Jump to content

Menu

What do you feel are the essential elements of a classical education?


Kathryn
 Share

Recommended Posts

No matter what you teach ...

 

1. Fill with knowledge

2. Learn to reason and handle the information

3. Defend your opinion and reasoning

 

I gear towards these three points. For that matter, math, writing, and reading are primary musts of concentration and mastery.

 

Beyond this, history and science, which will be a product of knowing to read and vocabulary development.

 

If you can read and you possess rich vocabulary with an ability to communicate, you have everything. Math is a lesson in logic both formal and informal. :)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

No matter what you teach ...

 

1. Fill with knowledge

2. Learn to reason and handle the information

3. Defend your opinion and reasoning

 

I gear towards these three points. For that matter, math, writing, and reading are primary musts of concentration and mastery.

 

Beyond this, history and science, which will be a product of knowing to read and vocabulary development.

 

If you can read and you possess rich vocabulary with an ability to communicate, you have everything. Math is a lesson in logic both formal and informal. :)

 

:iagree:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1. Classical languages and a philological-philosophical textual study of the cannonical works of classical antiquity;

2. The same kind of textual study applied to the cannon of national and, in a broad sense, Western culture.

 

#1 is a sine qua non - after all, that is what a definition of a classical education is based on, has traditionally been, you can deny it all you wish, but for the past God knows how many generations, THAT is what was a classical education and THAT is what we inherited. #2 is strictly speaking not a sine qua non, but it sort of organically grows out of #1.

 

There are many ways to have a good, solid education without it being a classical education; but when *I* say classical education, I use it as a technical term in the context of its historicity.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1. Classical languages and a philological-philosophical textual study of the canonical works of classical antiquity;

2. The same kind of textual study applied to the cannon of national and, in a broad sense, Western culture.

 

:iagree:Though I would say that studying the English roots derived from Greek & Latin could be an acceptable option if the family feels that studying a Classical language in its entirety is not appropriate for the particular child (for example, a child with a learning disability).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

1. Classical languages and a philological-philosophical textual study of the cannonical works of classical antiquity;

2. The same kind of textual study applied to the cannon of national and, in a broad sense, Western culture.

 

#1 is a sine qua non - after all, that is what a definition of a classical education is based on, has traditionally been, you can deny it all you wish, but for the past God knows how many generations, THAT is what was a classical education and THAT is what we inherited. #2 is strictly speaking not a sine qua non, but it sort of organically grows out of #1.

 

There are many ways to have a good, solid education without it being a classical education; but when *I* say classical education, I use it as a technical term in the context of its historicity.

 

:iagree:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think that there are multiple definitions to "classical education." Here are two big ones:

 

1.) Study of traditional materials, up to and including the language they are written in so that original materials can be accessed more directly. This is the people for whom "classical education" means learning Latin and Greek, and studying Aristotle and Caesar. I'm guessing this is what is meant by "Classical languages and a philological-philosophical textual study of the cannonical works of classical antiquity," although I always spell it "canonical," personally.

 

2.) Coming mostly from Dorothy Sayers' essay "The Lost Tools of Learning," (which was, admittedly, attempting to bring forward a much older tradition,) classical education can refer to the educational method of "teaching the trivium," in what we refer to as the stages of "grammar," "dialectic," (also sometimes referred to as "logic,") and "rhetoric." For more information, see the essay.

 

Now, for people who conflate The Well-Trained Mind with classical education, the term can sometimes take on another meaning:

 

3.) Teaching history chronologically from beginning to now, usually in a four-year cycle, repeatedly throughout the school years. Other "content" subjects, such as science and art, may be arranged to coordinate with history, which then becomes the central organizing subject.

 

These are three very separate definitions of classical education I have used myself. My father has philosophical objections to the first, so any use of the term "classical education" drives him nuts (and he sees "classical Christian education" as a contradiction in terms. No, it does not help that the papists studied the pagans for centuries, okay?).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm guessing this is what is meant by "Classical languages and a philological-philosophical textual study of the cannonical works of classical antiquity," although I always spell it "canonical," personally.

You are correct about the spelling.

 

AND about the concept. :)

 

The definition IS two-fold, we have had several discussions like that in the past and ended up mostly agreeing that there are two ways of looking at it: one which focuses on the content of such an education and one which focuses on the pedagogy. The use of the term in the latter sense, however, is a fairly modern invention. WTM actually blends the two ways of looking at it - in its ideal implementation, it does include the standard content.

 

My bias stems from the fact that I am European, from a family with generations of something everybody has always termed "classical education", in a broad context of many such people, so I am used to the equation of classical with the content. There is no such thing as a classical lycee / classical diploma without classical languages, it just goes without saying (to the point that when asked which languages you study at school, you reply "French / English", because the "other two" - Latin and Greek - go without saying from the moment you said it was a classical school :lol:). And there was still cyclical / chronological history, loosely arranged with art history, etc.

 

Although, that kind of classical education is typically limited to Latin and Greek, at the exclusion of Biblical Hebrew. Even within that classical education you can have an antiquity-limited one and an antiquity-based one, but which still includes Biblical literacy. And that is what is traditional of Catholic classical education, for example - the blending, so for example Greek lessons are based on Homer, historians and tragedy, but they certainly include some time dedicated to NT (though NT is so linguistically easy if you can read the former that it sort of does not matter whether you specifically include it :tongue_smilie:). I personally LOVE that they blend the two, because I think that it gives an excellent foundational base for the study of the Western culture from both primary sources, "classical" as well as Biblical.

 

From what I noticed in the US in "classical Christian" schools, the Greek studies seem to almost entirely be dedicated to the Bible, while with Latin it oscillates, and they typically exclude Hebrew as well (which makes little sense, because if anything, Bible-based "classical" education should exclude Latin).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It was my understanding to be truthful, that WTM, Sayers, Douglas Wilson, the Bluedorns, etc are all actually Neo-Classical. Taking the method but not the main subject - Latin. Yes, WTM suggests Latin, but for different reasons than a true Classicist. It was my understanding that in true Classical education there are three subjects Latin, Math and Composition. From Latin comes your Grammer and then reading original sources for learning about history, government, citizenship, etc. Am I wrong in this assumption? It was my understanding that a Classical Christian Education could be a contradiction in terms, but a Neo-Classical Christian Education would be perfectibility acceptable.

 

Let me know if I am crazy :D

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It was my understanding to be truthful, that WTM, Sayers, Douglas Wilson, the Bluedorns, etc are all actually Neo-Classical. Taking the method but not the main subject - Latin. Yes, WTM suggests Latin, but for different reasons than a true Classicist. It was my understanding that in true Classical education there are three subjects Latin, Math and Composition. From Latin comes your Grammer and then reading original sources for learning about history, government, citizenship, etc. Am I wrong in this assumption? It was my understanding that a Classical Christian Education could be a contradiction in terms, but a Neo-Classical Christian Education would be perfectibility acceptable.

 

Let me know if I am crazy :D

 

Your list is accurate as far as neo-classical views. Also, Sayers distorted the SUBJECTS of grammar, logic, and rhetoric into STAGES. Classical educators did not view those as stages equated w/ages of students. That is a modern association.

 

I do not understand the part I bolded. Classical education was the form of education received by such saints as Augustine, Thomas More, and Thomas Aquinas. Jesuits promoted classical education over 500 yrs ago via the philosophy of St. Ignatius which is that the best way to defend faith is through education. (His philosophy was that the goal of education was mental freedom, being able to separate humanism from the spiritual in order to lead a more spiritual life. The belief was that the training of the mind through the humanities (which included Latin and Greek) was part of the way to achieve that goal. It was not the complete path b/c theology, spiritual direction, and physically living a spiritual life were also essential keys.)

Edited by 8FillTheHeart
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Classical education was the form of education received by such saints as Augustine, Thomas More, and Thomas Aquinas. Jesuits promoted classical education over 500 yrs ago via the philosophy of St. Ignatius which is that the best way to defend faith is through education. (His philosophy was that the goal of education was mental freedom, being able to separate humanism from the spiritual in order to lead a more spiritual life. The belief was that the training of the mind through the humanities (which included Latin and Greek) was part of the way to achieve that goal. It was not the complete path b/c theology, spiritual direction, and physically living a spiritual life were also essential keys.)

 

What you describe should be called "Medieval Education" not "Classical Education." Once "Christian apologetics" replaced humanism as the organizing principal of education we got something new and very distinct from Classical Education. Likewise, "Classical Christian" education would be better described as "neo-Medieval Education."

