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

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I read somewhere (maybe here?) that GBA was somewhat disjointed in that they just took Dr. John Senior's book list and divided the books up amongst the years. In theory, reading the "great books" sounds like a wonderful idea but is it just another gimmick designed to "save" education until someone comes up with something new? 

 

What are the "great books?" I've not read John Senior's book. I've hesitated buying it since I'm already in his "choir." Are there disagreements amongst scholars about what the "great books" are?

 

Does there need to more than just reading the books? Do you need a philosophy behind how you approach the books (the order in which they are read, how they are introduced and discussed)?

 

I found this article http://the-american-catholic.com/2010/04/12/are-great-books-not-the-answer/ which links to this article http://www.mindingthecampus.com/originals/2010/03/why_the_great_books_arent_the.html.

 

Quote from the second link. "Indeed, such an approach in fact suggests that there is a single "meaning to life" that meaning is fundamentally "decisionist." Most curricula in the Great Books offer the various philosophies as inherently conherent and valid systems, suggesting to each student that there is finally no basis on which to decide which philosophy to adopt other than mere preference."

 

For those of you who have done Angelicum or GBA, do you agree that this is a concern? Or do those curriculum provide more guidance? I think it concerns me a bit that the only apparent difference between the Catholic version (Angelicum) and the secular version (GBA) is the religious studies. An education is not catholicized by merely tacking on religion.

 

 

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You need to read Senior's books for yourself, the Death of Christian Culture should be the first. If you don't know what the great books are, or why we should read them, then you need to read his books and not rely on articles. 

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. 

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Thanks Justamouse, after I wrote my post I was thinking the same thing; that I needed to finally read John Senior himeself. And for the record, I do know what books are generally considered to be "great books."

 

 

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I read somewhere (maybe here?) that GBA was somewhat disjointed in that they just took Dr. John Senior's book list and divided the books up amongst the years. In theory, reading the "great books" sounds like a wonderful idea but is it just another gimmick designed to "save" education until someone comes up with something new? 

 

To the bolded -- basically, yes. 

 

It was invented in Victorian England, as a way to provide some culture to working men:  Establishing a Great Books Curriculum -- A Brief History of the Great Books Idea

 

In the 1920s, Columbia University decided to try teaching it to undergraduates.  By that time, the tradition of humanistic classical education had vanished almost completely in the US (beaten out by the modern high school/university system).  A few people were aware of what had been lost, but given the dire shortage of competent teachers, they didn't think it was feasible to try to recover it.   So they promoted the Great Books as a way to save education -- a sort of "poor man's substitute" for the classics (although in the US, the poverty was intellectual and cultural, rather than material).

 

There are some parallels with Charlotte Mason's philosophy.  Like the founders of the Great Books movement in the US, she had an outsider's understanding of classical education, and didn't consider her own curriculum to be "classical."   Her great desire was to provide a liberal education to children who were unable to be part of the traditional classical system (particularly women and the working classes). 

 

On another level, though, the two are very different.  CM was interested in social stability and maintaining the status quo, whereas the GB people were more into promoting democratic ideals through group discussions and consensus-building.  I was kind of surprised to learn that the founders -- especially Buchanan at Virginia, and Hutchins at Chicago -- were heavily involved in globalist think-tanks.

 

 

Quote from the second link. "Indeed, such an approach in fact suggests that there is a single "meaning to life" that meaning is fundamentally "decisionist." Most curricula in the Great Books offer the various philosophies as inherently conherent and valid systems, suggesting to each student that there is finally no basis on which to decide which philosophy to adopt other than mere preference."

 

For those of you who have done Angelicum or GBA, do you agree that this is a concern? Or do those curriculum provide more guidance? I think it concerns me a bit that the only apparent difference between the Catholic version (Angelicum) and the secular version (GBA) is the religious studies. An education is not catholicized by merely tacking on religion.

They do provide guidance, but trying to teach Great Books from a Christian perspective seems to go against the whole design of the curriculum.   

 

For me, a greater concern is the early and heavy emphasis on logic, debate, and having the students make judgments.   This wasn't how traditional classical education (high school and early college age) was conducted.   It was more about immersing the student in great speeches and writings, so that they would learn by example.   Classical grammar and rhetoric also had a formative influence on the students' aesthetic and emotional development, which GB pretty much entirely neglects.   The GB approach is much more inclined toward "head" than "heart."    In times past, spending a large amount of time on purely rational (or philosophical) discussions was held to be appropriate for the university level -- but not for the secondary level, where the students still have a lot of personal maturing to do.   

 

I'm growing baffled by the enthusiasm with which Catholic educators have jumped on the Great Books Movement bandwagon, since we have such a strong (and relatively recent) tradition of the real thing.  Even if we can't teach Latin and Greek, we can use those humanistic methods to teach modern languages and literature. 

 

Here's an essay on the subject from a Thomist Catholic philosopher, Frederic Wilhelmsen.  It was published in the journal of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute in 1987.  At that time, TAC was the major Catholic GB college, so I would assume he's talking about them when he says that a good teacher will sometimes get it right in spite of the inherent problems with the method.

 

The Great Books, Enemies of Wisdom

 

Note the description of teaching on p. 330 -- how important it is for us to become the subject we're trying to teach (the technical term for this is "connaturality"), and how we can achieve this, in part, by immersion in literature that embodies those ideas.   Angelicum does a version of this for young children, with John Senior's rather Romantic "Twinkle, twinkle little star" book list -- but then they throw the high schooler right into a huge list of all sorts of literature, much of it contrary to right reason, and have them puzzle it out intellectually.  

 

There's something missing in between, and it's what used to be called "classical education." 

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I am reading that link (the second) and at once sad, that We DON'T have the ability to receive that type of education, rolling my eyes because where would the author propose we start to educate a whole country? And thirdly angry becuase , let's just burn all of the good just so we can make sure that we're doing it right. 

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ElizaG, thanks so much for the reply and the link. Do you think there is any published curriculum that is both classical and Catholic? Or is this something that homeschooling parents have to create themselves?

 

I am reading that link (the second) and at once sad, that We DON'T have the ability to receive that type of education, rolling my eyes because where would the author propose we start to educate a whole country? And thirdly angry becuase , let's just burn all of the good just so we can make sure that we're doing it right. 

 

Justamouse, I totally agree. As I begun to dive into learning about the different types of homeschool methods, philosophies, etc., I feel angry that I never had the chance to have this kind of an education and angry that, despite my intent to give my daughter a good education, I'm probably not up to the task because of my standard American education. So what do we do? And it really frustrates me so much that I can't look to the Catholic Church to provide that education to my daughter. I'm not a Roman Catholic but I'd put my daughter in a good, affordable Catholic school in a heartbeat if one existed.

 

How do we rebuild something that is dead?

 

 

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I am reading that link (the second) and at once sad, that We DON'T have the ability to receive that type of education, rolling my eyes because where would the author propose we start to educate a whole country? And thirdly angry becuase , let's just burn all of the good just so we can make sure that we're doing it right. 

