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Fr. Francis P. Donnelly, SJ


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Hey, Eliza! Thanks for all the history thoughts. Coincidentally, I was just in a IRL discussion of a particular recently-published book on the trivium and the author had a whole extra section to discuss how to add history to the curriculum, which suggested to me that he didn't have a great grasp on the actual content of the trivium... 

Anyway, I really appreciated the Fr. Donnelly speech you posted. One thing that I was thinking about while considering the various history courses I've taken l is the difference between narrative or history texts of great literary merit and then specifically primary sources that might also be of literary merit but are perhaps not examples of "narrative" as Fr. Donnelly means it. I've taken many classes that involve reading and discussing mostly primary sources with a textbook spine to cover all the facts, but that is not what we're really after here. While there are some methods that are common to any kind of textual interpretation, I think that approach partakes more of "university methods," in that the goal is to teach specifically the historical interpretation of texts for the purpose of answering historical questions. So that was just a good thing to clarify for myself.

Unless I missed it, Fr. Donnelly did not here give any examples of English authors that would be suitable, but I recall him elsewhere mentioning, at least, Macaulay and Irving for teaching narrative. I would be very interested if you would be willing to share some of the books you've come up with, particularly the modern ones. One of my favorites that I plan to have us read in (late) high school is Lytton Strachey - he is problematic from a Catholic perspective, of course, but the man could write! 

This topic prompted a trip down memory lane to my favorite history class in all the classes I ever took in high school, college, and grad school, my high school Modern European History class, which was taught by a lovely women (truly, she had been a model before she became a teacher) who did many of the things Fr. Donnelly talks about, including assigning some historical novels and occasionally screening movies for us (Dangerous Liaisons being the most memorable - it definitely cemented in my mind forever a certain picture of Ancien Regime decadence. She did very much mean for all of us young women - this was an all-girls school - to take a moral lesson from the fate of Michelle Pfeiffer's character, but nonetheless, I don't think it would pass Fr. Donnelly's standards for avoiding the "unsavory facts" of the past). She was a master of the "telling anecdote " (I will forever think of Bismark as an insomniac who would lie awake all night and hate), and hers was the only history class I have ever taken in which we were examined on points of geography. I don't remember very much about the writing we did in that class, with the exception of a final research paper along university methods. I still have the list of supplementary reading and films she gave us somewhere - I should dig that up and see if there is anything useful on there.

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Good to see you that aren't among the lost, Cove! 🙂

A couple of possible books I've found are Cardinal Newman's Historical Sketches (Church history; has some narrative parts), and Paul Horgan's The Great River: The Rio Grande in North American History.  Churchill's History of the English-Speaking Peoples also looks good for style, although I haven't read enough to decide about the content. 

I agree that we can use suitable excerpts from many works, though, even if they have other parts that we find inappropriate.  This is one of the delights of traditional classical methods.  (Plunder those Egyptians!)

Father Donnelly's speech raises a lot of questions about what the student is supposed to do with a given passage.  Is he suggesting that they do a close imitation of the structure and style, as in Model English, but writing about a different historical event?  In that case, I'm doubly unqualified.  I could perhaps manage it if we only used a sentence or two at a time.  Or made the history part up.  😄  It would help to have examples of this method being followed in practice, or even evidence that it was followed somewhere.  We have several early 20th century anthologies of prose models for composition courses, including two with SJ connections (one from Boston College, and one from Fr. Husslein's series), and while they contain many examples of narrative writing, none of those are from history books.  

One Canadian anthology does have a narrative excerpt from Sandburg's biography of Lincoln, which would seem to qualify on grounds of literary recognition, but this raises larger questions about style.  Would Father Donnelly have recommended sticking with "classical" English models, or using more contemporary examples as well?  I'm inclined to think the former.  I'm also not sure if Sandburg, however brilliant, was really someone to copy.  Is the whole idea of "imitation" even compatible with modern literature, with its emphasis on distinctive voices and innovative techniques?   In elementary and early high school, we were sometimes told to imitate poems by Sandburg and other modern poets, but that usually meant just writing free verse on a similar theme.

Here's something I found in a book of criticism online:  "When other writers try to imitate Hemingway's dialogue, the result is a poor parody: his discovery was not a key to a new method, but something deeply individual and inimitable."

These questions are getting too big and making my head hurt, so I'll probably just stick with the authors listed at the top for now.  Especially since I'm not even sure what to do with them.

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It turns out that some of our high school literature textbooks have more varied non-fiction selections.  One 9th grade book from the 1960s (edited by Fr. Maline, SJ) includes excerpts from George Bancroft on the Battle of Bunker Hill, Bruce Catton on the Battle of Spotsylvania, and Churchill on the Bismarck.  The corresponding exercises don't include imitation, or even close analysis of style, but at least we can be sure that they were studying all of these passages as literature.  

Some excerpts from Catton's histories will certainly go on our "intensive reading" list, although we might not get to the Civil War this year.  

As for what to do with this list, I've decided that unless any other information turns up, I'll just look for short passages that could work with some other narrative topics, as Father Donnelly does with Irving in Model English.   This would be more for English credit than for history, though. 

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Hmmm, the mention of him had me wondering if you could look through the first decade or two of Bancroft Prize winners for other American historians potentially worth imitating. So I took a look and, hey, there's Paul Horgan. Also Samuel E. Morison, whose biography of Columbus I read some of with my eldest a year or so ago - it was good! 

He's a generation or so later, but my favorite historian to read in grad school was Edmund Morgan. Oh, and John Lukacs.

Thanks, Eliza, now I'm designing imaginary high school history courses instead of what I'm supposed to be doing right now, which is planning my next week of teaching algebra to a 7th grader! 😆

And speaking of him, I was wondering if you had any thoughts about the amount of time lessons should take moving from the EFL to the Fr. Donnelly ages. I'm pretty pleased with many aspects of how this year is going, but I don't know how I thought I was going to have time for some kind of formal chemistry course or how I'm going to squeeze in the last few things I actually want to be doing. I'm spending about an hour daily one-on-one with the 12yo in addition to the group lessons and read aloud he's included in, and...I don't know - is that a lot? Not enough? We basically rotate through his subjects and focus on one each day and then he's assigned independent work until we meet about it again (so that might be, say, three days of math problem sets or two days of Latin reading and exercises or whatever). I feel like I want to be teaching or at least checking in on each subject every day, but I don't see good way to actually do that usefully and maybe I don't really need to, and it's just a lingering impulse from the early years of short daily lessons. Of course it will vary based on the student, but I'm curious how you are dividing up "instructional time" with you and independent work with your similarly aged students? 

