probably too brief!

Those history books and polemics don't mention the Great Books movement at all. They just describe WI as the forerunner of Columbia's original core curriculum, which retained WI's format of thematic reading/discussion based on current issues. This was combined with a survey course in "Western Civ," which was also an innovation at the time. As I understand it, both of these approaches to liberal education were much more influential than GB, which was only ever adopted in a handful of colleges. But I agree that it's not quite on topic, which is why I dropped that line of reading at the time. (I never did figure out how/why Columbia moved from their earlier core to GB, but that will have to wait a while longer, I guess.)

Anyway, that was the background for my recent discovery of those articles about the "thought movement." This part does seem to be hugely significant - right up there with the shift from oral to silent reading, and the abandonment of the classical and Renaissance approach to literature that Fr. Donnelly describes. These all go together, in fact. There was a wholesale shift in aims and methods in English teaching, right around 1920, and it apparently traces back to some guy nobody's heard of. This isn't a unique phenomenon (cf. some past threads on Pestalozzi and elementary math education), but it is a whopper of an example.

The thought movement, and its ramifications, have significance that extends beyond this thread. But it's easy to see how GB fits into the broader picture of what was happening at the time. A lot of things I've read in old books are making more sense to me now.

Coincidentally, I was looking up Oxford tutorials on YouTube earlier this week, and thinking about how closely they fit with my ideas about homeschooling. Of course I'm no expert, but this sort of informal discussion with 1-3 students seems like the best way to share what I do know, and guide and encourage their further reading. While at Oxford, Aydelotte was deeply impressed by this level of individual supervision, and by the students' strong classical background, far beyond US standards of the early 20th century. Buchanan and Barr had a similar experience, a bit later. They were aware that these were key parts of the system, and yet they also apparently thought they could be dropped, as a compromise with the US circumstances of the time. There was some talk about future generations doing better, and being able to recapture more of the tradition (as there was in the early years of TAC), but that doesn't seem to have happened in practice. Great Bookies just beget more Great Bookies.

What are the "Oxford methods" that GB ended up using, then? Are they the same ones that we, as individual homeschoolers, admire about the original system? Is it possible that we can do better, in some ways, by going straight to the source? That might be a fruitful line of discussion.

Also - since this was an Angelicum thread - how do John Senior's ideas about teaching fit in with the "thought movement?" Are they a variation on it, or something entirely different?

Edited by ElizaG, 25 November 2017 - 07:43 PM.


#136 Spudater

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Posted 25 November 2017 - 10:12 PM

Well, Eliza, I’ll be honest and say you have so much more background knowledge on this topic I still don’t really understand your response. :). I should probably go back to the beginning and read all the links. Though I can’t imagine how long that would take me! I went back to the beginning and read the essayby Wilhelmsen. I can’t help but keep comparing everything in this discussion with my own experience of a GB program in college and I do think that what I experienced avoided some of the pitfalls he points out. Our prof always started class with historical and literary perspectives to help us understand what we read, and there was a constant relating or measuring of what we had read against the truths of the faith, not only by the prof, but spontaneously by the students. It was also a very small class, just a dozen of us, so I wonder if it had more of a “tutorial” flavor.

Anyhow, I’d love to hear more about the Oxford model. :)
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#137 Spudater

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Posted 25 November 2017 - 10:16 PM

Hopefully this isn’t derailing back to something ahem four years ago, but it particularly struck me what Wilhelmsen said about the teaching being a shsring of your self. That with the legit criticism of trying to cram and rush to fit everything in is one more thing nudging me to focus on teaching the classics I truly love and not adding in things I loathe and would just spend the whole time tearing up just bc they’re on a list (looking at you, Hemingway).
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#138 Bluegoat

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Posted 26 November 2017 - 02:33 PM

It's not that clear to me, Eliza, what it is that you are objecting to about GB programs - it seems like maybe you are saying you don't like that they are mainly intellectual, rather than practical formation of the student?