 

It might help to note that he's talking specifically about teaching philosophy.  Traditionally, this would come after the "classical education" stage.    For instance, in the Ratio Studiorum, classical grammar, humane letters, and rhetoric are grouped together as "lower studies," and philosophy and theology are called "higher studies."  

 

The higher studies were only followed by a very small percentage of students, mostly in preparation for the priesthood.   But, for that group of students, it was really, really important to get them right. 

 

The lower studies were the basic "classical course," built around the study of languages and literature.   Wilhelmsen doesn't really talk about this, maybe because he lived off in philosopher-land, so it wasn't his thing.   But it's described in Fr. Schwickerath and Fr. Francis P. Donnelly's books.   It was certainly based on "great books," but they were chosen and taught in a different way. 

 

With the expansion of higher education -- bringing in many students who weren't inclined to learn Latin and Greek -- the more traditional Jesuits were in favor of taking the methods of the Ratio and applying them to the study of English literature.  But that never really got going fully, and then things went bonkers in the 1960s.  

 

I've been wondering if this approach might have been used, to some extent, in girls' academies that were run by women's religious orders.  Their founders often based their methods on the Ratio -- or on European pedagogy that was somewhat classical in origin -- but they taught literature in English and other modern languages, because girls didn't usually study the classics.   But as with the Jesuit schools, it's hard to get a feel for the system of education by looking at historical documents. 

 

Anyway, my point is... if those sisters -- often fresh off the boat from France, and sometimes not having had much schooling themselves -- could come to the backwoods of America and pull off a reasonably decent vernacular humanities education, I don't see why we can't do it at home.

 

This is one reason why I'm coming to feel that, for homeschoolers, the tradition of convent/monastic education is a better model than that of the various Christian colleges or universities (medieval or otherwise)   Their situation has a lot of common ground with ours:  they were often just educating themselves and their own little (religious) family; they lacked the resources and expertise of a large institution; they were often isolated, but would correspond with others through letters.   Their use of rhetoric, such as it was, was more personal than public.  And when they studied the classics, they tended to put the emphasis on grammar -- understood in its traditional, broad sense as the reading & understanding of texts.  Which is where all of us have to start. 

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This is one reason why I'm coming to feel that, for homeschoolers, the tradition of convent/monastic education is a better model than that of the various Christian colleges or universities (medieval or otherwise)   Their situation has a lot of common ground with ours:  they were often just educating themselves and their own little (religious) family; they lacked the resources and expertise of a large institution; they were often isolated, but would correspond with others through letters.   Their use of rhetoric, such as it was, was more personal than public.  And when they studied the classics, they tended to put the emphasis on grammar -- understood in its traditional, broad sense as the reading & understanding of texts.  Which is where all of us have to start. 

I was recently reading about the Hedge schools, and thinking the same thing. 

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ElizaG, thanks so much for the reply and the link. Do you think there is any published curriculum that is both classical and Catholic? Or is this something that homeschooling parents have to create themselves?

 

My understanding of "classical" is either ( a ) based on Latin and Greek or ( b ) part of the neo-classical Sayers-inspired movement.   Since what I'm talking about isn't necessarily either of those, I'm going to avoid that whole can of worms.  :cool:

 

What I'm interested in, at this point, is pretty much just "traditional humanistic literary education."  It's not particularly esoteric; parts of it can still be found in ordinary schooling in some European countries (though all the materials I've seen are secular).  But it's not popular in the US, and it hasn't really made it into Catholic homeschooling circles. 

 

There are a few older textbooks that take this approach to teaching English, and some others that are sort of in the general ball park.  I'll try to put together some links.  Once you get the hang of it, you can use these methods with selections from any of the standard book lists (including Angelicum/GBA), anthologies, or school readers. 

 

Given that your eldest is four, I don't think you need to be too concerned about gaps in your own education.  Whether you follow this approach, or one of the others, it's not hard to get an adequate sense of what to do at the early elementary level.  (The harder part is not losing your mind when your toddler swipes a stick of butter and smears it all over the table, while your 8 year old moans about his handwriting practice.  :rolleyes: )   As for middle school and up, that's going to take a bit more planning.  I'm hoping that some more resources will be available by then. 

 

And it really frustrates me so much that I can't look to the Catholic Church to provide that education to my daughter. I'm not a Roman Catholic but I'd put my daughter in a good, affordable Catholic school in a heartbeat if one existed.

 

How do we rebuild something that is dead?

 

If the "something" is a nation-wide system of education that's affordable to most families, and uses Ratio-style pedagogy in the humanities, then I'm not sure that the Catholic Church in the USA has ever provided that.  

 

Well, it might have existed, for about ten minutes, in 1937.   If you didn't look too closely.  :tongue_smilie:

 

The boys' classical colleges and girls' academies were usually for a privileged few. 

 

The parochial schools were a separate system, developed in modern times to give families an alternative to the mandatory public "common school."  They had great strengths in spirituality and discipline, and there was some traditional pedagogy that had been passed down, but they were always pretty much like the mainstream American system in academics.  

 

I think things really started to go south -- both for the classical colleges, and for the parochial schools -- when the American-style high school started to dominate the scene.  The whole set-up is contrary to traditional views of education.  But there's not much we can do about that, except to try to avoid the mentality as much as possible. 

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Just wanted to clarify, for those who aren't familiar with Senior's writings, that Angelicum/GBA isn't a "John Senior curriculum."  It's made up of three main educational approaches:

 

Elementary:  Senior's Good Books

High School: Adler's Great Books

Both Elementary and High School:  a full load of fairly standard, un-poetic, un-integrated academics (starting with Saxon, Shurley, etc.)

 

My sense is that Adler probably wouldn't have objected to the standard academics, but Senior would have had serious disagreements with both of the other approaches.   So, if anything, I'm inclined to see it as a Mortimer Adler-style curriculum, with the Good Books list added in. 

 

In the essay above, Wilhelmsen is criticizing Adler's method, not Senior's (not that Senior has a "method" per se... I think he'd probably object strenuously to the suggestion :001_smile: ).   He actually quotes the line about the "good books" on p. 328.  

 

 

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What I'm interested in, at this point, is pretty much just "traditional humanistic literary education."  It's not particularly esoteric; parts of it can still be found in ordinary schooling in some European countries (though all the materials I've seen are secular).  But it's not popular in the US, and it hasn't really made it into Catholic homeschooling circles. 

I'd definitely love to hear more about "traditional humanistic literary education." I'm in the middle of Climbing Parnassus right now. I am sure that the author is correct about the importance of Greek and Latin but I have serious doubts about my ability to teach the ancient languages to my daughter. Andrew Kerns says to have your child taught by someone who knows Latin but how realistic is that? I could go back to work to pay the tuition at a top notch private classical school but then my daughter would be in school all day long and our family life would be non-existent again.