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I don’t know the answer to this, sorry.  My children have generally done better with independent work at 11-12 than at 13-14.  This certainly isn’t universal, but it is a pattern that others on the boards have described.  Often they’re just goofing off, but I think another factor is that adolescents tend to be more socially motivated.  In the classroom, the spirit of “emulation” was a way of keeping the students alert and avoiding the need for punishment.  

The family literary society could help with this.  PJEP (which I need to re-read) says that extensive reading was handled via the “academies,” which were basically literary societies.  

Another thing I’ll say is that children need to learn how to recognize when they need help, and how to ask for help.  This is important at home, and will be even more important when they do any sort of outside classes. 

It also depends on the subject matter.  Math is fairly conducive to independent work.  Literature and composition are not.   I haven’t ended up teaching classical languages at the secondary level, but I think those need more involvement too, especially of course if you’re trying to use the more traditional methods.

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We had our first meeting of the family literary society this week, though we're calling it something different.  The youngest recited poetry, and the middle ones gave reports on assigned topics that were related to their lessons.   We've gone back to doing chronological history and literature, which fits well with this approach, since we're all more or less on the same page. 

I told the older ones that they could choose what to do - report, recitation, music, etc. - but they didn't come up with anything in time, and were kind of embarrassed about the whole idea, so I'm going to assign them topics for next week.   I think they'll adjust.  One of my middle children is already coming up with ideas for what to do in future weeks.

It just occurred to me that the early 20th century practice of "special reports" might have grown out of the tradition of the literary societies.  It turns out to be legitimately useful, as it allows all of the students to hear a little about topics that we didn't get to in our formal studies.   It also seems like a relatively interesting and motivating approach to "school type composition."  I've always had an aversion to the idea of assigning medium or long papers that aren't going to be read by anyone but me.  

 

On a different subject, even though my secondary students aren't following a traditional classical curriculum, I've decided to make special efforts to teach the humanities in a way that shows the value and importance of this curriculum.  

This includes:

- reading selections from Latin and Greek classics in noted English translations, correlating them with the literature and history of the time of the translation, and learning about the translator's education in the classics

- noticing classical allusions (where we can), and learning to use old and new reference materials to learn more about these

- recognizing the use of classical rhetorical techniques (again, where we can), and practicing these on a limited basis, even if we don't do a comprehensive rhetoric course

- occasionally reading pieces (fiction or non-fiction) that contain references to classical education itself, so we can discuss the characteristics of the curriculum at different times and places, and how and why it stopped being available

- for American history and literature, looking especially at the influence of the Aeneid and Plutarch's life of Cato the Elder.  (I suppose this comes under the heading of "classical reception studies," but that's a broad term that implies more erudition than we need.)

If I can't graduate children who have a classical secondary education in the historic sense, I hope to at least graduate children who understand its meaning and significance, and how they might go about pursuing some aspects of it in the future.

I hope to do something similar with the traditional philosophy course.  But that's for another thread.  As I said in the EFL thread, my capacity for abstract thought is limited.  And my new supply of pencils just arrived.   Ahhh, pencils.  😄

 

 

 

 

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Thanks for the report on your family literary society meeting! I've gotten as far with ours as...thinking about it. But one of the things I thought about is how Mr. LostCove would actually be really into this, so all I really need to do is figure out how to get him to just take over and do it for me. He already expects a full report from the children on their daily work at the dinner table, so I really think it would just take a nudge or two, but it would have to be the right nudge or two in the right direction. Hmmm.

I really like all of your thoughts about a classics-respectful high school humanities approach! And I appreciate your warning that I only have a few months left to take advantage of my 12yo's independent work ability. I had a few nascent ideas for adding a more social element to some of his academics next year, so perhaps I will consider that more seriously. 

I've been wanting to write up a description of what we are doing for classical languages here because it seems pretty different from what most homeschoolers do and thus might be of interest to someone - I'll probably do that in another thread, though, because while it is Jesuit-inspired in some respects, it is not really anything Fr. Donnelly would recognize! And I was thinking recently that I should reread PJEP - I enjoyed discussing Bookless Lessons here while rereading  a few months ago, maybe we could do that again for Fr. Donnelly in the near future? Christmas break? Although it won't be the same without you-know-who. 😞 

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  • 2 weeks later...
22 hours ago, ElizaG said:

I hope your husband-convincing project is going well!  😄

A book discussion of PJEP would be great.  There are 26 chapters.  Do you think we should try to follow a schedule, or just take as long as it takes?

Haha, I'm currently suffering from an attempt at a counter-convincing involving some small ruminants.

We have a very busy December planned here, but I could definitely start rereading PJEP right after Christmas and should be able to really focus on it then. I'm fine with a casual kind of discussion as we go, though, unless you think a schedule would be helpful.

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Posted (edited)

I guess it's still Christmas for a few more days, but maybe that's not the definition you had in mind.  😄  Let me know when you'd like to start. 

Although I'm looking forward to the discussion, I'm also sort of unsettled about it, because it's going to remind me of all the methods and content that I'm not currently able to use in our homeschool. 

At the same time, I'm very much aware (as 8FilltheHeart posted years ago) that the restoration of traditional classical education has to be a group effort.  And over the holidays, I've become increasingly ticked off with the neo-classical education establishment and their apparent lack of interest in such a restoration.   I'm not speaking here about people like SWB, who focus on providing practical methods and resources to educate children.  The ones who are getting my goat are the "Education Guys" (and they are all guys, from what I've seen) who operate consulting services, hold conferences, and generally pontificate endlessly about the meaning of classical education, with no real qualifications and apparently no historical awareness of the subject.   The Great Books and Sayers/Buckley models, and their spin-offs, have become their livelihoods.  The number of such self-appointed experts seems to be growing every year. 

And the awkward part is that the men in this crowd portray themselves as the underdogs.  And maybe they are, when compared to the College Board or whatever.  But to me, they are the big guys.  I'm not sure whether or not it would be appropriate to confront them directly, e.g. when they say something erroneous or misleading on social media.   I haven't felt comfortable doing this, both because of the underdog factor, and also because I've found that a lot of men on social media are not happy to engage with women.  Certainly not all men, but a lot, especially in more egghead circles.  And it's interesting that this seems fairly evenly split across "liberal" and "conservative." 

Meanwhile, on a local level, most of the homeschoolers I know do some version of "classical education," at least in part.   And none of them have any awareness of the history of all this.  My limited efforts to explain it have gone nowhere, as it's such a vast and unfamiliar subject.   Even if I could manage to get the basic ideas across, probably most of these women (quite sensibly) are only interested in methods they can use, right now, to educate their own children.  And I can't really offer them that. 

So, what can I say... I have issues.  😉  All in all, it's got me feeling quite isolated and stuck.  I'm hoping this reading will help me to see some way to move forward, either with my own family, or with putting some of these ideas in a form that can be communicated to others.