 

Bill

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What you describe should be called "Medieval Education" not "Classical Education." Once "Christian apologetics" replaced humanism as the organizing principal of education we got something new and very distinct from Classical Education. Likewise, "Classical Christian" education would be better described as "neo-Medieval Education."

 

Bill

 

How was the education Augustine received "very distinct from Classical Education"? (not his later educational views, but his actual education.)

 

Or from the theories on education of developed and promoted by Thomas Aquinas? (who based his educational theories on Aristotle.) http://www.newfoundations.com/GALLERY/Aquinas.html (with the exception of Christian theology which is a given)

 

While I grant that the Jesuits absolutely and unapologetically incorporated Christian theology into their educational views, I do disagree that they were not implementing the root of classical educational philosophies.

 

Neo-classical education does not resemble Aquinas's or Ignatiun educational approaches. W/that I completely agree.

 

However, I disagree that Christianity and classical education are at odds intellectually and methodology and the result is that any classical education which incorporates Christian theology is therefore negated as being classical.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

How was the education Augustine received "very distinct from Classical Education"? (not his later educational views, but his actual education.)

 

Or from the theories on education of developed and promoted by Thomas Aquinas? (who based his educational theories on Aristotle.) http://www.newfoundations.com/GALLERY/Aquinas.html (with the exception of Christian theology which is a given)

 

While I grant that the Jesuits absolutely and unapologetically incorporated Christian theology into their educational views, I do disagree that they were not implementing the root of classical educational philosophies.

 

Neo-classical education does not resemble Aquinas's or Ignatiun educational approaches. W/that I completely agree.

 

However, I disagree that Christianity and classical education are at odds intellectually and methodology and the result is that any classical education which incorporates Christian theology is therefore negated as being classical.

 

When "defending the faith" (your phrase) becomes the organizing principle around which education is ordered and theology the lens though which all information is viewed, you have something very different than the Classical Model. I don't see how this is debatable.

 

The Christian Saints you mentioned took Classical Education, added Christian theology, and created a new educational paradigm. There is nothing wrong with creating something "new," it just wasn't the the same as the model of education in Classical antiquity.

 

Bill

Link to comment
Share on other sites

When "defending the faith" (your phrase) becomes the organizing principle around which education is ordered and theology the lens though which all information is viewed, you have something very different than the Classical Model. I don't see how this is debatable.

 

The Christian Saints you mentioned took Classical Education, added Christian theology, and created a new educational paradigm. There is nothing wrong with creating something "new," it just wasn't the the same as the model of education in Classical antiquity.

 

Bill

 

Do you believe that Aristotle was a classical educator?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Of course.

 

Bill

 

Would education that

 

focused on dialectical reasoning to extend knowledge by inference and to resolve contradictions?

 

focused on rigorous conceptual analysis and the careful drawing of distinctions?

 

In the classroom and in writing, takes the form of explicit disputation-- a topic drawn from the tradition is broached in the form of a question, opponents' responses are given, a counterproposal is argued and opponent's arguments rebutted?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The Christian Saints you mentioned took Classical Education, added Christian theology, and created a new educational paradigm. There is nothing wrong with creating something "new," it just wasn't the the same as the model of education in Classical antiquity.

NB though, this didn't happen all at once. It's my understanding that in the early Middle Ages, Christians had monastic (religious) education as the norm, and classical (pagan/"secular") education as a sort of extra for those who wanted it and had access to it. As time went on, the Christian East continued this way, while the West started to blend the two. This is why there isn't really an Orthodox tradition of "Christian classical education," as there is for Catholics and Protestants.

 

Anyway, for those interested in this subject, I highly recommend Henri-Irenee Marrou's History of Education in Antiquity. I'll try to find some relevant citations later.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Would education that

 

focused on dialectical reasoning to extend knowledge by inference and to resolve contradictions?

 

focused on rigorous conceptual analysis and the careful drawing of distinctions?

 

In the classroom and in writing, takes the form of explicit disputation-- a topic drawn from the tradition is broached in the form of a question, opponents' responses are given, a counterproposal is argued and opponent's arguments rebutted?

 

Not when the disputation and conceptual analysis invokes questions like, how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

 

Bill

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Not when the disputation and conceptual analysis invokes questions like, how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

 

Bill

 

Well, I don't think it is quite fair to judge the Western educational tradition on the excesses of Scholasticism.

 

I think that while it may be helpful to define one's terms when discussing educational philosophy so everyone is talking about the same thing, I think it is probably unhelpful for one "camp" to lay complete claim to a term that was legitimately used at different points in history to refer to different ideas/realities.

 

Personally, I agree with 8FilltheHeart's notion of education which is based on a theory of knowledge that was first developed by Aristotle and expanded upon by Aquinas. I do not much care what term is used to describe it. I think a theory of knowledge - if and how human beings can actually come to know and understand reality - needs to be the basis of one's educational philosophy. After a theory of knowlege is established, then one can look at content, what parts of reality one is going to attempt to know and understand. Then one looks at how to best present that content to students.

 

ETA: This is from someone who would rather read Plato and any Platonist or Neo-Platonist any day! I can't help but find the Artistotelian/Aquinas theory of knowlege more convincing.

Edited by OrdinaryTime
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Not when the disputation and conceptual analysis invokes questions like, how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

 

Bill

 

Not an actual Scholastic debate. Spoof on actual debates, yes. ;)

 

Either way, your answer evades responding to the actual questions. The essence of Aquinas's educational theories do not diverge much from Aristotle's.

 

Faith and reason are not divergent from my personal POV, so it stands to follow that I do not see theology as diverging from the essential premises of classical education. (just including the quote b/c I like it so much....not that it pertains directly to this discussion..... Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth—in a word, to know himself—so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.

 

Classical education such as promoted by the Jesuits to "defend the faith" is to do so through via training the mind to think vs. simply informing.

 

The methodology of Jesuit education was to form a man to train him to think.. ..to train a young man to think, to analyze. This incapacity to think will be overcome by forming the intellectual and moral habits of a person, helping the student to penetrate into the reality of things rather than merely filling his mind with reams of facts........

 

The second principle regarding curriculum is that its study is to be intensive rather than extensive. We want to form, not simply inform, and the way to bring that about is by being intensive, by studying in depth a relatively small number of subjects rather than superficially studying a large number. It is studying the most important things and studying them thoroughly.

 

Those are the "roots" of classical eduction. If not, I'm not sure what the definition of "classical education" is.

 

ETA: Upon reflection, I thought I should add that I do not believe that not many individuals today will actually receive an authentic classical education. So much of authentic classical education is dependent upon the teacher and the teacher's training. I know that my homeschool is a very poor reflection upon what classical education would resemble w/a truly master teacher. My personal opinion is that at the college level certain schools probably more reflective of what is viewed as "authentic" classical education b/c students are more likely to have master teachers trained in disputation.

Edited by 8FillTheHeart
Link to comment
Share on other sites

My earlier post was incoherent and showed obvious stamps of toddlerization. Sorry.

 

This is what I'm most wondering about, to start with, RE the True Classical Model (starting with the understanding that the distinction between Classical and NeoClassical or just nonClassical is one of those category boundary problems, and that True Classical education is plural and some educational plans blur the boundaries). The idea given here that Classical education is well understood in terms of Aristotle's theory of the knowledge, and Aquinas' work on the same, is a succinct definition I am glad to have on hand. However, I had understood that the Classical model of education, esp. in terms of Classical Greek thought, had its own trivium of body, mind, and spirit. The intellectual side was only one part of a man's education, the whole of which was concerned with the development of a virtuous human, a responsible and engaged citizen characterized by eudaimonia. This was certainly the concern also of Aquinas and of the Jesuits; the Jesuit schools still have a strong focus on physical and ethical excellence as well as the intellectual kind. So it is interesting, and sort of surprising, that eudaimonia as a goal and the development of the spirit/ethics (if not the physical body too) are not central topics to these conversations. Esp. thanks to 8FilltheHeart, included, but certainly not central.

 

I also believe one of the compelling cases for a Classical education (in America esp.) is that it was developed in a [proto] democracy and focused on, among other things, training men to be fit to govern themselves. So that this goal of training a democratic citizen for excellence in the public spheres as well as the private (at a minimum she should be able to vote thoughtfully and to understand the important issues of her time) would also be an essential element of a classical education. This is in opposition to systems of education developed under more repressive/hierarchical/hereditary regimes, in which the ability to not only decide what is right but to convince other persons to modify their behavior accordingly isn't as central to the life of the average citizen: she is not inherently part of the ruling class.