 

So I think I've got to find a way to give her the benefits of that lofty classical education without mastering Greek and Latin and I think what you are getting at here is possibly the solution to the problem. I think this is one of those perfection is the enemy of the good situations. Most of us can't provide the "perfect" classical education ("perfect" according to Circe or LCC or Tracy Lee Simmons) so we have to find the "good" instead of throwing in the towel. 

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From Rev. Charles Coppens, S.J.

 

A Practical Introduction to English Rhetoric:  Precepts and Exercises (1886)

 

The Art of Oratorical Composition: Based Upon the Precepts and Models of the Old Masters (1885)

 

These would be for secondary school and beyond, I think, although the first one begins with some advice for teaching younger children.

 

(The academies were usually boarding schools, and girls didn't typically go there until age 12 or so -- having been taught at home before that.   But some schools would accept them as early as age 4 or 5, if they were orphaned, or if their mothers were temporarily unable to care for them.  The under-12s were called the "minims."  From what I've read, I get the impression that they were treated kindly and a bit indulgently by the sisters in charge:  not a great deal of academics, and lots of music, toys, and treats.) 

 

I'll try to post more tomorrow.  But there's a lot just in those two.  :001_smile:

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So I think I've got to find a way to give her the benefits of that lofty classical education without mastering Greek and Latin and I think what you are getting at here is possibly the solution to the problem. I think this is one of those perfection is the enemy of the good situations. Most of us can't provide the "perfect" classical education ("perfect" according to Circe or LCC or Tracy Lee Simmons) so we have to find the "good" instead of throwing in the towel.

You don't have to start teaching Latin for a while! I started trying to teach myself Latin with some adult level materials like Wheelock's and then decided to just buy ahead a Middle School video curriculum...it is working great, just the level of instruction I need at this point in between laundry and teaching etc. I started it slowly for my advanced in grammar and Language Arts daughter in 4th grade, I will probably not start my son in Latin until 6th.

 

So, Latin Alive on DVD, teach yourself Latin with it then use it, for $140 you get self teaching and a curriculum!

 

http://classicalacademicpress.com/latin-alive-book-1-program/

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I'd definitely love to hear more about "traditional humanistic literary education." I'm in the middle of Climbing Parnassus right now. I am sure that the author is correct about the importance of Greek and Latin but I have serious doubts about my ability to teach the ancient languages to my daughter. Andrew Kerns says to have your child taught by someone who knows Latin but how realistic is that?

 

You don't have to start teaching Latin for a while! I started trying to teach myself Latin with some adult level materials like Wheelock's and then decided to just buy ahead a Middle School video curriculum...it is working great, just the level of instruction I need at this point in between laundry and teaching etc. I started it slowly for my advanced in grammar and Language Arts daughter in 4th grade, I will probably not start my son in Latin until 6th.

 

So, Latin Alive on DVD, teach yourself Latin with it then use it, for $140 you get self teaching and a curriculum!

 

http://classicalacademicpress.com/latin-alive-book-1-program/

Yes, I think it's feasible for many families to become fairly competent in Latin, at least. 

 

The challenge, from what I've been discovering, is that teaching in the traditional way requires a lot of things: 

 

- excellent Christian character, and a love for the students;

- an understanding of the pedagogy, which was something that was learned by experience (as a student of this type of teacher), more than taught explicitly from books;

- familiarity with the nuances of the language and literature;

- familiarity with the precepts you're teaching (e.g., grammar and rhetoric).

 

My feeling is that I could use a lot of improvement in all these areas.  I do have some foundation in the first and second ones (because to some extent, good traditional teaching is really just "good teaching," and I think we've all experienced at least a bit of that :001_smile: ).   And the last one can be picked up from books, like the ones I've linked above.

 

But I'm more doubtful about my ability to get the hang of #3, on top of all the rest (and running the household, etc.).   If I were just trying to teach about the language and literature, then maybe.  But to use that language and literature as the context for the teaching of the precepts -- that seems like a bigger fish entirely.  And I'm not sure that there are a whole lot of tutors around here who could do it, either. 

 

In other words, I might be able to pull off a "Latin-centered" version of a modern secular or Great Books education (which, IMO, is pretty much what LCC is; it's more antiquarian than part of any real tradition).   Or I could aim for an English-centered humanistic Christian education, with some branching out to other ancient and modern languages when possible.   That's an approach that has a solid tradition of its own (especially for women), and it seems like a more realistic choice for our family. 

 

As for "perfection," from a Catholic perspective, probably the perfect education is the one that makes your child the greatest saint.    Even with academics, it's relative.  For instance, the most highly regarded of the early Jesuit schools were known for their triple curriculum of Latin, Greek, and Hebrew.  But we don't tend to go around bewailing the fact that the typical classical colleges only taught two of those languages. 

 

It's possible to make an idol out of this, and I've certainly done that at times.  This is the point where I tend to find it helpful to re-read Ecclesiastes.   :rolleyes:

 

I could go back to work to pay the tuition at a top notch private classical school but then my daughter would be in school all day long and our family life would be non-existent again.

 

So I think I've got to find a way to give her the benefits of that lofty classical education without mastering Greek and Latin and I think what you are getting at here is possibly the solution to the problem. I think this is one of those perfection is the enemy of the good situations. Most of us can't provide the "perfect" classical education ("perfect" according to Circe or LCC or Tracy Lee Simmons) so we have to find the "good" instead of throwing in the towel. 

 

Private Christian classical schools -- at least, the ones I've seen -- are based more on the old-time American schoolhouse.   It's a solid education in the 3Rs, but it doesn't have the literary and aesthetic aspect that you'd find in traditional Catholic schools, or in classical schools in France and the UK.   I think this might be because so much of the movement in the US (both in colonial times, and in the recent revival) grew out of a Calvinist background, and they tended to be suspicious of anything but "plain style." 

 

Cambridge University Press just republished this 1958 history of British classical education, which is very informative.   (I wish it were in the public domain!)  These were the roots of the system that produced Tolkien, Lewis, Chesterton, Belloc, etc.   While the religious aspect and discipline were different in the Catholic schools, the academic emphasis seems to have been quite similar.    I was surprised to learn that, in the mid-19th century, the study of the classics at Oxford was pretty much a straight continuation of what had been done at the secondary level -- with the study of grammar, translation, the writing of Latin verse, etc. -- sometimes at a lower level than the students had been doing in the top public schools.  The curriculum did change a lot in the next several decades, but I think much of the underlying culture stayed the same. 

 

It was during their experience as Rhodes Scholars, in 1919, that Scott Buchanan and Stringfellow Barr realized that something was missing in American education.  But they knew they couldn't reproduce the Oxford tutorial system, and this led them to experiment with the Great Books seminar approach.  So that sort of brings us full circle. 

 

The GB program that Barr and Buchanan founded -- at St. John's in Annapolis -- does give some attention to the traditional emphasis on eloquence, in their language tutorials

 

"The Senior language tutorial, like the language tutorials of the preceding years, is the visible presence in the Program of the liberal arts of the trivium: logic, grammar, and rhetoric."