Edited by ElizaG
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I am ready to start! I was trying to figure out when I first read this book, and it has to have been about five years ago maybe? My major takeaway from that reading, which was truly paradigm-shifting for me, was this idea that general education is training in an art, not learning a science. Beyond that, a lot of it went over my head, lol. I am really enjoying rereading it now with a bit more context - both in terms of my understanding of the tradition Fr. Donnelly represents, but also from subsequent experiences I've had studying Greek via communicative methods. Fr. Donnelly is right - it is a whole different matter to study a classical language with a goal of expression (even if not the literary expression of the Jesuit ideal) than to study it as a science.

Besides rereading PJEP, over Christmas break I also took a day to start thinking more concretely about high school, which included researching college entrance requirements, and, as I reflected on my own four years of lab science and how little I seem to have profited from them, I found myself feeling more keenly the loss of the literary humanist tradition (here's problem number one, perhaps, for communicating this idea to others, by the way - settling on a good thing to call it. I think I pick a slightly different formulation nearly every time, haha). I really share your frustration with the lack of interest in it from the classical-educational complex. There seem to be a number of possible explanations for it, but the  lack of a clear way to integrate the older version of general education into our current post-secondary situation is probably plays some part. 

Well, I say that, but then again, even just swapping standard high school writing with Model English without changing anything else about the high school curriculum would be step towards recovery, and probably not an insignificant one. If that is how things play out here, at least, I think it will be an improvement over my own education.

And we may never have our children writing Latin verse, but at least we can probably succeed at one aspect of the Jesuit ideal that Fr. Donnelly mentions in the first chapter, in achieving a "spirit of cameraderie" with our students and thinking of ourselves not "as a distant lecturer but rather...a familiar tutor and sympathetic friend." I was also moved by how he described his hopes for what a new teacher could take from this book: "to grasp fundamentals more clearly, to check the disintegration of classicism by a return to art appreciation and composition, to reinterpret traditional methods and apply them to the student's varied experience and in the student's own language, to have objectives and ideals crystallize sharply out of dimness, to feel that one's class is an imagining, realizing, judging, reasoning, hearing, questioning, seeing, writing and speaking thing and not simply a depository of facts." Not a bad set of guiding ideals with which to confront the options we have in our own time and place.

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Posted (edited)

Happy Epiphany!  I haven't finished Chapter 1, and don't know if I'll get through it today, so will start with the prefatory material.  Feel free to talk about the first chapter as well, if you like.

The book has a Latin inscription that starts "Magistris Artium."  LostCove, or someone else whose Latin is better than mine, maybe you can translate this?

Then the introduction raises several interesting points.  First of all, Father Donnelly says that PJEP can serve as a supplement to two other recent books on the subject.

1) "For history, (...) for theory and for a fine and complete bibliography":  Fr. McGucken's The Jesuits and Education (Bruce Publishing, 1932)

2) "For sources and early documents":  the text of the Ratio Studiorum and Constitutions edited by Edward A. Fitzpatrick (McGraw-Hill, 1933) 

The Stanford Copyright Renewal Database doesn't turn up any references to either of these titles, so they appear to be in the public domain.  The  scanned copies at Hathi Trust are all locked down as if they were still in copyright, though.  I've had success in the past asking them to "free" non-renewed books (though it took a while), so maybe one of us could try writing to them. 

Archive.org now has a copy of the Ratio book, and is making it available for one-hour borrowing.  This is a big improvement over the previous situation, as the book is unavailable second-hand, and there are only a few copies in libraries.   Fr. McGucken's book is being sold in a reprint edition, albeit a bit pricey.  We have a copy around here; I'll try to find it. 

In the second paragraph, Father Donnelly explains that his book focuses on the six-year program of the lower schools, which he maps onto the modern high school and first two years of college.   This would be roughly ages 14-19, a big difference from the older practice of teaching this curriculum at age 11-16 or so.  This seems to have been a very recent shift.  US Jesuit academies in the late 19th century were still enrolling the younger boys, going by the characters in Fr. Finn's stories.  And the more drawn-out approach doesn't seem to have caught on, as the remnants of the Jesuit system unraveled rapidly over the next few decades.  This isn't surprising, as it's unlikely that most parents, or students, wanted to prolong the period of higher education.

From what I've read, the later start was due to the wider expansion of the public and parish school model (thus delaying the start of Latin and Greek), and also to the introduction of more modern subjects.   But I'm not sure which of these was more of a factor.  In our time, if families or schools started early, and had the resources, could they follow the 11-16 plan?   Would Father Donnelly's resources work for this?

The last paragraph recommends the educational writings of the Irish Jesuit Father Timothy Corcoran, including Studies in the History of Classical Teaching (1911).  I'm skeptical of Father Corcoran's views on early childhood education, as he was a very harsh critic of Montessori, and was also the leading force behind a national Gaelic-immersion preschool program that seemed to be motivated more by nationalism than by sound pedagogy (especially as most of the teachers had limited knowledge of Gaelic).  But everyone has their blind spots.  The book does seem worth reading.

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On 1/6/2021 at 3:06 PM, ElizaG said:

The book has a Latin inscription that starts "Magistris Artium."  LostCove, or someone else whose Latin is better than mine, maybe you can translate this?

Here's my non-Jesuit-trained attempt: "Dedicated to those who taught the arts to Ignatius and his companions in Paris 400 years ago, by a vowed companion to those named above [ie., a Jesuit] and a teacher far distant in time and merits." Touching!

On 1/6/2021 at 3:06 PM, ElizaG said:

In the second paragraph, Father Donnelly explains that his book focuses on the six-year program of the lower schools, which he maps onto the modern high school and first two years of college.   This would be roughly ages 14-19, a big difference from the older practice of teaching this curriculum at age 11-16 or so.  This seems to have been a very recent shift.  US Jesuit academies in the late 19th century were still enrolling the younger boys, going by the characters in Fr. Finn's stories.  And the more drawn-out approach doesn't seem to have caught on, as the remnants of the Jesuit system unraveled rapidly over the next few decades.  This isn't surprising, as it's unlikely that most parents, or students, wanted to prolong the period of higher education.

From what I've read, the later start was due to the wider expansion of the public and parish school model (thus delaying the start of Latin and Greek), and also to the introduction of more modern subjects.   But I'm not sure which of these was more of a factor.  In our time, if families or schools started early, and had the resources, could they follow the 11-16 plan?   Would Father Donnelly's resources work for this?

This was in my notes to bring up when it comes up again in chapter 3 - there Fr. Donnelly cites the ACL Report in attributing the mismatch to the American importation of the Prussian Volkschulen model of an eight year elementary course that was originally designed for children not going on to higher education, but in the US, for various reasons, took over everywhere, crowding other models of secondary education.