 

Bringing these elements of Classical education to the fore begs the question of whether ancient languages, for example, need or ought to be at the heart of a Classical curriculum. The Greeks spoke Greek, certainly, but that was no enormous accomplishment for them; some of their philosophers could read Babylonian and Egyptian records but none of us are staying up nights Googling the best hieroglyph curricula. The central Greek texts are available to the English-speaking student in better translations than she will be able to make for herself until she's a poet and a classics scholar, and so are the Latin ones.

 

If there were world enough and time, why not; but in our finite universe one could reconsider the central role of the dead languages in training up a virtuous person. If one key element of a Classical education is developing a good understanding of the social world in which one lives, there may be a compelling case for learning fluent Chinese or Arabic: these are the languages of important, truly foreign (to a European-American) cultures with which our own culture is frequently in conflict and which we do not understand well. Arabic also has a Classical claim to being an important source for many extant ancient Greek texts, which we have only via their Arabic translations, as well as being a major source of English words and ideas. Unfortunately I speak neither Chinese nor Arabic and don't have good tutors handy at the moment, so we're starting with Latin to keep the children's language-development skills in play until they're old enough to do Rosetta Stone or whatever.

 

Continuing with the finite-world problem, there are non-language subjects which might also make a stronger claim to a truly Classical education in the modern world. The subjects that give the most improvement in our understanding of the world, "the world" being broadly conceived to cover the physical, social, and ethical realms, are where I would start, as well as subjects that help train good thinking skills.

 

 

  • Dispensing with thinking skills first: prev. posters have made the point that critical thinking can be trained on many subjects given the demand for a deep mastery.
  • Reflecting on the experience of some very successful persons at a critical juncture in history: the biography of Boulton, Watt, Wedgwood, Erasmus Darwin and Priestley ("The Lunar Men") was somewhat influential in my questioning the use of conventional Classical subjects to develop extraordinary citizens. These men detested their culture's educational focus on Greek and Latin. They believed mastery of these languages was a waste of time better spent actually observing the natural world and experimenting with it; they were also often quite politically involved, and didn't find that men with a thorough knowledge of ancient languages made better governors or better citizens. I assume that they may have gone too far, as folks reacting against something often do, but also assume I have something to learn from the experience of such people.
  • Moving on to essential elements of Classical education that the Greeks couldn't have incorporated. Some might be:
    • Statistics. Incredibly important to nearly all society-level decisions (from climate change to most-effective interventions in failing states or third-world countries), not to mention personal ones.
    • Economics. If all Americans had a solid, not to mention high-level, understanding of economics there would be much less debate over how to handle economic decisions today. Usually the specialists argue a lot, but in today's climate economists across the spectrum agree on what basic steps the US should be taking but isn't due to political deadlock and the ignorance of even members of Congress.
    • Genetics/evolutionary biology. This one I don't have hammered out as well. Obviously the YErs are not on board here, but the id folks could be. A solid, preferably sophisticated, understanding of what humans are designed to be like (and as much as possible, why) has obvious value and implications. Particularly for ethics. A truly scientific and compassionate understanding of the wiring of your average human informs questions about what a society should be allowed to do to its members, for example, and the circumstances under which they can be expected to thrive. The interaction between environment and genes is also poorly understood by most people but has policy and personal implications. What genes are, how they work, and how organisms such as viruses evolve: ditto.

     

     

     

 

I myself consider statistics, economics, and biology (which for me incl. genetics/evo bio) to be among the essential elements of my children's classical education, which I conceive of as a general scheme to max out my odds of raising virtuous, happy, disciplined persons. I've given short shrift to the pros of ancient languages for space reasons; we've started Latin here, and plan to add Greek in the next year or two. 'Cause I can't slaughter the accents ;) and everybody should know them :D.

 

 

Anyway, for those interested in this subject, I highly recommend Henri-Irenee Marrou's History of Education in Antiquity. I'll try to find some relevant citations later.

 

Just wanted to say I'm glad for this reference.

Edited by serendipitous journey
accuracy. thoroughness. obsessiveness.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

My earlier post was incoherent and showed obvious stamps of toddlerization. Sorry.

 

This is what I'm most wondering about, to start with, RE the True Classical Model (starting with the understanding that the distinction between Classical and NeoClassical or just nonClassical is one of those category boundary problems, and that True Classical education is plural and some educational plans blur the boundaries). The idea given here that Classical education is well understood in terms of Aristotle's theory of the knowledge, and Aquinas' work on the same, is a succinct definition I am glad to have on hand. However, I had understood that the Classical model of education, esp. in terms of Classical Greek thought, had its own trivium of body, mind, and spirit. The intellectual side was only one part of a man's education, the whole of which was concerned with the development of a virtuous human, a responsible and engaged citizen characterized by eudaimonia. This was certainly the concern also of Aquinas and of the Jesuits; the Jesuit schools still have a strong focus on physical and ethical excellence as well as the intellectual kind. So it is interesting, and sort of surprising, that eudaimonia as a goal and the development of the spirit/ethics (if not the physical body too) are not central topics to these conversations. Esp. thanks to 8FilltheHeart, included, but certainly not central.

 

I also believe one of the compelling cases for a Classical education (in America esp.) is that it was developed in a [proto] democracy and focused on, among other things, training men to be fit to govern themselves. So that this goal of training a democratic citizen for excellence in the public spheres as well as the private (at a minimum she should be able to vote thoughtfully and to understand the important issues of her time) would also be an essential element of a classical education. This is in opposition to systems of education developed under more repressive/hierarchical/hereditary regimes, in which the ability to not only decide what is right but to convince other persons to modify their behavior accordingly isn't as central to the life of the average citizen: she is not inherently part of the ruling class.

 

Bringing these elements of Classical education to the fore begs the question of whether ancient languages, for example, need or ought to be at the heart of a Classical curriculum. The Greeks spoke Greek, certainly, but that was no enormous accomplishment for them; some of their philosophers could read Babylonian and Egyptian records but none of us are staying up nights Googling the best hieroglyph curricula. The central Greek texts are available to the English-speaking student in better translations than she will be able to make for herself until she's a poet and a classics scholar, and so are the Latin ones.

 

If there were world enough and time, why not; but in our finite universe one could reconsider the central role of the dead languages in training up a virtuous person. If one key element of a Classical education is developing a good understanding of the social world in which one lives, there may be a compelling case for learning fluent Chinese or Arabic: these are the languages of important, truly foreign (to a European-American) cultures with which our own culture is frequently in conflict and which we do not understand well. Arabic also has a Classical claim to being an important source for many extant ancient Greek texts, which we have only via their Arabic translations, as well as being a major source of English words and ideas. Unfortunately I speak neither Chinese nor Arabic and don't have good tutors handy at the moment, so we're starting with Latin to keep the children's language-development skills in play until they're old enough to do Rosetta Stone or whatever.

 

Continuing with the finite-world problem, there are non-language subjects which might also make a stronger claim to a truly Classical education in the modern world. The subjects that give the most improvement in our understanding of the world, "the world" being broadly conceived to cover the physical, social, and ethical realms, are where I would start, as well as subjects that help train good thinking skills.

 

  • Dispensing with thinking skills first: prev. posters have made the point that critical thinking can be trained on many subjects given the demand for a deep mastery.
  • Reflecting on the experience of some very successful persons at a critical juncture in history: the biography of Boulton, Watt, Wedgwood, Erasmus Darwin and Priestley ("The Lunar Men") was somewhat influential in my questioning the use of conventional Classical subjects to develop extraordinary citizens. These men detested their culture's educational focus on Greek and Latin. They believed mastery of these languages was a waste of time better spent actually observing the natural world and experimenting with it; they were also often quite politically involved, and didn't find that men with a thorough knowledge of ancient languages made better governors or better citizens. I assume that they may have gone too far, as folks reacting against something often do, but also assume I have something to learn from the experience of such people.
  • Moving on to essential elements of Classical education that the Greeks couldn't have incorporated. Some might be:
    • Statistics. Incredibly important to nearly all society-level decisions (from climate change to most-effective interventions in failing states or third-world countries), not to mention personal ones.
    • Economics. If all Americans had a solid, not to mention high-level, understanding of economics there would be much less debate over how to handle economic decisions today. Usually the specialists argue a lot, but in today's climate economists across the spectrum agree on what basic steps the US should be taking but isn't due to political deadlock and the ignorance of even members of Congress.
    • Genetics/evolutionary biology. This one I don't have hammered out as well. Obviously the YErs are not on board here, but the id folks could be. A solid, preferably sophisticated, understanding of what humans are designed to be like (and as much as possible, why) has obvious value and implications. Particularly for ethics. A truly scientific and compassionate understanding of the wiring of your average human informs questions about what a society should be allowed to do to its members, for example, and the circumstances under which they can be expected to thrive. The interaction between environment and genes is also poorly understood by most people but has policy and personal implications. What genes are, how they work, and how organisms such as viruses evolve: ditto.