 

This long series of interviews with Scott Buchanan is really interesting, both for the look at the history of the Great Books, and for the look into Buchanan's own thinking.  For one thing, it's clear that he had respect for the Catholic worldview, but he resisted actually becoming Catholic.

 

"I told [sister Madeleva] that with all my backslidings and everything else, I thought I knew where the center was and on which circle I existed, and I wasn't too concerned, like some of the lower orders in heaven, about being closer.  I accepted my position- It was distant from the center but I knew where it was, and to push this with me, in the sense of joining the Roman Catholic Church -- which in some sense I ought to do -- would be hypocrisy, a self-deception of a bad kind."

 

So did Adler, for a very very long time.   He was baptized as an Episcopalian in 1984, but didn't accept some Catholic moral teachings.   He became a Catholic at age 95, practically on his deathbed.  Some people like to trumpet this ("Famous Philosopher Becomes Catholic!").  But it's deeply problematic, to me, to base our children's education on the ideas that he developed when he was full of intellectual knowledge, but hadn't experienced a conversion of the heart. 

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These are some books that I've found helpful in starting to understand traditional literary education, and how it differs from the emphases in the various modern approaches (philology, the Great Ideas, cultural literacy, etc.).

 

Percival Chubb, The Teaching of English in the Elementary and the Secondary School (1906, USA)

Philip J. Hartog, The Writing of English (1908, UK)

Rollo Walter Brown, How the French Boy Learns to Write:  A Study in the Teaching of the Mother Tongue (1915, USA)

 

and, from Rev. Francis P. Donnelly, S.J.: Principles of Jesuit Education in Practice, and quite a few others that aren't available online.  

 

He also wrote textbooks, including:

 

Imitation and Analysis: English Exercises Based on Irving's "Sketch Book"

Newman's "Second Spring"

The Art of Interesting: Its Theory and Practice for Speakers and Writers (not exactly a text, but sort of a guide to rhetoric)

 

Cicero's Milo (In English)

Cicero's Milo:  A Rhetorical Commentary

Cicero's Manilian Law:  A Rhetorical Commentary

The Oration of Demosthenes on the Crown:  A Rhetorical Commentary

 

In addition, he published several books of essays, poetry, and spiritual writings (interestingly enough, many of these were on the theme of the "Heart").

 

Poor old Father Donnelly was mocked by his fellow teachers, and his works were shoved under the rug, as Catholic schools modernized their structure and curriculum in the first half of the 20th century.  It's clear from the historical record, such as education journals and committee reports, that the methods he was advocating were ones that the modernizers saw as an embarrassment.

 

(Anything that was put together by a "Committee on Education at the Catholic University of America" comes from the people who wiped out this educational tradition.  Many of the books Seton uses -- both the elementary readers, and the high school literature texts -- are in this category.   It's not that they had less Catholic content than the older books -- in some cases, they had a lot more -- but the pedagogy was different.)

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ElizaG, thanks for all of the links and your wonderful posts.

 

:iagree: I'm not feeling well at the moment, but I will definitely take the time to read those links.

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You're welcome.  I'm glad to be able to pass them along.  :001_smile:

 

It's harder to find Catholic materials for elementary, and I'm not really sure that there was a well-developed traditional method for the younger ones.   As far back as I've gone, the authors just seem to be either making up their own ideas, or following the latest trend.   For instance, Fr. Coppens recommends "object lessons," which were the big thing at that time.   Even Quintilian and St. Jerome talk about using games and contraptions to make learning more pleasant.   

 

It's evident that the children did oral reading, memorization, and copywork.  And that they read prayers, Scripture, and poetry, and often started a foreign language (preferably with a native speaker as tutor).  But there's no reference to the "age-old way of teaching" for the under-12s, as there is for the older ones.   (This is helpful in itself, because one of my interests is in figuring out how Montessori and classical education fit together.   It seems that traditional Catholic classical/liberal education is kind of sketchy before age 12, and the Montessori method is kind of sketchy after age 12.  MM said that nobody had taken the child seriously until she came along, and maybe that's true.)

 

On a more practical note -- the 1915-ish De La Salle Readers do explicitly aim to teach literary composition. 

 

"In furtherance of this idea, class talks, word study, the structure of sentences, drills on certain correct forms of expression, the proper arrangement of ideas, explanation of phrases and literary expressions, oral and written reproductions of narrations and descriptions, and exercises in original composition, all receive the attention which their importance demands. Thus will the pupils, while learning to read and from their earliest years, acquire that readiness in grasping the thoughts of others and that fluency in expressing their own, which are so essential to a good English education. (...)

 

In addition to giving the pupil practice in reading and forming a basis for oral and written composition work, these selections will raise his ideas of right living, will quicken his imagination, will give him his first knowledge of many things, stimulate his powers of observation, enlarge his vocabulary, and correct and refine his mode of expression."

 

There's also a pedagogical guide here, published by the same religious order.   The Brothers' system was set up for efficient single-grade classroom teaching, but there are some helpful parts about teaching in general.

 

I have some ideas for resources that would be better suited to homeschoolers, but there's no way I'd have time for that right now.    (Maybe I should do a Robinson, and have the older children design the curriculum.  :D )   Right now, we're just doing Catholic Heritage Curricula, and supplementing with music, foreign language, and -- on our more calm and organized days :001_smile: -- extra literature lessons along the above lines.

 

Speaking of which, I should probably get off the Internet, as the inmates are starting to run the asylum.   Tress, I hope you feel better soon!

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Maybe they didn't hammer anything out for under 12 because they understood that before then the children's abilities were at different levels? 

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You have to go back a ways farther to figure out how they did the younger stuff. Geraldine E. Rodgers (she is Catholic!) has some good sources in her history of reading, it is $8.95 on Author house.

 

I have an abbreviated version for just reading on my history of reading page:

 

http://www.thephonicspage.org/On%20Phonics/historyofreading.html

 

Basically, they were taught the syllabary in Latin and learned to read and speak Latin before they learned to read in their native language, which was then taught with a syllabary. Gerry laments the switch from the traditional Donat to Livy to the decline in Latin education, she thinks the Donatus was better suited to an oral Latin and Livy is more towards written which led to the language not being spoken as much and therefore not passed on.

 

She also has interesting things on the French Revolution, hedge schools, Dame schools, a wandering history of reading instruction, with of course the normal things like Quintillion and Prussian education.

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Hedge schools are my topic of fascination at this point. Thank you!

 

Wow, that graph on your page is pretty sad.

You're welcome. Gerry's book is written in a long, wandering style, but I found it all interesting, all the more interesting for little wandering tidbits of interest like hedge schools.

 

http://bookstore.authorhouse.com/Products/SKU-000281603/The-History-of-Beginning-Reading.aspx

 

If you click over to the preview tab, it gives you a good feel for her writing.

 

I agree, it is pretty sad, unfortunately I think it is accurate. The especially sad thing is the research clearly shows what works, although there is no current research with learning to read with syllables. My guess is that you could have a 95% literacy rate with normal phonics and 99% with syllabic phonics, maybe even higher if you taught Spanish or Latin syllables first, then English syllables. (I like Latin better but Spanish syllables first could be done more easily and quickly.)