If it's not anticipating too much, here is what Fr. Donnelly says there that I was a little puzzled by, maybe you can help me figure out if my understanding of this is correct: 

Quote

Students therefore begin Latin with us two years later than in Germany, France and England. To make up for the lost two years colleges have become pre-professional schools.

So here he is referring to a time now so distant to us that I really had to stop a think about what he was saying - back when colleges just were professional schools - like a college of law, college of medicine, etc - with curricular requirements designed to prepare students for those professions. By the 1930s - Fr. Donnelly's now - colleges were having to finish the general education of their students because of the "lost two years" that used to be the first two years of secondary education but became 7th and 8th grade. Is he referring here to Jesuit colleges only or more generally? Then he says:

Quote

The spread of the junior high school anticipates, but does not shorten secondary education, and most American colleges are now universities at Freshman with all the methods of a university of none of its maturity or responsibility or unity. These all come from a profession, which has not yet been selected at the college stage.

I actually don't know anything about the "junior high" vs. 7th and 8th grade model of those years. Was junior high a post-facto attempt to fix the shortening of secondary school for students heading on to higher education? A quick google search suggests "sort of," and that the departmentalization of the faculty was perhaps a big part of what made it different from an elementary school 7th and 8th grade, but I will have to look into that a bit more (here's a link I want to come back to). In any case, Fr. Donnelly seems to be saying that junior high does not actually solve the "lost two years" problem, and furthermore, it's bizarre that American colleges have become places where you study subjects that are taught on university methods (so as sciences, for the sake of "classified information") but without the unity and coherence that preparation for a specific profession can give such studies. So, you are a student at a "college of arts," but you're studying, say, sociology, which is a department of research at the university level, and there's not even a real profession as a sociologist or whatever that it is explicitly preparing you for, it's just a bunch of random courses in various aspects of sociology. Yeah, that's pretty incoherent.

Okay, that was a lengthy digression - back to the practical question of whether we could resurrect a 11-16 secondary education model at home. I have a number of random thoughts about this from several different angles. The first is that this would be one way, maybe, for us to cope with all the lab science college entrance requirements (can you tell this is really stressing me out???) - just do all your "lower schools" general education 11-16 and that can easily be made to cover the English/social studies/art side of a standard high school transcript, and then, if you turn out to have a college-bound kid, cram all the lab science in at the end while dialing back on the humanities. It seems kind of weird, but...I dunno, why not? 

Now, could we use Fr. Donnelly's books to do this? I have put off using Model English with my students so far because they haven't seemed mature enough, but I'm starting to think (1) I might have just been wrong - my 7th grader's writing seems to have taken a pretty big leap forward this year and (2) because I'm still thinking too much in terms of the way I was taught to write, with supporting details and outlines and all that, which just doesn't really map on to this model that well, I'm misjudging what a student needs to be able to do at this stage. Does that make some sense? Gee, maybe I've just talked myself into pulling out Model English this academic year after all...

What about something like:

11: Teach some basic grammar to have some helpful terminology with which to compare Latin, Greek, and English grammar. (It's still not totally clear to me how much of this Fr. Donnelly would advocate, and it's something I would like to discuss in greater depth later in the book, but practically speaking, I have found it helpful to have recourse to a little bit of explicit grammar thus far).

12-13ish: Model English I (corresponding to what Fr. Donnelly variously refers to as grammar or "clear and correct expression")

14-15ish: Model English 2 (humanitas or "elegant expression")

16ish: Persuasive Speech (rhetorica or "forceful expression")

But what about classical languages? I have some thoughts there but I've put my kids off long enough this afternoon, if the sounds coming from the other room are any indication, so those will have to wait. Hopefully I won't forget too many of them in the meantime. 😂

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Thanks for the translation!

I find that passage hard to understand as well, but one thing I'm sure of is that the traditional US college curriculum was classical, not professional.  Perhaps he meant that the colleges were no longer getting enough qualified students for that program, so (from a business POV) they made up for this by shifting their emphasis to providing pre-professional training.   In the early 20th century, the professional schools were becoming more exacting about their entrance requirements.  There's a catalogue here, from 1920, that gives some examples.

As for junior high, there were two competing movements around this time.  To put it very simply, the "middle school movement" said that children in early adolescence should be treated as large elementary students.  The "junior high movement" said that they should be treated as smaller high school students, with specialized teaching, rotation between different classrooms, and possibly some electives.  This served mainly as a training period for the new structure of high school.

There was originally some hope that the junior high model would allow the brighter students to move ahead, but that idea didn't last long, due to the egalitarianism that's been part of American educational thought since the beginning.  Outside of Catholic circles (which were closer to the European model), few people were in favor of tracking children before high school age.  Even tracking in high school was, and still is, controversial.  The effective result has been to kick the can way down the road, so that the US college admissions process is a massive (and often mystifying) exercise in tracking.  I'm really not sure this is effectively any more "democratic" than systems that sort the children at age 10-11, but provide some pathways to cross over at later ages.  

Have to go now; will be back later to offer some paltry thoughts about the rest.  🙂

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On 1/7/2021 at 12:54 PM, LostCove said:

(...) back to the practical question of whether we could resurrect a 11-16 secondary education model at home. I have a number of random thoughts about this from several different angles. The first is that this would be one way, maybe, for us to cope with all the lab science college entrance requirements (can you tell this is really stressing me out???) - just do all your "lower schools" general education 11-16 and that can easily be made to cover the English/social studies/art side of a standard high school transcript, and then, if you turn out to have a college-bound kid, cram all the lab science in at the end while dialing back on the humanities. It seems kind of weird, but...I dunno, why not? 

Now, could we use Fr. Donnelly's books to do this? I have put off using Model English with my students so far because they haven't seemed mature enough, but I'm starting to think (1) I might have just been wrong - my 7th grader's writing seems to have taken a pretty big leap forward this year and (2) because I'm still thinking too much in terms of the way I was taught to write, with supporting details and outlines and all that, which just doesn't really map on to this model that well, I'm misjudging what a student needs to be able to do at this stage. Does that make some sense? Gee, maybe I've just talked myself into pulling out Model English this academic year after all...

What about something like:

11: Teach some basic grammar to have some helpful terminology with which to compare Latin, Greek, and English grammar. (It's still not totally clear to me how much of this Fr. Donnelly would advocate, and it's something I would like to discuss in greater depth later in the book, but practically speaking, I have found it helpful to have recourse to a little bit of explicit grammar thus far).