     

I myself consider statistics, economics, and biology (which for me incl. genetics/evo bio) to be among the essential elements of my children's classical education, which I conceive of as a general scheme to max out my odds of raising virtuous, happy, disciplined persons. I've given short shrift to the pros of ancient languages for space reasons; we've started Latin here, and plan to add Greek in the next year or two. 'Cause I can't slaughter the accents ;) and everybody should know them :D.

 

.

 

What an incredibly thoughtful post! It is one of the few I have really enjoyed reading in a while!!

 

I only have a sec b/c I have spent way too much time here lately. I just wanted to share that I was in a very similar spot as you for about 16 yrs of our homeschooling journey. I was not convinced that Latin was that necessary for the training the mind. My 15 yos is actually the one that changed my mind. His logical arguments in favor of the benefits of Latin have shifted im into the Latin is necessary. His personal goal is also Greek.......I am definitely not there, yet!!:tongue_smilie:

 

I also agree about the need to always consider the balance of the education whole person. Our discussions do tend to focus on the intellectual. I assume it is b/c most of us feel more confident on aiding our children develop physically. And spiritually---those discussions would completely disintegrate on a forum like this one. So, while the discussions don't occur, they are equally vital (or more so.)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Wanted to add one more thought: One other piece that is vital and is often overlooked is that education must be active, not passive. The "independent" mantra is contrary to classical education. Classical education pivots on ability to defend positions. That requires active engagement b/t student and teacher and not simply a stack of books w/assignments to be completed.

Edited by 8FillTheHeart
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Bringing these elements of Classical education to the fore begs the question of whether ancient languages, for example, need or ought to be at the heart of a Classical curriculum. The Greeks spoke Greek, certainly, but that was no enormous accomplishment for them; some of their philosophers could read Babylonian and Egyptian records but none of us are staying up nights Googling the best hieroglyph curricula. The central Greek texts are available to the English-speaking student in better translations than she will be able to make for herself until she's a poet and a classics scholar, and so are the Latin ones.

But "classical education" is a *technical term*, guys.

 

Go most anywhere in Western and Southern Europe and ask people what are "classical schools" and what it means to be "classically educated". There is a certain tradition behind the term which holds a certain "monopoly" on the use of the term. No school is called "liceo classico" without classical languages. There is no such thing as "maturite classique" without classical languages. Heck, even in the Slavic world - e.g. Croatia - "klasicna gimnazija" is a very specific type of school, and NO other gimnazija is called "klasicna", except for the one where Latin and Greek are studied. Ditto for Austrian gymnasiums with a classical specification, ditto for the Dutch equivalent, you get the point. Classical education is just synonymous with an education in classics (i.e. Latin and Greek) of the philological and philosophical kind.

 

You MAY use the word OUTSIDE of that fairly established framework, like you are doing now, but you will create confusion or be misunderstood, unless you specifically note in advance how you use the term (which the "regular" use does not warrant). It is like using "holocaust" for anything other than the holocaust of Jews in WWII - the word itself has been applied to a heck lot of phenomena, it was of great literary use much before the holocaust itself (Milton, Baudelaire, etc.), yet the term itself nowadays has become a commonplace in one rather fixed meaning and the use of that term in any other context without a clear notion that you are using it atypically provokes confusion.

 

Your further point, about the deliberate inclusion of "foreign" languages, has left me :confused:. It has NEVER been the point, on the contrary. The point has been davka to study the basis of one's own culture, rather than exotic foreign cultures. Classical lycees even nowadays as modern foreign languages (in addition to classics) offer French, German and other standard "Western" languages. I have several family members who learned Arabic, but as a part of their *Jewish* education (to read Rambam and whatnot), NOT as a part of their *classical* education. Arabic has never had the type of relationship - foundational relationship - with the Western culture that French, Italian, German or English have had. Until fairly recently it has been an occupation of idle minds, until political circumstances have turned it into a "chic" language. But traditionally, it has been ABSENT from the curriculum. Hebrew is somewhere in-between, in the background, but also typically absent, because it belonged to a whole different institutional setting (a yeshiva, not a lycee) and because the works of Hebrew scholarship have never had a *universal* value. Jewish culture is very "autistic", so to speak, closed within itself. The only real application for Hebrew OUTSIDE of Jewish circles has been in the "Old Testament", thus the marginal position of Hebrew in the curriculum. The same cannot be said for Latin, Greek or several "big" modern foreign languages.

 

Chinese? A nice intellectual exercise if you have time and will, but in absolutely no way foundational or relevant to one's *classical* education. Classical education is profoundly Western-centered education, always has been - in my kids' age, in my age, in my parents' age, in my grandparents' observations on their education, in the tradition of what I was told of my great-grandparents' education, etc. If you compare textbooks, reading lists, etc., it becomes totally obvious.

 

The point is not even to understand the world. There is no *pragmatic* line of reasoning behind classical education, there never really was. It used to be a basically philological and philosophical education (and historically science was a branch of philosophy anyway). The transformation of the old systems / mainly taken from Jesuits, into secular classical schools was based on that as well - and only in the recent generations the curriculum was "adapted", so that now we perceive classical education as a "default national education" PLUS classics, but originally, the point of getting there was a lot more complex.

 

I like your posts for other reasons, but you must keep in mind that you are appropriating a technical term in a completely uncongenial fashion, which may provoke misunderstanding - ironically - exactly in those traditionally "classically educated" circles! Not that anybody has a real monopoly on the term, but you might wish to be aware of that. Seriously.

Edited by Ester Maria
Link to comment
Share on other sites

My earlier post was incoherent and showed obvious stamps of toddlerization. Sorry.

 

This is what I'm most wondering about, to start with, RE the True Classical Model (starting with the understanding that the distinction between Classical and NeoClassical or just nonClassical is one of those category boundary problems, and that True Classical education is plural and some educational plans blur the boundaries). The idea given here that Classical education is well understood in terms of Aristotle's theory of the knowledge, and Aquinas' work on the same, is a succinct definition I am glad to have on hand. However, I had understood that the Classical model of education, esp. in terms of Classical Greek thought, had its own trivium of body, mind, and spirit. The intellectual side was only one part of a man's education, the whole of which was concerned with the development of a virtuous human, a responsible and engaged citizen characterized by eudaimonia. This was certainly the concern also of Aquinas and of the Jesuits; the Jesuit schools still have a strong focus on physical and ethical excellence as well as the intellectual kind. So it is interesting, and sort of surprising, that eudaimonia as a goal and the development of the spirit/ethics (if not the physical body too) are not central topics to these conversations. Esp. thanks to 8FilltheHeart, included, but certainly not central.

 

I also believe one of the compelling cases for a Classical education (in America esp.) is that it was developed in a [proto] democracy and focused on, among other things, training men to be fit to govern themselves. So that this goal of training a democratic citizen for excellence in the public spheres as well as the private (at a minimum she should be able to vote thoughtfully and to understand the important issues of her time) would also be an essential element of a classical education. This is in opposition to systems of education developed under more repressive/hierarchical/hereditary regimes, in which the ability to not only decide what is right but to convince other persons to modify their behavior accordingly isn't as central to the life of the average citizen: she is not inherently part of the ruling class.

 

Bringing these elements of Classical education to the fore begs the question of whether ancient languages, for example, need or ought to be at the heart of a Classical curriculum. The Greeks spoke Greek, certainly, but that was no enormous accomplishment for them; some of their philosophers could read Babylonian and Egyptian records but none of us are staying up nights Googling the best hieroglyph curricula. The central Greek texts are available to the English-speaking student in better translations than she will be able to make for herself until she's a poet and a classics scholar, and so are the Latin ones.

 

If there were world enough and time, why not; but in our finite universe one could reconsider the central role of the dead languages in training up a virtuous person. If one key element of a Classical education is developing a good understanding of the social world in which one lives, there may be a compelling case for learning fluent Chinese or Arabic: these are the languages of important, truly foreign (to a European-American) cultures with which our own culture is frequently in conflict and which we do not understand well. Arabic also has a Classical claim to being an important source for many extant ancient Greek texts, which we have only via their Arabic translations, as well as being a major source of English words and ideas. Unfortunately I speak neither Chinese nor Arabic and don't have good tutors handy at the moment, so we're starting with Latin to keep the children's language-development skills in play until they're old enough to do Rosetta Stone or whatever.