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ElizaG, thanks from me, too, for these thoughts and links - very stimulating stuff. I'm also very interested in a Montessori/classical mash up. Now I just need to resist the urge to spend all my time reading about the theory of educating children to the exclusion of educating the actual children in the other room...  :rolleyes:

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You have to go back a ways farther to figure out how they did the younger stuff. Geraldine E. Rodgers (she is Catholic!) has some good sources in her history of reading, it is $8.95 on Author house.

 

I have an abbreviated version for just reading on my history of reading page:

 

http://www.thephonicspage.org/On%20Phonics/historyofreading.html

 

 

Thanks, Elizabeth.   Yes, I forgot to mention the syllabary.   What I was thinking of was more the lack of a standard way of handling literary education for the years after primary literacy, but before the secondary level.   But, to build on what justamouse suggests, maybe some children at that age were still mastering the basics, and others could get an early start on the secondary material. 

 

BTW, Tibby's Mama, if you haven't looked at the section on Elementary Studies in Newman's "Idea of a University," that would be worth reading.  It's not "elementary" in the sense of young children, but in the sense of preparation for higher studies.   C.S. Lewis talks about this, too, as "the Parthenon and the Optative."

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*For those of you who have done Angelicum or GBA, do you agree that this is a concern? Or do those curriculum provide more guidance? I think it concerns me a bit that the only apparent difference between the Catholic version (Angelicum) and the secular version (GBA) is the religious studies. An education is not catholicized by merely tacking on religion.

*

 

We own a few of the Angelicum Literature Guides and they have religious content in almost every story.

 

Some examples are:

 

- Where is God in this story? Is He present in the lives of any of the characters? Who and how so? (From the Earth to the Moon)

 

-"Thou shalt not kill" is the commandment that forbids murder. Why is Tarzan not guilty of breaking the law of God? Or is he guilty? (The Beasts of Tarzan)

 

-In what ways can a Catholic's spiritual journey be compared to the life of Theseus? (Tanglewood Tales)

 

As far as the rest of this conversation, it is mostly over my head, but I am enjoying learning from your posts.

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You ladies are amazing!

 

Before I had my daughter I had NO idea that there were even theories of education. I went to a Montessori pre-school which I knew meant something because my mother would always describe it as "Montessori" instead of just pre-school but I didn't remember much of my time there. Then it was on to typical public schools in a good, well-funded school district. Back in my sorority days, I remember that the least intellectual girls were mostly education majors. Everyone viewed education as the easiest major. Luckily few of these girls actually taught more than a few years. It never occured to me that education was so complicated; just teach kids things, right? How hard can it be? :laugh:

 

Then I had my daughter and began thinking about pre-school because everyone kept asking me where she was going to pre-school. So I started looking into Montessori because I'd attended a Montessori (not that I knew what that meant) and then Waldorf because of a friend. Then considered homeschooling and read TWTM and here I am a few  years later still trying to feel my way through all of this.

 

It's really been fascinating to learn about all of these different theories of education and how controversial all of this is. I shared this with my mother who had taught junior high English back in the 1960's. She remembers knowing a man back then who was the first stay at home dad she'd ever met. He stayed home because he'd been fired from his teaching job. He was extremely radical and my mother remembers his ranting against phonics. Insisting that it was a conservative plot to obscure the meanings of text. Don't want to get political here - just noting how controversial these ideas about education can be.

 

 

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They were reading the Bible, starting with the Psalms, then moving on to harder portions. I don't know what else, though, I have only peripherally studied the subject as it relates to reading instruction.

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Since books were even scarcer back then, it might have been the Bible and whatever was handy, like this in early American one room schools:

 

For reading books, they had Murray's Introduction, his English Reader, and its Sequel. These were the school readers of the early day, though many families were not supplied with them In that case other books were sent the Life of Washington, of Boone, of Francis Marion, such as the parents might have in their houses If nothing else, the New Testament would be sent Nearly every family could furnish that book. At one period the New Testament was more generally used than any other class book. This permitted the formation of reading classes but otherwise there were as many classes as kinds of readers. p. 480

 

http://www.thephonicspage.org/On%20Phonics/historyofwayneco.html

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I know this is an old thread, but wanted to share a couple of relevant links that I've come across recently. 

 

Great Books:  Panacea or What? (1952) by Edward A. Fitzpatrick, online at HathiTrust. 

 

Dr. Fitzpatrick was a Catholic who was well known for his work in public affairs and education.  There's an obituary here, and a short biography on Wikipedia.  He focuses on the adult Great Books discussion groups, but many of his points would also apply to the model as it's currently being used by many homeschool providers and Christian schools. 

 

"Reading and the Liberal Arts" by W. C. Barrett, from the Winter 1941 issue of the Kenyon Review (to view this one, you'd need to sign up for a free JSTOR account).  

 

This article is more about the St. John's program, but it touches on other subjects, including the differences between the "Thomisms" of Adler, Maritain, and St. Thomas himself.   After some digging, I'm guessing the author must have been the philosopher William Barrett.

 

ETA:  I'm actually still reading the W. C. Barrett article.  It just keeps getting better, IMO.   Lots to think about.

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Thanks for these links and for reviving this thread. Critiques of the great books approach make a lot of sense, but at the same time, they don't really describe the entirety of my experience at a very Adler-influenced institution (not St. John's, which I did in fact find kind of creepy and didn't apply to). So I'm always left not entirely sure what to make of these arguments. 

 
For example, a large part of my undergraduate experience seemed to be precisely about grammar broadly construed, "the reading and understanding of texts," as ElizaG described it upthread. This didn't happen in a coherent overall framework, so that part of the critique definitely holds true. But I'm just not totally clear on the difference between a broad understanding of grammar and "close reading" or Adler-style how-to-read-a-book methods as dismissed by Barrett in that second link. 
 
Barrett says that Adler puts an "undue emphasis upon purely formalistic reading." What does he mean by that? I'm not sure I understand that whole passage, on pages 77-8. By the end he seems to have returned to this idea that it doesn't make sense to organize study around a list of great books rather than a substantive subject matter, but he seems to be trying to make a link between that and the manner of reading texts that I'm clearly not grasping. Is it simply that he sees higher education as the place for studying specific subjects by the methodologies of their respective disciplines rather than some kind of general approach? 
 
I couldn't agree more with Barrett's take on the inclusion of math and science in the great books approach, although I personally haven't seen that filter down to homeschoolers, with the occasional exception of Euclid, which is perhaps the one that doesn't seem totally unjustifiable. 
 