12-13ish: Model English I (corresponding to what Fr. Donnelly variously refers to as grammar or "clear and correct expression")

14-15ish: Model English 2 (humanitas or "elegant expression")

16ish: Persuasive Speech (rhetorica or "forceful expression")

But what about classical languages? I have some thoughts there but I've put my kids off long enough this afternoon, if the sounds coming from the other room are any indication, so those will have to wait. Hopefully I won't forget too many of them in the meantime. 😂

A few years ago, I had a thorough and reasonable-looking middle and high school plan worked out along the above lines.  But then we got into a vicious cycle where I got more and more burned out, and the children became less and less cooperative.   And it turns out that one big problem with trying to follow an old-school plan is that (in my case, anyway) there is zero outside support IRL, whether moral or practical.   Literally everyone -- from family, to fellow homeschoolers, to professionals -- told me to that the solution to my problems lay in outsourcing, or (if I unaccountably refused to do that) in using materials that were more basic and less demanding. 

Well, time has shown that this wasn't the case.  The children who balked at the traditional methods have gone on to balk at more mainstream ones as well.  [...]   So I'm having to rethink my rethinking.  Maybe the original plan is possible.  But maybe it isn't. 

There you have my paltry thoughts!

 

 

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Yeah, on the one hand, I have this impulse to try to do the things I read in, say, an old Holy Cross course catalog or Fr. Donnelly's books, because he had the benefit of being trained in a living tradition, he's describing a lived practice, not a theory, and, for Chesterton's Fence reasons, it seems wise not to monkey with the various practices of a tradition until you know why they exist. On the other hand...I obviously can't do things just like in Fr. Donnelly's books for all the reasons - inadequate education and formation myself, lack of outside support, having to also run a household and educate a much wider range of ages than a Jesuit teacher would be  responsible for, a few things that straight up seem inappropriate for a family context, and on and on and on.

So...what does that mean? I guess the alternative seems to try to understand, as best as I can, the goals of the tradition and, to the extent those are my goals, adopt practices that are accessible to me that seem to aim at those goals - some of those might be things Fr. Donnelly or other traditional educators describe and some might not be. 

If I had to pin down exactly the thing that I'm after, which is maybe a good thing to do at the outset of the discussion, it's this idea that general education should consist in training our students' faculties of communication. We all have to communicate, it is one of the most basic of human faculties, and it seems clear to me that we see a lot of dysfunctional communication happening everywhere all the time! In my own life, I have felt my lack of ability for communicating myself well, in personal relationships and in public and professional life. It seems worthwhile to me to dedicate some serious time and study to these skills, and I've been convinced by what I've read that there is a particular rhetorically-informed way to do this that is preferable to some alternative models.

As far as that specific goal goes - does it have to be six years? Does it have to include classical languages? There are clearly good reasons to do both of those things, and I would support anyone who wants to make the attempt, including myself, lol. But we also see that the specifics of the curriculum changed a fair bit over the years. Different authors were read, Greek waxed and waned, the vernacular was a pretty recent addition in Fr. Donnelly's time, and mathematics hadn't been included for too much longer. And Fr. Donnelly himself notes that he is describing ideals and that the reality often fell short of them.

Does it have to involve imitation? And does the imitation have to be of a certain canon (albeit one that does change slowly)? That seems to me to be the sine qua non of the tradition most broadly construed, but I could be wrong. 

Anyway, I will get back to the actual text of the book after this, but, I should maybe also say that I do hope to come away from this re-reading with some practical conclusions for our homeschool, I'm not just hoping to reconstruct the details of a not-currently-functioning ideal educational system. I think a lot about the Renaissance educators because they, too, were trying to pick up the pieces of a broken tradition. But they also, from what I know, seem to have just gotten on with it even when they didn't have all the information or experience or books that they would have liked. No, my family could not get up tomorrow and do an old-school 11-16 plan, but I think maybe we could do a general literary-humanist arts education (or whatever we're calling it!) 11-16 plan, and I want to use this reading of PJEP to think more concretely about how that could look, accepting that we are going to have to rely on our best judgment and our assessment of what our options realistically are. 

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On 1/10/2021 at 7:12 PM, LostCove said:

Anyway, I will get back to the actual text of the book after this, but, I should maybe also say that I do hope to come away from this re-reading with some practical conclusions for our homeschool, I'm not just hoping to reconstruct the details of a not-currently-functioning ideal educational system. I think a lot about the Renaissance educators because they, too, were trying to pick up the pieces of a broken tradition. But they also, from what I know, seem to have just gotten on with it even when they didn't have all the information or experience or books that they would have liked. No, my family could not get up tomorrow and do an old-school 11-16 plan, but I think maybe we could do a general literary-humanist arts education (or whatever we're calling it!) 11-16 plan, and I want to use this reading of PJEP to think more concretely about how that could look, accepting that we are going to have to rely on our best judgment and our assessment of what our options realistically are. 

I think this is a very reasonable expectation.  Father Donnelly's books were intended to fit into the educational system of the early 20th century, which was itself in a state of transition, with a lot of experiments going on in both English and classical teaching.  Our educational system is different.   On the one hand, writing pedagogy is even more firmly oriented toward university methods, college admissions are much more competitive, and really competent teachers and tutors for classical languages are hard to find.  On the other hand, as homeschoolers, we have more flexibility in some ways, as well as much more access to published and online language resources, some of which are compatible with of Veterum Sapientia (which is really a very Fr. Donnelly-ish document; I find it interesting that it was published just three years after his death). 

Something that's often overlooked about the Renaissance humanist educators is that they started by educating themselves.  From what I've read, they typically first became interested in the mysterious treasures of the classics ("The wisdom of the ancient world, enshrined in Greek and Roman literature, and the truly memorable teaching of ancient peoples," as John XXIII put it).  They endured various hardships to obtain some scarce books, and then met in small groups, not to discuss "classical education," but to try to educate themselves.   Of course, they were not attempting to homeschool and raise small children at the same time!

Maybe what we need, then, are adult study groups that are oriented toward the realities of homeschooling mothers.  It would certainly help if we could get women interested in this while their children are still young.  If I had diverted part of my Montessori energy toward studying the traditional humanistic curriculum, we'd be on much firmer footing now.  But it's not likely to happen without the supportive social aspect. 

[deleted random/off-topic thoughts]

 

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I’ve taken another look at Persuasive Speech, and the material seems doable for my high schoolers, so I’m going to take the plunge and start it next week.  (The English plan we were following in the fall wasn’t very satisfactory.)  I’d prefer to have done more of Model English first, but it’s not a requirement, and I think it’s important for us to keep to the overall schedule and not get bogged down.  