 

Continuing with the finite-world problem, there are non-language subjects which might also make a stronger claim to a truly Classical education in the modern world. The subjects that give the most improvement in our understanding of the world, "the world" being broadly conceived to cover the physical, social, and ethical realms, are where I would start, as well as subjects that help train good thinking skills.

 

  • Dispensing with thinking skills first: prev. posters have made the point that critical thinking can be trained on many subjects given the demand for a deep mastery.
  • Reflecting on the experience of some very successful persons at a critical juncture in history: the biography of Boulton, Watt, Wedgwood, Erasmus Darwin and Priestley ("The Lunar Men") was somewhat influential in my questioning the use of conventional Classical subjects to develop extraordinary citizens. These men detested their culture's educational focus on Greek and Latin. They believed mastery of these languages was a waste of time better spent actually observing the natural world and experimenting with it; they were also often quite politically involved, and didn't find that men with a thorough knowledge of ancient languages made better governors or better citizens. I assume that they may have gone too far, as folks reacting against something often do, but also assume I have something to learn from the experience of such people.
  • Moving on to essential elements of Classical education that the Greeks couldn't have incorporated. Some might be:
    • Statistics. Incredibly important to nearly all society-level decisions (from climate change to most-effective interventions in failing states or third-world countries), not to mention personal ones.
    • Economics. If all Americans had a solid, not to mention high-level, understanding of economics there would be much less debate over how to handle economic decisions today. Usually the specialists argue a lot, but in today's climate economists across the spectrum agree on what basic steps the US should be taking but isn't due to political deadlock and the ignorance of even members of Congress.
    • Genetics/evolutionary biology. This one I don't have hammered out as well. Obviously the YErs are not on board here, but the id folks could be. A solid, preferably sophisticated, understanding of what humans are designed to be like (and as much as possible, why) has obvious value and implications. Particularly for ethics. A truly scientific and compassionate understanding of the wiring of your average human informs questions about what a society should be allowed to do to its members, for example, and the circumstances under which they can be expected to thrive. The interaction between environment and genes is also poorly understood by most people but has policy and personal implications. What genes are, how they work, and how organisms such as viruses evolve: ditto.

I myself consider statistics, economics, and biology (which for me incl. genetics/evo bio) to be among the essential elements of my children's classical education, which I conceive of as a general scheme to max out my odds of raising virtuous, happy, disciplined persons. I've given short shrift to the pros of ancient languages for space reasons; we've started Latin here, and plan to add Greek in the next year or two. 'Cause I can't slaughter the accents ;) and everybody should know them :D.

 

 

 

 

Just wanted to say I'm glad for this reference.

 

Great post! Very interesting.

 

I think you bring up an essential point regarding the ends of education. In my personal method of evaluating educational philosophy, basically, looking at its theory of knowledge, its content, and then its teaching methods, the ends of a particular sort of education would seem to dictate its content. As you say, the end of education in ancient Greece, at least in some places at some times, was the creation of an educated, virtuous citizenry. This goal informed the content that was studied. This end obviously changed as Western civilization became both more monarchial and more Christian. The end of education was now to create citizens of the Kingdom of God first, of Man second. I think this may be what Spycar was elluding to in his objections to the classification of a medieval education as classical. I can see this distinction, a difference of ends, though I think the theory of knowledge and many of the teaching prescriptions to be fundamentally similiar. (And I reject the notion that certain religious beliefs of teachers and students necessarily bar their experience as classical!) I do think that while these distinction are important, one could begin to narrow the definition of a classical education to such an extent that it becomes frozen in a single place and time, losing its voice in the larger debate on education.

 

Mmmm... I look forward to reading and thinking more about the issue. In answer to the OP's question, I have always used Ester Maria's first definition of classical education in my conversation about it, since I think this is what it has come to mean culturally at this point in time. However, since that particular kind of classical education seems to be dying a slow, sad death, I do think it is helpful to perhaps take a broader interpretation of the idea when making educational choices for a new generation of students.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

But "classical education" is a *technical term*, guys.

 

Go most anywhere in Western and Southern Europe and ask people what are "classical schools" and what it means to be "classically educated". There is a certain tradition behind the term which holds a certain "monopoly" on the use of the term. No school is called "liceo classico" without classical languages. There is no such thing as "maturite classique" without classical languages. Heck, even in the Slavic world - e.g. Croatia - "klasicna gimnazija" is a very specific type of school, and NO other gimnazija is called "klasicna", except for the one where Latin and Greek are studied. Ditto for Austrian gymnasiums with a classical specification, ditto for the Dutch equivalent, you get the point. Classical education is just synonymous with an education in classics (i.e. Latin and Greek) of the philological and philosophical kind.

 

You MAY use the word OUTSIDE of that fairly established framework, like you are doing now, but you will create confusion or be misunderstood, unless you specifically note in advance how you use the term (which the "regular" use does not warrant). It is like using "holocaust" for anything other than the holocaust of Jews in WWII - the word itself has been applied to a heck lot of phenomena, it was of great literary use much before the holocaust itself (Milton, Baudelaire, etc.), yet the term itself nowadays has become a commonplace in one rather fixed meaning and the use of that term in any other context without a clear notion that you are using it atypically provokes confusion.

 

Your further point, about the deliberate inclusion of "foreign" languages, has left me :confused:. It has NEVER been the point, on the contrary. The point has been davka to study the basis of one's own culture, rather than exotic foreign cultures. Classical lycees even nowadays as modern foreign languages (in addition to classics) offer French, German and other standard "Western" languages. I have several family members who learned Arabic, but as a part of their *Jewish* education (to read Rambam and whatnot), NOT as a part of their *classical* education. Arabic has never had the type of relationship - foundational relationship - with the Western culture that French, Italian, German or English have had. Until fairly recently it has been an occupation of idle minds, until political circumstances have turned it into a "chic" language. But traditionally, it has been ABSENT from the curriculum. Hebrew is somewhere in-between, in the background, but also typically absent, because it belonged to a whole different institutional setting (a yeshiva, not a lycee) and because the works of Hebrew scholarship have never had a *universal* value. Jewish culture is very "autistic", so to speak, closed within itself. The only real application for Hebrew OUTSIDE of Jewish circles has been in the "Old Testament", thus the marginal position of Hebrew in the curriculum. The same cannot be said for Latin, Greek or several "big" modern foreign languages.

 

TL;dr

 

The term "classical Christian education" has a fairly widespread meaning in the U.S. among those who are followers of Bluedorn, etc., to mean something rather different than what you're describing. (I've never actually read Bluedorn, but I still am familiar with what is meant by the term.) I don't know that I'd ever heard the term "neo-Classical" to refer to this until this thread, but I had heard "classical" plenty.

 

European culture may have an entrenched view of what is meant by "classical education," but that doesn't necessarily extend to the U.S. (I don't know anything about what Canada considers "classical education.") Personally, I tend to think of what you're describing as an education in the Classics, not necessarily a classical education. (Note that it's a rather fine distinction. I'm probably just splitting hairs, here.)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

One more thing.

 

I never thought I would have to be this explicit, but classical education is NOT necessarily synonymous with "good education".

 

There is good classical education, and bad classical education. There are great non-classical educations too. Classical education is about VALUE, cultural value ATTACHED to something (as value is never a question of essence, but of attribution). And that something is antiquity - and, to certain extent, Biblical culture - as the basis, in many ways, of modern Western culture. And within that broad context, it gets adapted to the national tradition and national culture.

 

The REAL reason why Latin is studied has NOTHING to do with pragmatic goals (as a proxy to learn grammar, or whatnot) nowadays. It has everything to do with ideology, with the VALUE attached to it. Classical education HAS traditionally been excellent, but the force behind it is the ideological one first and foremost, as it is based on holding certain values about the culture, and has been so since humanism.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The term "classical Christian education" has a fairly widespread meaning in the U.S. among those who are followers of Bluedorn, etc., to mean something rather different than what you're describing. (I've never actually read Bluedorn, but I still am familiar with what is meant by the term.) I don't know that I'd ever heard the term "neo-Classical" to refer to this until this thread, but I had heard "classical" plenty.