I have read Fr. Donnelly since this thread, but then kind of got sidetracked on things addressing the younger child. I probably just need to start reading through some more of the links here to try to figure this out. The R.P. Blackmur review of How to Read a Book that Barrett references was a bit helpful. Reading these two pieces together, I kind of got the sense that these guys maybe fell asleep at the wheel a bit. Blackmur has a bit where he says, well, I looked at some high school textbooks and they looked more or less like what I remember from school, so everything down there seems to be just fine. He also seems to see the potential problems, but I don't get the sense that he had any idea how quickly everything would fall apart, perhaps precisely because he takes for granted the kinds of skills (reading and understanding texts) that Adler's book was meant to teach, even if he didn't get it quite right (too much dialectic) and aimed it at the wrong stage of the educational process (university rather than secondary). 
 
This is very rambling and not clear, sorry. I wish I had time to make it make more sense since of course, now, having typed it up, I think I see how I could have expressed my issue more clearly, but the baby just woke up, so that will have to wait and I'll throw this out there anyway in the hopes of continuing the discussion.  :001_smile: 
 
ETA: Trying to squeeze this in while children snack peacefully: It seems my issue is just context. In my personal educational experience, it has often been only in great books-influenced contexts in which I have been equipped with and expected to use methods of approaching texts that are not novel or unique to the great books approach. That reflects the deterioration of educational expectations more generally rather than any unique strength of a Hutchins/Adler approach. Contemporary critiques of Adler, et al, naturally focus on what was novel and unique about their proposals, which explains the disconnect between what they describe and my experience at my alma mater. Ok, whew, this is probably not helpful to anyone else, but I feel like I have finally figured out what to make of my own education.  :laugh: 
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He is 100% right about mathematics. Attempting to learn calculus by reading Newton or Leibniz is an exercise in ridiculousness. Yes, they were groundbreaking works. But (at least in mathematics and science) the true groundbreaking works should be considered rough drafts of the theory as eventually used. Similarly, a student who wants to understand the modern theory of evolution should shy away from Darwin (as there are many things which he got wrong, interspersed with the true groundbreaking observations) and go for a modern textbook on college biology. 

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Reviving this thread again, as I've been thinking about Edward A. Fitzpatrick's critique of the concept of "Socratic discussion" as used in Great Books seminars.  Actually, he critiques their use of the word "seminar," too.  :laugh:   This passage is found in chapter V of his book.

 

His objection to the use of the word "Socratic" runs as follows:

 

- The defining feature of the Great Books method - the "Great Book" - is not found anywhere in Socrates' dialogues.   He doesn't refer to texts, but works entirely with the contents of the student's own mind.  

 

- The defining feature of the Socratic method - the "Socrates" (or some other master teacher), interrogating the student so as to investigate the validity of his or her ideas on a given issue - is not supposed to be part of a Great Books discussion.  In practice, it does seem to happen some of the time, but it's clearly against the rules.

 

The seminar method -- as developed in 19th century universities -- also presumes a master teacher, this time in a specific field.  The etymology is related to the sowing of seeds.   The teacher gives the students the starting points they'll need to do their own independent research, using scholarly libraries or real-world sources.   Again, this is nothing like the stated role of the discussion leader in the Great Books method. 

 

Thinking about it, "Socratic seminar" is already an oxymoron.   :huh:

 

How did these words come to be associated with one another, and with the Great Books approach?

 

And do the currently available GB discussions for homeschoolers - such as those done by Angelicum -- look more like Great Books discussions as originally described, or like Socratic dialogues, or like scholarly seminars?  Or like some new thing that's basically quite different from any of those?

 

I found a page (not claiming any connection with "Great Books") on conducting "Socratic Seminars for Middle Schoolers."   In the version they describe, four students sit in a circle and discuss a topic, while everyone else watches.  "NOTE: They are the only ones who speak; even you will not say a word once the discussion has begun."  A bit lower down on the page, there's a cartoon of four identical bearded ancient guys in robes.  So... everyone is Socrates?    Well, I guess that's one way of dealing with it. 

 

Now there's a catchy little ditty going around in my head.  "You can be a Socrates too!  Do-do-doo!"  How lovely for us all.    :grouphug:   Although... the fifth guy -- the one in blue -- is going to have to leave the circle and *wait his turn,* please.  ;)

 

 

Edited by ElizaG
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Thanks Eliza, I've always found your posts interesting. :)

 

I can't answer your questions on Angelicum and its approach, but I can say that do think that having conversations (or discussions) is a very important component in a liberal arts education. I'm very aware that I don't have all the answers and that I still have a great deal to learn, but I do think that giving students opportunities to turn over their thoughts about ideas, in general and taken from books (classics and otherwise) is essential. Maybe this is especially needed for homeschoolers, considering they don't have access to groups of people the way a private/public school setting has. I know that CM may have been a big advocate for not interfering with the reader and the book, but I do think that many modern interpretations of her work tend to take this too far. A homeschooled student may read and make their own connections, but without access to discussions with others (obviously those who have also read the same work) they are limited by what their own mind can contribute and will miss some very important points to consider. I'm not suggesting that we should interfere with the reader and the book, but I do think that adding a discussion component keeps the reader from seeing with only his/her eyes.

 

The curriculum I'm currently working on adds in a discussion component. I've titled it a "Great Ideas Discussion" so as to make it adaptable to be used with any book. The focus is on giving students opportunities to explore ideas such as liberty, beauty, justice, citizenship, etc. but they are not limited to the classics (or Great Books). It opens up an opportunity for them to share thoughts, turn over ideas, learn to support their thoughts with sources and to look at an event or person from different perspectives. These discussions are great prep work for writing as well. For me, it's like taking oral narrations to an advanced level.

 

ETA: Of course, this does add an additional burden to the teacher/parent, because it would be incumbent upon them to have also read the work and be that other voice/opinion for the homeschooled student. Having siblings join in would help in this matter too.

Edited by Kfamily
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Sorry, my first sentence was probably unclear.   Fitzpatrick wasn't opposed to discussion - not at all.   He was just saying that it was false advertising to describe the Great Books discussion model as "Socratic."  I think he was correct in pointing that out.  

 

I wonder if this wording was chosen to make the "teacherless" approach more palatable to people who valued tradition.   Looked at objectively, it was a major departure from the way things had been done.   But if it's named after Socrates... well, then, that makes it rock-solid, right?   And only someone who was against the Greeks' spirit of intellectual inquiry would oppose it. 

 

That would be clever.  But then, the GB movement was closely tied to marketing from the very beginning.  Alex Beam's A Great Idea at the Time gets into some of the details, and it's amusing as well, unlike the vast majority of books about education. 

 

To put it another way, Hutchins & Co. seem to have been averse to teaching rhetoric as a part of liberal education -- but not to using rhetoric themselves, as a tool to sell both an idea (their version of dialectic), and a pile of merchandise (the books that went with it). 

 

So all this talk of Socrates ends up being an argument in favor of his arch-rival Isocrates, whose emphasis on teaching rhetorical skill and forming good character became the basis of Western classical education.  It also reminds me of St. Augustine's position in Book IV of "Of Christian Doctrine," which happens to be in the "Great Books of the Western World."   Although, given the complaints that have been made about the translations, it might not be in very eloquent English.   :laugh:

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This curriculum doesnt seem to have any samples that I can find. Anyone know what the literature guides are like?