I’m not at all sure about scheduling and other practicalities.  Since we’re starting late in the year, and I’ll be learning as I go, I’ll plan on spreading it out over the next 1.5 years.  The passages and assignments will give many opportunities for “limited erudition” in history and literature.  I think we’ll also continue doing history as a stand-alone subject.

Will try to finish chapter 1 of PJEP tonight or tomorrow. 

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On 1/11/2021 at 10:09 AM, ElizaG said:

Something that's often overlooked about the Renaissance humanist educators is that they started by educating themselves.  From what I've read, they typically first became interested in the mysterious treasures of the classics ("The wisdom of the ancient world, enshrined in Greek and Roman literature, and the truly memorable teaching of ancient peoples," as John XXIII put it).  They endured various hardships to obtain some scarce books, and then met in small groups, not to discuss "classical education," but to try to educate themselves.   Of course, they were not attempting to homeschool and raise small children at the same time!

Yes! I was thinking specifically of Erasmus's complaints when he was trying to learn Greek that he couldn't get any books and didn't have a proper teacher. Even so, he managed okay in the end! St. Thomas More is one of the patrons of our homeschool because he lived a very busy life in the world, wasn't a shabby classical scholar himself, and also took a lot of care with his own children's educations (which was mostly directly conducted by tutors, of course! so, for that reason, and, well, all the changes of the intervening centuries, it's not an exact parallel to our situation, lol).

Some other thoughts from the first chapter, which is an overview of the "force and scope of the principles" of Jesuit education: Fr. Donnelly disputes the idea that the pedagogical guidance of the Ratio has been obsolesced, and his denial "that these principles...are merely historical and their discussion academic" hints at the state of contemporary pedagogical discourse, even among Jesuits themselves. Unlike some of Fr. Donnelly's other rhetoric-related books, PJEP was published by a Catholic publisher, suggesting his primary audience for this book was fellow Catholic educators, particularly, one assumes, other Jesuits, who were about to rapidly and entirely discard centuries of educational practice. 

Fr. Donnelly then enumerates the unique principles of Jesuit pedagogy that distinguish it from the contemporary American system, with a particular emphasis on  the use of imitation to develop writers and speakers and the class rather than departmental teacher ("a university method, quite suitable to imparting the divisible information of science but not so well adapted to the teaching of creative art and literature"). He later mentions warmly his own experience teaching Latin, Greek, and English to a class of boys for three consecutive years. Even if she outsources some of her children's education, it seems that the homeschooling mother is in a position to reap some of the same benefits of a "class-teacher," who can oversees and fruitfully integrate all of his students' studies and guide the development of their character. 

Many, many times over the years, I've seen a defense of classical education that goes something like this: first, we contrast the "liberal" and "servile" arts and then conclude that the "liberal arts" are basically seven bodies of knowledge (sciences?), but ones that for some reason we study for their own sake rather than instrumentally, except that then they form us to be free men and women so maybe they are instrumental after all, something something, and therefore, in conclusion, Leisure the Basis of Culture. Part of this has always felt faintly Weberian to me, so I was intrigued by this quotation from a Columbia professor about the departmental organization of the college faculty: "Such organization induces, almost forces, large proportions of able instructors to view 'knowledges' as valuable 'ends in themselves,' instead of means to larger ends." 

Fr. Donnelly contrasts the principle of electivism - that all disciplines are equally educational - with the Jesuit curriculum which privileges a few subjects and a prescribed curriculum as being uniquely suited to general education. 

A few other miscellaneous things I noted: while Cicero was the main author imitated according to the Ratio, that included works of his beyond his speeches, covering all the genres he wrote in. By Fr. Donnelly's time, exposure to Cicero, at least in non-Jesuit schools, sounds to have shrunk to his legal rhetoric, which is still pretty much the case today. The only Cicero I studied in high school was the Pro Caelio. 

"The experimental sciences with constantly perfected information, with costly equipment calling for frequent renewal and with multiplying divisions, are favored in buildings and in public display while the arts and pure sciences receive little of the prominence formerly according them." This, if anything, has gotten worse.

It is remarkable to hear how widely Model English was used for a few decades - he says in hundreds of schools. And it continued to be used at least well into the 50s, I think you've said, Eliza? It's very interesting to me that it's not one of the vintage textbooks any Catholic publisher or homeschooling curriculum-developer has chosen to bring back into circulation.

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Both Model English and Persuasive Speech were still being used in the early 1960s, according to Neil M. Whitney of the Scranton Times.  He mentioned this in two columns, on March 11 and June 8, 1963.  The latter column was quoted in full in the June 13 Congressional Record. 

(In looking up that reference, I also found a memorial that mentioned that Father Donnelly, as a boy, had read adventure stories and "the Griffen Writings" until a teacher directed him to more serious literature.  After some searching, I think this must be referring to the works of Gerald Griffin, a popular Irish writer I'd never heard of until now.  Sadlier published his complete works in 10 volumes in the 1840s.  I think that all of his books are on archive.org, but the quality is poor due to browning of the paper.

For financial reasons, Griffin's parents moved to Pennsylvania with several family members, and left him behind with his older brother in Ireland.  I suppose that would have made him especially appealing to Irish-Americans in PA, and perhaps even more so to Father Donnelly himself, who lost his mother at a young age.) 

Cicero's letters were an especially important part of the traditional curriculum for the intermediate Latin student.   During the fictional entrance examination in Cardinal Newman's Idea of a University, the boy translates the beginning of one of the Epistulae ad Familiares.  They do seem to be mostly ignored today, and I've never come across them on school lists of "great books."  This is ironic, as Petrarch's rediscovery of these letters -- and, through them, the more human side of classical antiquity -- is often pointed to as the start of the Renaissance. 

Your description of the typical defense of classical education reminds me of the German Bildung, which has come up a bit in past threads.  TWTM seems to be close to this ideal, and although I was never explicitly taught it, it's what I understood in my youth as the higher purpose of education (the alternative being studying "to get a job").  I suppose it makes sense that people would gravitate toward this idea, as it's the basis of the modern university system, and has set the tone for the lower levels as well.  It's hard for us to really grasp the traditional reasoning behind of the secondary curriculum, even if we've managed to find out a bit about it.  

I will keep trying to finish the chapter tomorrow!

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Well, that didn't go as planned (either the reading, or the rhetoric).  :unsure:  Reality kept colliding with my intentions.  Sorry for the delay.

I've now read chapters 1 to 3 of PJEP, though, so at least that's something.  

His comments on p. 15, just before the part quoted above, are thought-provoking.   Starting in the early 1800s, American public K-8 education had a heavy German influence, as did the university system.  The secondary gymnasium, though, seems to have been more or less ignored in designing the American high school curriculum.   And even the elementary system that the Americans copied was meant as the German vocational track (a point that's also been raised more recently by J. T. Gatto).  