#139 ElizaG

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Posted 27 November 2017 - 01:45 AM

There’s quite a bit of variation from one GB program to the next, as we’ve discussed in this thread, so it would be hard to generalize much. For instance, one version might have more teacher involvement, or a religious emphasis, or a rhetoric or foreign language component. All of this makes a difference.

That said, I think my main objection is that the movement is often presented as an ideal “traditional” and “classical” educational solution, when in fact it’s less than 100 years old (even newer than the “Prussian model”), and its distinctive features don’t seem to be firmly rooted in any previous system. Whatever it is, it’s new and experimental, and should be looked at in terms of its own real-world results, not allowed to ride on the coat-tails of classical education.

The GB approach is supposed to help students to think independently, and find footholds in Western intellectual history. It’s ironic that there seems to have been such a lack of critical thinking and historical inquiry about these programs themselves.

#140 Bluegoat

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Posted 27 November 2017 - 01:53 PM

I think they are a response to changes in university and to some extent hs education myself.  The ones I know f were very practical in their founding - the students were coming to university with very little knowledge of what people thought, they hadn't read much.  

 

They had no concept of the history of thought.  Not that they did't know what it contained, they didn't know it was a thing at all.

 

And the course of study at the university had become fractured, a series of unrelated boxes.  

 

 


Edited by Bluegoat, 27 November 2017 - 01:54 PM.


#141 ElizaG

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Posted 05 January 2018 - 04:50 PM

Re marketing to homeschoolers -- here's an example.   I've been looking at high school options, and noticed that Angelicum now offers what they call a "Greats Honors Program," which supplements their usual approach with videos from The Great Courses.  This is from the description:

 

'Our forefathers, once they learned the liberal, or learning, arts: grammar (including inflected languages) and basic math, logic and rhetoric, taught in part in Socratic discussions (dialectics), in primary school, began to apply them to the most excellent works of Western civilization, by reading them, listening to lectures about them and discussing them.'

 

There's so much that's confusing about this sentence, I don't know where to start.  Which forefathers?  Ancient, Middle Ages, Renaissance, 1850s, 1950s?   And what do they mean by "rhetoric" and "dialectics" in a primary school context?   It sounds as if they're using these as fancy words for "composition" and "oral lessons."  Surely that can't be right, though. 

 

'In the 1930s Mortimer Adler and Robert Hutchins set forth the “Great Books” of Western civilization as central for a classical education curriculum.'

 

This sort of claim has become commonplace on the Internet, but nobody ever provides a citation to back it up.  I've been keeping an eye out for years, and the only mention of "classical education" I've found in Adler's works is a disparaging one:

 

"The three Rs, which always signified the formal disciplines, are the essence of liberal or general education. They cannot be inculcated by college courses in logic or mathematics or classical languages. That was the error of classical education, which the progressivists rightly condemned."  (Reforming Education, 1988)

 

The Angelicum authors seem to be using the term in the 1990s way, and reading it back into these earlier authors' writings.  Even then, I wouldn't mind so much if they were clear about doing this, and didn't throw in all the vague language that makes their approach sound time-tested and traditional.

 

'In the Greats Honors Program, the study of the trivium and the classics is restored, including the modern version of the quadrivium (natural sciences, higher math, music and art)–as presented in the greatest works, by experienced Socratic moderators and in lectures by many great professors. Reading Great Books, Socratic discussions, lectures, writing and tutorials, are offered to all 9th graders (c. age 14) and up.'

 

Would this be the same trivium that our forefathers are supposed to have learned in primary school?   If so, what's it doing in an honors high school program?  

 

PDF overview of the curriculum is here

 

My head hurts. 



#142 Manora

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Posted 12 January 2018 - 03:08 AM

I have a few of the Angelicum Academy's lit guides (4 of them) and they are nothing you can't do yourself if you read the books with your kids, or if you've already read them. However, if you haven't read their books, or really are opposed to, at the LEAST get the guides