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Here are some older posts that describe the Angelicum literature guides: 

 

http://forums.welltrainedmind.com/topic/263096-literature-guides-memoria-kolbe-angelicum/ - post #16 (title got cut off, but seems to refer to Angelicum)

 

http://forums.welltrainedmind.com/topic/360045-angelicum-academy-study-guides/

 

 

I don't know about the GBA guides - maybe someone who's seen both can say how they differ?

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Here are some older posts that describe the Angelicum literature guides:

 

http://forums.welltrainedmind.com/topic/263096-literature-guides-memoria-kolbe-angelicum/ - post #16 (title got cut off, but seems to refer to Angelicum)

 

http://forums.welltrainedmind.com/topic/360045-angelicum-academy-study-guides/

 

 

I don't know about the GBA guides - maybe someone who's seen both can say how they differ?

What is your opinion on the great books approach? I had planned on using Omnibus or Wilson Hills The Great Conversation but I'm having second thoughts reading all of this. I have always like the idea of Great Books because I assumed it was classical (or at least traditional/liberal/humanities style education) and classical has such a great track record but if it was part of a movement that started not long ago and died out I would assume it wasn't very successful?

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That's a pretty broad question, since there are so many different versions of the "Great Books approach," and it seems as if most of them have (unconsciously?) moved a little bit closer to 19th century classical college education.  For instance, a self-described GB program might have more teacher guidance in the discussions, or a specific religious affiliation, or intensive language study to permit the reading of some non-English classics in the original.    All of this is excluded in the original model.   

 

In practical terms, then, I think we have to figure out what we hope to achieve by studying classic literature, and how we'd like to approach that goal.  Then we need to look at what resources and options are available to our families, and make a choice.  Without putting too much stock in the labels.  

 

I hope that makes some sense.  :001_smile:

 

If you were asking about the original GB model as described by Hutchins and Adler, I don't really have a strong opinion about its inherent value, either to the individual participant or to society as a whole.   It's not something I'd choose as the basis of my child's education, but neither would a lot of other people, apparently.   I think it's only still going at Shimer College (which has about 100 students), and in a few adult discussion groups.  The variants, especially the Christian ones, seem to be much more popular.

 

 

 

[Edited - fixed a couple of errors]

Edited by ElizaG

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That's a pretty broad question, since there are so many different versions of the "Great Books approach," and it seems as if most of them have (unconsciously?) moved a little bit closer to 19th century classical college education. For instance, a self-described GB program might have more teacher guidance in the discussions, or a specific religious affiliation, or intensive language study to permit the reading of some non-English classics in the original. All of this is excluded in the original model.

 

In practical terms, then, I think we have to figure out what we hope to achieve by studying classic literature, and how we'd like to approach that goal. Then we need to look at what resources and options are available to our families, and make a choice. Without putting too much stock in the labels.

 

I hope that makes some sense. :001_smile:

 

If you were asking about the original GB model as described by Hutchins and Adler, I don't really have a strong opinion about its inherent value, either to the individual participant or to society as a whole. It's not something I'd choose as the basis of my child's education, but neither would a lot of other people, apparently. I think it's only still going at Shimer College (which has about 100 students), and in a few adult discussion groups. The variants, especially the Christian ones, seem to be much more popular.

 

 

 

[Edited - fixed a couple of errors]

I went back and read the book you mentioned in this thread by Alex Beam in order to understand all of this a little more. I originally had planned on moving to Veritas Press Omnibus in 7th or 8th grade but I thought it was a Classical Program and the more I read it seems like it is more of a Great Books approach. I don't necessarily think its bad but it's not a proven method. What draws me to Classical Education is that it's a proven method. I am just having a hard time wrapping my brain around how to implement it. I don't know latin and I haven't even read the translated versions of Cisero or Caesar. I am barely learning what all of these terms mean (recitation, oration, ontology, disputation) . I just feel like what I thought I knew about Classical Education isn't really right at all based on history and I have to reconstruct our goals and how I plan on achieving them. I'm currently reading Samuel Blumenfeld's Is Public Edication Necessary. Very enlightening on US education. One more sliver of the puzzle. Edited by Momto4inSoCal

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I went back and read the book you mentioned in this thread by Alex Beam in order to understand all of this a little more. I originally had planned on moving to Veritas Press Omnibus in 7th or 8th grade but I thought it was a Classical Program and the more I read it seems like it is more of a Great Books approach. I don't necessarily think its bad but it's not a proven method. What draws me to Classical Education is that it's a proven method. I am just having a hard time wrapping my brain around how to implement it. I don't know latin and I haven't even read the translated versions of Cisero or Caesar. I am barely learning what all of these terms mean (recitation, oration, ontology, disputation) . I just feel like what I thought I knew about Classical Education isn't really right at all based on history and I have to reconstruct our goals and how I plan on achieving them. I'm currently reading Samuel Blumenfeld's Is Public Edication Necessary. Very enlightening on US education. One more sliver of the puzzle.

Ay, there's the rub.

What is Classical Education? The difference between what SWB says and what Tracy Lee Simmons says is significant enough, as is the difference of both to Dorothy Sayers. And what about what Circe Institue has to say? And the Frs mentioned upthread?

 

I think I feel similarly to you. And I feel additionally I have no heritage to draw on for enlightenment. My parents were the first in the their families to go to college (in the 60s no less). I don't have a cultural group to draw upon (as say that of Catholics). And how do you simultaneously home school and figure out how to homeschool?

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I still think Karen Glass includes enough history of classical education in her book Consider This  to make it worth reading.  It's been a while since I read it, but I think I remember her contrasting classical education revisions that took bits and pieces of the method without stopping to consider the goals.

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Ay, there's the rub.

What is Classical Education? The difference between what SWB says and what Tracy Lee Simmons says is significant enough, as is the difference of both to Dorothy Sayers. And what about what Circe Institue has to say? And the Frs mentioned upthread?

 

I think I feel similarly to you. And I feel additionally I have no heritage to draw on for enlightenment. My parents were the first in the their families to go to college (in the 60s no less). I don't have a cultural group to draw upon (as say that of Catholics). And how do you simultaneously home school and figure out how to homeschool?

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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If you don't mind, I'd like to talk about the idea of "lifelong liberal education" for all people, including the working classes.

 

The Great Books model was supposed to promote this - that was the whole idea behind it in the first place - but it didn't last.  

 

TWEM also proposes a system, but I don't think most of SWB's readers have taken it up in a big way. 

 

Kolbe encourages parents to read the classics along with their children, and was originally supposed to be very much parent-led (no detailed lesson plans), but... you get the idea. 

 

What can we do, as adults, to prepare ourselves for this sort of serious reading?   And how does it fit with our lives, which are often heavy on housekeeping and the care of young children?  Even if we can carve out the time, it's hard to get into the mindset. 