With some teacher training, it probably wouldn't be too difficult to re-introduce the traditional approach into the current European classical system, as it's described in Ester Maria's posts.  In the US, though, we have all these added challenges of a bizarre, cobbled-together structure.

I'm still a bit confused even about the terminology.  When Father Donnelly refers to "college methods," he doesn't seem to be referring to the entire six-year classical college course that was taught in 19th century US Catholic colleges.  I think he's using the phrase "high school methods" to refer to the way authors were taught in the earlier part (focusing on grammar), and "college methods" to refer to the way they were taught in the latter part (focusing on style and rhetoric).  And when he uses "secondary education," he means the whole thing.  Does this sound right?

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Although things have been a bit nerve-wracking around here recently, I'm feeling a lot more positive about our prospects for doing something Father Donnelly-ish, at least on the vernacular side.   Over Christmas, I shelved my elaborate high school English plans (based on adapting a rather dry modern curriculum), and we just read classic literature aloud with occasional discussion.   I think the children were learning just as much with this simple approach as they were before, and I plan to stay with it.  To maximize the return on our investment, I'm going to try to choose the most foundational older works, including a few classical authors in translation.  For more recent literature, I think I'll just try to choose a representative selection of works that are interesting and broadening.  

If we continued doing this, incorporating some attention to points of style and rhetorical techniques, and added some writing assignments, frankly I'd be pretty happy.   

It would be kind of like Robinson, in some ways, but family-style.  

For the precepts of rhetoric, I'm undecided as to whether to stick with Father Donnelly, or use something shorter.  We have The Essential Guide to Rhetoric by Lundberg and Keith [edited to fix info, sorry], which looks as if it might work, though it's rather expensive for what's basically a large booklet.   I suppose we could also just print something from the Internet. 

For the precepts of style, I really have no idea what's a good resource.  It doesn't help that the whole idea of aesthetic standards (i.e., "good style") is almost completely absent in education today.  [ETA:  And when it is present, it's usually very different from the ideals of traditional classical education.]  Until I figure this out some more, I'll just continue to read a few bits of literary criticism about each work we're studying.  Fortunately, the Internet makes this sort of thing quite accessible as well.  

 

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Of course, this loses the "finely graded" aspect of the curriculum.   The usual approach would be to read through Model English I -> Model English II -> Persuasive Speech.  I'm just not sure I have the stamina to do those books separately with each child, let alone to teach them other literature as well.   And I don't think the literature selections in those three books are enough for high school, even with some assigned reading on the side. 

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Also wanted to add that the SAT Subject Tests (formerly called SAT IIs) have just been discontinued.  This is unfortunate, as some homeschoolers found them very helpful to validate DIY-ish high school studies.   I had been planning on having my older children take several, including the Latin exam.  CLEP doesn't offer Latin, and AP Latin (like AP exams generally) is designed around a specific course of study, which doesn't have a lot of overlap with the goals we're discussing here. 

If AP and/or DE become de facto college entrance requirements -- and there are some signs that things are heading that way -- it's going to be increasingly difficult even for homeschoolers to avoid "university methods" during high school.   

ETA:  link to thread on high school board 

 

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I think your interpretation of "college methods" vs. "high school methods" vs. "secondary education" mostly makes sense, except that wouldn't "grammar" have been the equivalent of 7th-ish - 9th-ish grades? But I guess that mostly got pushed back to high school because of the weird American K-8 system, so that is why Fr. Donnelly refers to it as "high school methods"? Honestly, the use of the word "college" has to be one of the most unclear things about this book! Like Harvard is "college" (classical at one time, but with an elective curriculum organized by department by the time of PJEP) and Eton is a "college" and Fordham has a "college" and which of these does he mean???

Your English plan sounds good! We've been memorizing the Quality of Mercy speech from Merchant of Venice all together, even the 3yo is getting in on it, and just going through it word by word, line by line like we've done with Hiawatha, etc, has been really great. If you want to share what kind of writing assignments you have in mind, I would be interested. 

I saw that thread about the SAT IIs. For a while now, homeschoolers have been able to do their own thing along various lines and still have ways to get validated by and then enter "the system," but, yeah, you have to wonder if we aren't seeing the beginning of the end of that era. With Latin, I suppose you could potentially use the NLE to validate your students' studies - from what I can tell, that exam is actually moving away from "university methods" somewhat, though I don't know as much about the upper levels. 

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I think he must be using "college" as it was commonly used in throughout US Protestant history, to mean an institution (or part of an institution) offering a four-year undergraduate program.  By the 1930s, American Catholics had long since switched over to that model as well, but the Jesuits called their upper-level institutions "universities."  So you had Fordham Prep and Fordham University.   

It makes sense that they chose the name "university," as graduate education was becoming more important at the time.  In addition to the skepticism the Jesuits had faced from non-Catholic arbiters of higher education, they had been involved in a long-term dispute with CUA, which (as a national, papal institution) thought it should be the only Catholic graduate school in the country.  Having prevailed, they were keen to defend their status.  But it makes things even more confusing, because the first two years of the Jesuit undergraduate university curriculum were supposed to be taught using "college methods."  :laugh:

As for the terminology in other countries, it's consistently inconsistent.  I think part of this has to do with the fact that much of it goes back to medieval education, which was structured differently from the post-Renaissance kind.   For instance, as Greek and rhetoric weren't required subjects, boys in the Middle Ages would go from "grammar school" right into the universities.   Even later after the addition of more classical literary studies, UK students would still go from grammar school to university.  And going to university in the UK also might involve joining a college, which, into the 20th century, still used "college methods."  :blink: 

In mid-1800s US public schools, the "grammar grades" were grade 5-8; this corresponds to the traditional age for the first stage of the classical curriculum.  (The French decided to call this stage "college." :laugh:).  By 1900, though, "grammar grades" referred only to grades 7-8.   

I think what Father Donnelly calls "high school methods" are meant to apply to the first four years (or so) of the classical curriculum, even if it's started younger than age 14.  

We definitely could use better terms.  It's amazing how much the language obscures things.  

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Yes, you have exactly explained my frustration with the word "college," lol! Ah well. 

Some notes/thoughts from chapters 2 and 3: In chapter 2, Fr. Donnelly lays out his plan to contrast the Ratio and the ACL report of the 1920s to draw out the differences between the older and newer models of classical education (he notes that the Jesuit model of education was fairly typical of Renaissance education more generally). The Ratio "had one objective...formation in Latin expression, both written and oral." This required three or four years of "more functional than formal" grammar, a year of "humanities," and a year of rhetoric. Cicero was the main author studied every year. Greek was given much less time in the curriculum than Latin, mathematics were not originally included at all, and history was "left to be learned out of class." The day was broken into two parts, the morning's lectio stataria, intensive study of Cicero and drill in composition, and the afternoon's lectio cursiva, lighter coverage of other authors and Greek.