 

European culture may have an entrenched view of what is meant by "classical education," but that doesn't necessarily extend to the U.S. (I don't know anything about what Canada considers "classical education.") Personally, I tend to think of what you're describing as an education in the Classics, not necessarily a classical education. (Note that it's a rather fine distinction. I'm probably just splitting hairs, here.)

What you are talking about is decades old. What I am talking about are CENTURIES. Centuries of a fairly consistent use of a term that got "jeopardized" in the US fairly recently.

 

My whole point is that this distinction you draw (classical ed. vs. ed. in classics) DID NOT EXIST TRADITIONALLY, it only started to exist when the concept got redefined. And some of us vehemently REJECT that redefinition and stick to the old and typical use, which is why misunderstandings can happen if one is not aware of that, which is why I am warning about that.

 

You do not want to know my opinion on the Bluedorns, though. When I figured out on one of their recordings that they do not get why "lashon hakodesh" is a smichut, not a noun + adjective, I stopped listening to anything they have to say about anything classical. (Yeah I am fuming a little. :lol:)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

But "classical education" is a *technical term*, guys.

 

Go most anywhere in Western and Southern Europe and ask people what are "classical schools" and what it means to be "classically educated". There is a certain tradition behind the term which holds a certain "monopoly" on the use of the term. No school is called "liceo classico" without classical languages. There is no such thing as "maturite classique" without classical languages. Heck, even in the Slavic world - e.g. Croatia - "klasicna gimnazija" is a very specific type of school, and NO other gimnazija is called "klasicna", except for the one where Latin and Greek are studied. Ditto for Austrian gymnasiums with a classical specification, ditto for the Dutch equivalent, you get the point. Classical education is just synonymous with an education in classics (i.e. Latin and Greek) of the philological and philosophical kind.

 

You MAY use the word OUTSIDE of that fairly established framework, like you are doing now, but you will create confusion or be misunderstood, unless you specifically note in advance how you use the term (which the "regular" use does not warrant). It is like using "holocaust" for anything other than the holocaust of Jews in WWII - the word itself has been applied to a heck lot of phenomena, it was of great literary use much before the holocaust itself (Milton, Baudelaire, etc.), yet the term itself nowadays has become a commonplace in one rather fixed meaning and the use of that term in any other context without a clear notion that you are using it atypically provokes confusion.

 

Your further point, about the deliberate inclusion of "foreign" languages, has left me :confused:. It has NEVER been the point, on the contrary. The point has been davka to study the basis of one's own culture, rather than exotic foreign cultures. Classical lycees even nowadays as modern foreign languages (in addition to classics) offer French, German and other standard "Western" languages. I have several family members who learned Arabic, but as a part of their *Jewish* education (to read Rambam and whatnot), NOT as a part of their *classical* education. Arabic has never had the type of relationship - foundational relationship - with the Western culture that French, Italian, German or English have had. Until fairly recently it has been an occupation of idle minds, until political circumstances have turned it into a "chic" language. But traditionally, it has been ABSENT from the curriculum. Hebrew is somewhere in-between, in the background, but also typically absent, because it belonged to a whole different institutional setting (a yeshiva, not a lycee) and because the works of Hebrew scholarship have never had a *universal* value. Jewish culture is very "autistic", so to speak, closed within itself. The only real application for Hebrew OUTSIDE of Jewish circles has been in the "Old Testament", thus the marginal position of Hebrew in the curriculum. The same cannot be said for Latin, Greek or several "big" modern foreign languages.

 

Chinese? A nice intellectual exercise if you have time and will, but in absolutely no way foundational or relevant to one's *classical* education. Classical education is profoundly Western-centered education, always has been - in my kids' age, in my age, in my parents' age, in my grandparents' observations on their education, in the tradition of what I was told of my great-grandparents' education, etc. If you compare textbooks, reading lists, etc., it becomes totally obvious.

 

The point is not even to understand the world. There is no *pragmatic* line of reasoning behind classical education, there never really was. It used to be a basically philological and philosophical education (and historically science was a branch of philosophy anyway). The transformation of the old systems / mainly taken from Jesuits, into secular classical schools was based on that as well - and only in the recent generations the curriculum was "adapted", so that now we perceive classical education as a "default national education" PLUS classics, but originally, the point of getting there was a lot more complex.

 

I like your posts for other reasons, but you must keep in mind that you are appropriating a technical term in a completely uncongenial fashion, which may provoke misunderstanding - ironically - exactly in those traditionally "classically educated" circles! Not that anybody has a real monopoly on the term, but you might wish to be aware of that. Seriously.

 

Thanks for this. This has always been my conception of a classical education. It has always seemed to me to be, in fact, a rather modern invention, not an actual a reference to education in ancient Greece and Rome, but Europe rediscovering and studying her roots in language, philosophy, and literature.

 

I still find Serendipitious Journey's post fascinating because, sadly, my kids won't be getting a classical education. It's helpful to brainstorm about what to do to give my kids' a solid education that works for our family in this time and place. I feel it is pretty much impossible for my husband and I, who with liberal arts backgrounds still only speak a smattering of Latin and Spanish, to give a technically "classical" education to our children. The enviroment and actual teaching ability just are not there to really pull it off. I actually think just being an American, which our very pragmantic and independent frame of reference, makes a traditionally classical education a tough act to pull off. Still,I want to pull what I can from the history of Western education and interesting posts like SJ's help stir the pot of ideas for me.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

But "classical education" is a *technical term*, guys.

 

The point is not even to understand the world. There is no *pragmatic* line of reasoning behind classical education, there never really was. It used to be a basically philological and philosophical education (and historically science was a branch of philosophy anyway). The transformation of the old systems / mainly taken from Jesuits, into secular classical schools was based on that as well - and only in the recent generations the curriculum was "adapted", so that now we perceive classical education as a "default national education" PLUS classics, but originally, the point of getting there was a lot more complex.

 

.

 

I had a chuckle when I read the first line. Ummmm, apparently not. How cyclical history ever ended up being associated as a form of classical education is beyond me!! I do agree that it is a "technical term" but you are going to be hard pressed in getting anyone to agree on what it actually is! :tongue_smilie:

 

I agree w/the vast majority of your post, EM, but I question the bolded. There were definite pragmatic objectives amg classical students, for sure. Being the top rhetorician was definitely a pragmatic goal. A reading of Confessions clearly lays out what Augustine's objectives were while being educated. Similarly, a reading of the Ratio Studiorum (1599) also gives clear definitive objectives.

 

I think the idea that classical education was only focused on philology and philosophy is a very narrow definition and not one I have ever read in any of my reading on classical education. Is that what you meant to say? If so, I would like to read more about that view b/c it is a new one for me.

Edited by 8FillTheHeart
Link to comment
Share on other sites

I had a chuckle when I read the first line. Ummmm, apparently not. How cyclical history ever ended up being associated as a form of classical education is beyond me!! I do agree that it is a "technical term" but you are going to be hard pressed in getting anyone to agree on what it actually is! :tongue_smilie:

I hope SWB does not kick me out of the boards when I say this :lol:, but most of WTM is what I call "common sense", not "classical education". Diachronic approach to history is common sense, IMO; arranging other subjects to coincide with it is also common sense, etc.

Being the top rhetorician was definitely a pragmatic goal. A reading of Confessions clearly lays out what Augustine's objectives were while being educated. Similarly, a reading of the Ratio Studiorum (1599) also gives clear definitive objectives.

 

I think the idea that classical education was only focused on philology and philosophy is a very narrow definition and not one I have ever read in any of my reading on classical education. Is that what you meant to say? If so, I would like to read more about that view b/c it is a new one for me.

No, not *only* focused. *Based* on. Of course that it gets adapted to the time and the place (thus the different emphasis on national culture, the different prism through which to approach that diachrony of post-classical history, etc.), but you cannot take the classics out and call it a classical education.

(ETA: In fact that is how non-classical Western education came about.)

 

In fact, if you want me to get into THAT digression, it did not even become "classical" until OTHER types of lycees appeared (esp. scientific ones). Nothing ever becomes marked as "classical" or "orthodoxy" until OTHER streams appear and a distinction is needed. It just used to be - common Western education, common textual canon / set of associations / cultural basis. Which perhaps got its peak in the Jesuit system (which is why many classical lycees nowadays, if you look at their history, stem from old Jesuit institutions) - what an irony that a military order would get to more or less formalize the Western education :tongue_smilie: - but really, it was what was the common / shared culture and ground (of the elite, of course, but that is a whole 'nother discussion LOL).