 

One US answer was Chautauqua.  They provided a predigested curriculum, developed by a self-declared intellectual and moral elite, and distributed to the masses via speeches and printed books.  John Taylor Gatto had some things to say about that mentality. 

 

I think the fact that most adults aren't reading Great Books (or even lower-case great books) might be the elephant in the room.  It's a problem that hasn't been solved by anyone.   Partly, I think, because the majority of us, even "classical homeschooling parents," don't personally put a high value on reading most of the books on these lists.  And if that's the case, why are we buying into educational philosophies that present them as a basic requirement for participation in society? 

 

Sorry if this is a little incoherent... just thinking out loud here.  :huh:

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If you don't mind, I'd like to talk about the idea of "lifelong liberal education" for all people, including the working classes.

 

The Great Books model was supposed to promote this - that was the whole idea behind it in the first place - but it didn't last.  

 

TWEM also proposes a system, but I don't think most of SWB's readers have taken it up in a big way. 

 

Kolbe encourages parents to read the classics along with their children, and was originally supposed to be very much parent-led (no detailed lesson plans), but... you get the idea. 

 

What can we do, as adults, to prepare ourselves for this sort of serious reading?   And how does it fit with our lives, which are often heavy on housekeeping and the care of young children?  Even if we can carve out the time, it's hard to get into the mindset. 

 

One US answer was Chautauqua.  They provided a predigested curriculum, developed by a self-declared intellectual and moral elite, and distributed to the masses via speeches and printed books.  John Taylor Gatto had some things to say about that mentality. 

 

I think the fact that most adults aren't reading Great Books (or even lower-case great books) might be the elephant in the room.  It's a problem that hasn't been solved by anyone.   Partly, I think, because the majority of us, even "classical homeschooling parents," don't personally put a high value on reading most of the books on these lists.  And if that's the case, why are we buying into educational philosophies that present them as a basic requirement for participation in society? 

 

Sorry if this is a little incoherent... just thinking out loud here.  :huh:

 

Yes!  So glad I came back to read updates here.  I was just asking myself (again) today, "What is my goal for literature study in highschool?"  And I still don't know the answer. 

 

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Well, I had a much longer response, but I lost it. :)

 

When I've not read a book that I'm having one of my daughters read, then I read it with them and use a combination of study guides, online resources and Great Courses (TTC) to help us. We are currently about to begin reading the Greek tragedies and will be using Vandiver's lectures alongside of our readings. We've already used this method for The Iliad and the Odyssey. I try to buy them on sale. Sometimes libraries have them too.

 

I still have a number of classics that I've not read, so I still have a ways to go...

 

I also create guides which align with my ideas on teaching and learning, but so far most of these guides would be for books which would fall under the Good Books category rather than Great Books. Writing a guide forces me to read carefully, take notes and then turn this new knowledge around and form an overall structure which will give the girls the preparatory work they need before reading, thoughtful narration suggestions for them to respond to what they've read-making their own connections and questions for a Great Ideas Discussion.

 

I also try very hard to keep an eye/ear out for local Shakespeare plays to augment our study of Shakespeare. I also have lectures from the Great Courses for Shakespeare too.

 

 

Edited by Kfamily

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If you don't mind, I'd like to talk about the idea of "lifelong liberal education" for all people, including the working classes.

 

The Great Books model was supposed to promote this - that was the whole idea behind it in the first place - but it didn't last.

 

TWEM also proposes a system, but I don't think most of SWB's readers have taken it up in a big way.

 

Kolbe encourages parents to read the classics along with their children, and was originally supposed to be very much parent-led (no detailed lesson plans), but... you get the idea.

 

What can we do, as adults, to prepare ourselves for this sort of serious reading? And how does it fit with our lives, which are often heavy on housekeeping and the care of young children? Even if we can carve out the time, it's hard to get into the mindset.

 

One US answer was Chautauqua. They provided a predigested curriculum, developed by a self-declared intellectual and moral elite, and distributed to the masses via speeches and printed books. John Taylor Gatto had some things to say about that mentality.

 

I think the fact that most adults aren't reading Great Books (or even lower-case great books) might be the elephant in the room. It's a problem that hasn't been solved by anyone. Partly, I think, because the majority of us, even "classical homeschooling parents," don't personally put a high value on reading most of the books on these lists. And if that's the case, why are we buying into educational philosophies that present them as a basic requirement for participation in society?

 

Sorry if this is a little incoherent... just thinking out loud here. :huh:

Ironically I just put Adler's "How to Read a Book" on hold at the library this morning. I don't know if it will prepare me for Aristotle but it's worth a try. Last summer I started reading through the Mensa reading list which isn't Great Books but their are quite a few on the list I would like to introduce my children to at some point. I read Candide and it was one of my favorite books I read from the list. After I read the book I researched the author and realized he was trying to mock Jesuits and many of the church teachings. The book is a satire and I realized, while O was reading it, some things he was poking fun at but I think maybe I've become so desensitized to those type of jokes it really didn't phase me. I just enjoyed the book at face value and didn't pick up on his underlying philosophical points. Now that I've read a little more on him and a few things on Rousseau and the prevailing views at the time I think I need to re-read it. Anyway my point is sometime just reading a book on your own isn't enough. I like to be able to digest a book and form my own opinions on it but if it's from a different era it's important to understand that era and read the book in that context. As far as to fitting it into our lives I aim to read a book a week (a book being around 300 pages) but it doesn't always happen. Having a goal helps me though. I have cut out all tv and use the evenings to read. Also sometimes I go in the backyard and read while my kids play. My kids tend to follow me so if I go outside they end up out there and play the entire time I'm reading.

 

My goal with the Great Books is partly tied to my faith. I think understanding how we got to the place we are at is helpful in defending their faith. Stephen Hawkins has said philosophy is dead. I thought about that and my perception is a lot of people feel that way. People feel that the Great Conversation is no longer a conversation. We have our answers to all the questions and if we don't science will answer them in the future. I think a lot of our society has been greatly influenced by the different movements in education and we are a product of those movements. If my children understand why most people have gone down this path, the minds and theories of those that push us this way they can understand why a brilliant man like Stephen Hawkins would say the things he says. Ultimately they will have to make their own decisions on their faith but I think being able to logically defend it will go a long way. Also I think it's important to understand the ground work for western society. I tend to be big on history in general so it is something I want to cover. I'm just not sure if plowing through books at the rate some of these Great Books programs have you read them is helpful.

Edited by Momto4inSoCal
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I think there's merit in reading the Great Books, even more so when done "syntopically" like Adler suggests. But it is like being the 5th smiley in the circle, and not really participating in the conversation. It isn't developing the tools (logic, rhetoric, philosophy) from which to draw upon if you are able to join the Great Conversation. You might well be familiar with the things everyone has said, and how they relate to one another, but without those tools you can't really analyze, put a value upon, refute or support, or go beyond.

 

Is a GB education worthwhile? I think so, but I guess I'm not satisfied. And I would rather have the tools to find truth myself than read a thousand volumes of others' pursuits.

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