 

Pragmatic goals are a part of the picture (in terms of skill development), but not the driving force - the driving force is culture. :) Latin is studied not because it is of a great inherent utility (though traditionally it was, for scholarship - but literary production in vulgar existed back then, so did many translations, etc.), but because of its, real or perceived, cultural value. Really, just think of the root of the word culture and which grammatical form it takes. Therein lies the answer. ;)

Edited by Ester Maria
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Pre-Renaissance. Humanism. ;) And then further, of course.

 

Yes, of course. But I guess I assumed that classical education didn't emerge as a seperate, particular educational philosophy until a bit later when Humanism was more established and when other approaches began to compete. I'm not really well-versed in educational history so I was just taking a stab at about when the terminology emerged. Any clarification or further info is much appreciated!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The term "classical Christian education" has a fairly widespread meaning in the U.S. among those who are followers of Bluedorn, etc., to mean something rather different than what you're describing. (I've never actually read Bluedorn, but I still am familiar with what is meant by the term.) I don't know that I'd ever heard the term "neo-Classical" to refer to this until this thread, but I had heard "classical" plenty.

 

 

Since I am the poster who first used neo-classical, I want to post my source :D

I first read the term neoclassical in the book "The Latin-Cntered Curriculum" by Andrew A. Campbell. "As far as I have been able to determine, the first person to call the Sayers Trivium 'classical' was Douglas Wilson, one of the founders of the Logos School and author of a number of books on the Sayers method. Some writers, such as Susan Wise Bauer, have suggested the term 'neoclassical' as a more accurate way to describe methodologies inspired by the Sayers Trivium." pg.38

I have not read the original writing of SWB when she suggests this and the author does not source that statement, but has anyone else read of SWB calling her method neoclassical?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I had a chuckle when I read the first line. Ummmm, apparently not. How cyclical history ever ended up being associated as a form of classical education is beyond me!! I do agree that it is a "technical term" but you are going to be hard pressed in getting anyone to agree on what it actually is! :tongue_smilie:

 

I agree w/the vast majority of your post, EM, but I question the bolded. There were definite pragmatic objectives amg classical students, for sure. Being the top rhetorician was definitely a pragmatic goal. A reading of Confessions clearly lays out what Augustine's objectives were while being educated. Similarly, a reading of the Ratio Studiorum (1599) also gives clear definitive objectives.

 

I think the idea that classical education was only focused on philology and philosophy is a very narrow definition and not one I have ever read in any of my reading on classical education. Is that what you meant to say? If so, I would like to read more about that view b/c it is a new one for me.

 

I have wondered this too. As far as I can see there is no reason to consider teaching history cyclically to have anything to do with classical education. It seems to be something someone just made up.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I hope SWB does not kick me out of the boards when I say this :lol:, but most of WTM is what I call "common sense", not "classical education". Diachronic approach to history is common sense, IMO; arranging other subjects to coincide with it is also common sense, etc.

 

No, not *only* focused. *Based* on. Of course that it gets adapted to the time and the place (thus the different emphasis on national culture, the different prism through which to approach that diachrony of post-classical history, etc.), but you cannot take the classics out and call it a classical education.

(ETA: In fact that is how non-classical Western education came about.)

 

In fact, if you want me to get into THAT digression, it did not even become "classical" until OTHER types of lycees appeared (esp. scientific ones). Nothing ever becomes marked as "classical" or "orthodoxy" until OTHER streams appear and a distinction is needed. It just used to be - common Western education, common textual canon / set of associations / cultural basis. Which perhaps got its peak in the Jesuit system (which is why many classical lycees nowadays, if you look at their history, stem from old Jesuit institutions) - what an irony that a military order would get to more or less formalize the Western education :tongue_smilie: - but really, it was what was the common / shared culture and ground (of the elite, of course, but that is a whole 'nother discussion LOL).

 

Pragmatic goals are a part of the picture (in terms of skill development), but not the driving force - the driving force is culture. :) Latin is studied not because it is of a great inherent utility (though traditionally it was, for scholarship - but literary production in vulgar existed back then, so did many translations, etc.), but because of its, real or perceived, cultural value. Really, just think of the root of the word culture and which grammatical form it takes. Therein lies the answer. ;)

 

Thanks for clarifying. We are on the same page. I misunderstood your initial response.

 

This one had me chuckling as well, though, for completely different reasons. As a Catholic, the concept formal definition/declaration not existing "until OTHER streams appear and a distinction is needed" is definitely one I understand.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Okay, it was my understanding that through the years classical education meant specific books and subjects studies. For instance, someone classically educated would have read x, y, z, etc. books and since they were only written in Latin and Greek, the student would have to be learned enough in Latin and Greek to be able to understand and discuss those texts. I was always under the impression that classical education that Augustine receive was the same that T.S. Elliot would have received. I am right in this assumption? Therefore any deviation from that course of study would be something new, like the Well Trained Mind or neoclassical - taking some methodology and appling it to different subjects as might better benifit the student in their current time and culture. Am I incorrect in my thinking? :bigear:

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes, of course. But I guess I assumed that classical education didn't emerge as a seperate, particular educational philosophy until a bit later when Humanism was more established and when other approaches began to compete. I'm not really well-versed in educational history so I was just taking a stab at about when the terminology emerged. Any clarification or further info is much appreciated!

 

You pre-emptively addressed this idea while I was posting. Thanks for the background info!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

... thanks so much to folks who said they enjoyed my post; and to the folks who [sometimes also!] disagreed with it. Because I was trying to straighten out my earliest post on this thread my argument prob. didn't flow as well as I'd have liked. Briefly I wanted to say that this:

 

Do you believe that Aristotle was a classical educator?
Of course.

Bill

 

is what made me feel free to sit down at the table and join the party :hurray:. If the Classical definition means from the medieval Christians forward, then I agree, my pov is irrelevant.

 

 

But "classical education" is a *technical term*, guys.

... Classical education is just synonymous with an education in classics (i.e. Latin and Greek) of the philological and philosophical kind.

...You MAY use the word OUTSIDE of that fairly established framework, like you are doing now, but you will create confusion or be misunderstood, unless you specifically note in advance how you use the term (which the "regular" use does not warrant). It is like using "holocaust" for anything other than the holocaust of Jews in WWII - the word itself has been applied to a heck lot of phenomena, it was of great literary use much before the holocaust itself (Milton, Baudelaire, etc.), yet the term itself nowadays has become a commonplace in one rather fixed meaning and the use of that term in any other context without a clear notion that you are using it atypically provokes confusion.

... The point is not even to understand the world. There is no *pragmatic* line of reasoning behind classical education, there never really was.

 

I sent you a short PM, Ester Maria -- this definition of the "established framework" is what I meant to be inquiring about, and am glad to know that the Aristotle-forward concept of Classical is off-label ;). I do think that if one allows Aristotle to be a Classical teacher, there's room here for constructive debate. At least I hope so! Ancient Greek thought and pedagogy shows a tension btw. (and blend of) theoretical and pragmatic goals/methods, but Plato's "Republic" and Aristotle's work on classifying and studying the natural world are two examples of a Greek concern with topics that seem pragmatic to me: the development of good persons and a good society, and an understanding of nature.

 

RE Chinese &c: that does seem peripheral! and may be. My main point RE languages was that, if one allows ancient Greek modes of education to shelter under the Classical umbrella, mastery of ancient languages per se is not an essential element: we are none of us concerned with mastering the languages the Greeks had mastered, but we are concerned with understanding what they said. Perhaps we must master Greek to do that. Unlikely, given the quality of translations available. Moving on to Latin, similar arguments apply. So it seems reasonable to question their essential quality if one is trying to get at the ancient ideals of education: the elite education of the Classical cultures. However, Ester Marie makes the point that the value of Latin to Classical Education (as it is traditionally defined) is cultural; so was the value of Greek, esp. to the Romans themselves. So if that is your goal they are indispensable.

 

For the sake of [my :)] argument, let us take the point of view that a Classical Education is trying to capture some essence that the Greeks twigged onto: perhaps intellectual training; perhaps developing a rich understanding of the human condition. In that case, if one were to pick a non-native language to study, what would it be? Several would do. I tossed Chinese out 'cause it's my own non-Western choice:

 

  • intellectual exercise: much, much harder than Greek or Latin. One early Christian missionary suggested that the Chinese language was the invention of the devil to prevent the spread of Christianity.
  • development of a person's understanding of the world: China is terribly important in the modern world; and also is truly foreign and hard for most Westerners to understand.
  • expanding philological capabilities: if you have a Western language, and you master Chinese, you've got a nice kit of linguistic tools.

But Chinese is not the only one that would do. -- again, thinking of the Greeks: they made serious efforts to learn from other great foreign cultures (Babylonians esp. come to mind). Arabic I have already argued for; it seems to me that for a more traditionally-minded Classical Education, Arabic is not essential but would be the logical complement to Greek and Latin as the third pillar of Western civilization.

Edited by serendipitous journey
??? a general feeling of need-for-improvement???
Link to comment
Share on other sites

The thread yesterday on who is a "pure" WTM user got me wondering what different people think of as the essential elements of a classical education. What do you consider to be essential?

 

Does this seem to capture the important bits? Quotes are freely taken from the thread but not credited, to keep it easy to read -- I can add real quotes if wanted.

 

First, defining "classical education". There are three (including my own :)) rough categories the thread seemed to highlight; moving from present day back

 

 

  1. Trivium-centered; and WTM/Sayers. Focuses on the verbal arts of the Trivium; Sayers divided these into stages.

     

     

     

     

    1. Fill with knowledge (grammar)

    2. Learn to reason and to handle information well (logic)

    3. Defend your opinions & reasoning (rhetoric).

    4. Mastery of math, writing and reading is primary.

    5. History and science provide subjects/material on which to perfect the above skills.

     

     

    [*]Classical Education, conservatively/traditionally defined, as rising from the Middle Ages. Augustine and Jerome referenced here, ca 4th/5th century CE; Alcuin also, 8th century, when Charlemagne was trying to get educational institutions running robustly; note that the late 11th/early 12th century is when the medieval university, with its program of liberal arts, first developed.

     

    1. Central importance of Latin language, and importance of Greek.

    2. Either

       

       

      [*]Starting in the 12th century (prior to this medieval education seems to have been a matter of students listening to teachers expound), methods such as

       

      1. Focus on dialectical reasoning -- extending knowledge by inference to resolve contradictions

      2. Rigorous conceptual analysis and careful drawing of distinctions.

      3. Use of explicit disputation.

       

       

      [*]And also a focus on mastery of a few disciplines rather than familiarity with many.

      [*]Functionally speaking, a Christian endeavor.

       

       

       

      [*]Classical Education as a Western tradition emanating from Classical Greece and Rome, through medieval European and Islamic cultures to the modern day.

       

      1. Methods as above.

      2. Content not a matter of consensus ;).

       

       

       

       

      Historically, most of the adherents of all these versions of Classical Education have been deists of some sort, believing that something caused the universe and that humans have a particular role in it which may be discovered via various means. There's a bit of contentiousness :D 'round the issue of Classicism filtered through Christian doctrine by persons with a primary goal of Christian apologetics ...

  2. Philological-philosophical textual study of canonical works of Classical antiquity, or

  3. that plus similar study of the full Western and national canons.

Edited by serendipitous journey
forgot a word.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

What Ester Maria is talking about isn't just a European definition. Here's some corroborating evidence from two Americans of very different inclinations.

 

Peter Kreeft, east coast philosophy professor: What Is Classical Education?

 

And Tim O'Reilly, Californian geek guru: The Benefits of a Classical Education

 

Note that they are both talking about actually studying the Greek and Latin languages and literature.

 

There are some interesting comments on the O'Reilly post. I do think classical education is in some sense a precursor to present-day "media literacy." Which is not to say that we should throw out the ancient texts and base the curriculum on analyzing Twitter feeds. :tongue_smilie: It's more that the people who are familiar with the history of communication in Western culture are the ones who stand the best chance of making sense of new media (see Marshall McLuhan, whose theories of mass media were rooted in his study of the classical trivium). Or, for that matter, of making the new media (see that Zuckerberg kid who goes around quoting the Iliad ;)).

Link to comment
Share on other sites

What Ester Maria is talking about isn't just a European definition. Here's some corroborating evidence from two Americans of very different inclinations.

 

Peter Kreeft, east coast philosophy professor: What Is Classical Education?

.

 

 

Thanks for the link. I love all things Kreeft and I had never seen that article before.

 

I think one of his closing paragraphs states beautifully what I have been very ineptly trying to convey:

 

Finally, a few thoughts on the relation between Christianity and classical education. Christianity naturally leads to classical education because Christianity teaches respect for the mind as part of the image of God in man, for the world as God's intelligent, designed creation, and respect for human words because words, for the Christian, are not merely humanly invented labels for the commerce of writing and speaking. Rather, words dimly reflect their ultimate divine origin. "In the beginning was the Word." In turn, classical education leads to Christianity because classical education seeks all truth for its own sake, is open to all truth, is a truth-seeking missile; and according to Christ, all who seek, find.

 

 

I find the notion that classical education and Christian theology negate each other extremely puzzling. The assertion that classical education becomes something else if there is Christianity involved distorts the definition of classical education as much as grammar/logic/rhetoric as stages of development vs. subjects. I also found the comment that Christianity was not compatible w/authentic classical ed b/c God was first, man 2nd to be equally puzzling. God created man to be man. It is only through being man that one can seek God. Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth.

 

serendipitous journey, I can relate completely to your posts b/c I was there for a long time. It isn't that you are in a "bad spot." It is one that reflects honest, intellectual seeking for what you personally see as the qualities reflected in an educated individual. That position is simply one that is missing how in classical education all the pieces fit together when Latin becomes the pivot around which the rest of the classical studies build. It is sort of like building a puzzle with missing pieces and the pieces missing are the corners/edge pieces......the foundation.

 

Please don't think I am making that a personal commentary!! I argued upside down/backwards until I was blue in the face that the "goals" of classical education could be achieved w/o Latin. I now believe that I was wrong.......not b/c my kids couldn't become well-educated and critical thinkers w/o Latin, but b/c it is a different education than classical. (though I am far from being an actual classical educator! But, even for my much humbler goals for education, w/o Latin they are missing something that I want them to have. All of my younger kids will study Latin. My older 3 did not.)

 

I am still missing pieces from our puzzle box too, b/c I am not convinced about the need to study Greek. My 15 yos is far more a classicist than I am and he is adamant about adding in Greek next yr. I think there must be proof in there somewhere about the "hows" of classical education and the development of the mind, b/c he is most definitely logical, mathematical, and philosophical beyond my comprehension. Since I was NOT classically educated, I am missing much of what my own children have b/c my brain is just not elastic enough to get there!

Edited by 8FillTheHeart
Link to comment
Share on other sites

 

I think one of his closing paragraphs states beautifully what I have been very ineptly trying to convey:

 

Finally, a few thoughts on the relation between Christianity and classical education. Christianity naturally leads to classical education because Christianity teaches respect for the mind as part of the image of God in man, for the world as God's intelligent, designed creation, and respect for human words because words, for the Christian, are not merely humanly invented labels for the commerce of writing and speaking. Rather, words dimly reflect their ultimate divine origin. "In the beginning was the Word." In turn, classical education leads to Christianity because classical education seeks all truth for its own sake, is open to all truth, is a truth-seeking missile; and according to Christ, all who seek, find.

 

 

I find the notion that classical education and Christian theology negate each other extremely puzzling. The assertion that classical education becomes something else if there is Christianity involved distorts the definition of classical education as much as grammar/logic/rhetoric as stages of development vs. subjects. I also found the comment that Christianity was not compatible w/authentic classical ed b/c God was first, man 2nd to be equally puzzling. God created man to be man. It is only through being man that one can seek God. Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth.

 

 

The trouble is the quote has it wrong. Many streams of Christianity teach that man was "perfect" before he gained the capacity to distinguish good from evil (as God can), that the acquisition of moral capacity was a "theft" gained by an act of disobedience, and "fall" into sin (Augustine was no help here).

 

Gaining capacity to reason is not (in the main) seen as cause of celebration in Christian thought but as a source of evil and death. There are—of course—more sophisticated interpretations, but this one is mainstream. And no amount of reason or ethical behavior in life is seen as good enough to overcome man's "sin nature," that can only be washed away by the faith of believing in a man-god.

 

Further, when intellectual inquiry starts with a fixed answer and works backwards to make an apology or defense for that answer it is a very different thing that having free inquiry of reason. I don't see how you should be troubled by that plain-fact. It doesn't matter which sort of ideology engages in this sort of backwards justifications—because atheistic ideologies like Communism and Objectivism can do the same thing—you no longer have free inquiry, just a "defense of the faith," and that is not what is at the essence of Classical thought.

 

Bill

Edited by Spy Car
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

 Share

×
×
  • Create New...