Fr. Donnelly sees the change from that model to the current one as almost entire. As he notes in chapter 3, "the only objective of earlier education, composition, is omitted [today] except as a means to the science of grammar." Instead, the objective is one previously reserved for the university: science, the acquisition and classification of information. Now, "Latin and Greek are taught as everything but literature." This brought with it a change in methods - away from student activity and drilling towards lectures - and curriculum - away from a focus on a single useful and excellent author towards wide reading across history, regardless of literary quality.

It is so interesting to me that Fr. Donnelly shares a similar critique of the new classical education as one can read in progressive educators' critique of the larger educational system both in his own day and still in ours. For example, I was recently perusing my husband's old copy of Understanding by Design, a frequently assigned book in ed schools today, and there are some striking similarities - compare Fr. Donnelly on lectures ("at their best only informational. They do not demand any action or even application unless a life-purpose make the individual act...Education is a habit and is not acquired by passive listening, but by actual work on the part of the student.") to Grant Wiggins ("If the learning aim is more intelligent and effective student action, then lecturing is the wrong pedagogy."). There are big differences also, of course (to start with, Wiggins was a Johnnie with a Great Books approach to education). Still, I think it's worth noticing when the neo-classical lapsarian narrative of education history centered on John Dewey doesn't quite seem to fit and to think about why that is. 

In terms of very practical applications, something that stood out to me was Fr. Donnelly's explanation of why Cicero took up so much space in the curriculum of the Ratio: "A poet and a historian accompanied the stable diet of Cicero through all the years after the first, but poetry and history were not allowed to impair the supremacy of Latin prose in letter, essay and speech. The reason seems manifest. Every educated man should be competent in these types of discourse, but not all need be poets or historians." Today, the academic essay is the overwhelming focus of secondary education, but in which types of discourse does an educated man today actually need to be competent? Who is the Cicero of memes? Should my kids be studying Dril's tweets? I'm only partially joking. 

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I had the same thought about studying tweets and memes a while back.  :laugh:  I think the more idiosyncratic ones would be in the same category as Carl Sandburg's writing, and modern poetry generally.  I do informally point out the better aspects of these sorts of things to my older teens, but I think it's all kinds of wrong to use them as models for student writing.  When I was in elementary and high school, we did have to imitate some specific examples of modern poetry, and it just seemed like busywork.

That said, if ancient or Renaissance educators saw a tweet that they found particularly inspiring, persuasive, or informative, they would probably seize upon it.  They might have the students copy it into a commonplace book, or put it into a compilation for them to use as a reference in preparing their compositions.  (Did the Jesuits make much use of these sorts of books?  I can't find any references, but it seems as if they must have.)

Blog posts tend to be like very short essays, and some schools teach them as such.  They don't seem to teach about blog comments, though, which are arguably equally important.   

Forum posts and e-mails would come under epistolary rhetoric, which has taken various forms in the curriculum over the years.  I plan to teach it, but I'm not sure what approach is best.  There's quite a jump between the basic "friendly letter" and "business letter" that are still covered in school textbooks, and the letters of Cicero.  

It seems to me that if we teach "letter, essay, and speech" in a formal way (including examples of narration and description), and discuss interesting examples of other types of discourse, we should be okay.  

 

ETA:  I was just talking with DH about the current state of conservative advocacy for Classics.  Thomas Fleming's name came up, and I ended up looking back at two articles he reposted last December (part 1, part 2), which are an expanded version of an essay that I tried to learn from years ago.  He's aware of the traditional imitation-based curriculum, but says it's ridiculous to try to restore the trivium or the methods of Quintilian (my goodness, what else were Catholic educators doing in the Renaissance?).  He also implies that K-12 education was in pretty good shape until the period between WWI and WWII, and blames its downfall on Dewey, not even mentioning the changes that happened in the 19th century.  

So it's not just a neo-classical narrative, but also, oddly enough, one that's coming from some who put a high value on Latin and Greek.  

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In The Imaginative Conservative, E. Christian Kopff goes even farther than Thomas Fleming.  It wasn't Dewey who killed classical education; it was those pesky hippies!

"After the Civil War, [Carl J.] Richard writes, 'the classics began a gradual decline due to social, economic, and intellectual forces.' I would argue that the decline was very gradual until the cultural catastrophe of the 1960s. (...) In 1900 and 1910 one-half of public high school students were enrolled in Latin classes. As recently as 1962 there were 728,637 students of high school Latin."

This argument ignores the fact that Greek enrollments had plummeted to single digits by 1900, and kept on falling, prompting Father Donnelly's famous 1919 article, "Is the Ostracism of Greek Practicable?"   Another significant fact is that, by the 1920s, most Latin students only studied the language for two years, often with teachers who also had minimal Latin background.  Given the context of the article - a review of a book on the cultural importance of classics in antebellum America - he makes it seem as if substantial numbers of Americans were going around citing Vergil in everyday conversation until 1963. 

This is actually very funny, because when I think of public references to the classics in the 1960s, I picture RFK first, and then Ramparts.  Ramparts, which came to epitomize the turmoil of those years ("a bomb in every issue"), started out as a mild-mannered lay Catholic literary magazine that printed, among other things, Greek poetry in translation.  Then the editors decided to run a series that criticized Jesuit universities for neglecting humanistic education in favor of commercial degrees.  They reached out to the Jesuits to get their point of view, but were rebuffed.  This seems to have been the first step in the magazine's radicalization.  

Even if we just consider the non-classically-minded campus protesters of that era, I've always had the impression that they were mainly upset about education (and society) being sold out to business interests.  Looking at the history of classical education in the last 200 years, it does seem that this is largely what happened.  

The token amount of Latin in the mid-century high school curriculum looks similar to the current state of the language in neo-classical schools and homeschools. These systems have been around for a generation now, which should be long enough to see some results.  Anecdotally, I know quite a few Catholic adults who have been "neo-classically" educated via some form of Sayers/Great Books in translation, and none of them are in the habit of referring to Cicero, Vergil, Aeschylus, or Homer.  (They are, however, quite likely to mention Tolkien - whose writings, so I'm told, were very popular with long-haired, granola-eating types in the 1970s.  :laugh:)

RFK went to elite boys' prep schools, but seems to have developed an interest in Greek literature thanks to Jacqueline Kennedy, who gave him a copy of Edith Hamilton's The Greek Way that she'd read many times.  Hamilton was the head of a girls' school, and had a Master's in Classics.  According to Wikipedia, she went for further study in Germany (to the extent that women were allowed to in those days), but was put off by the dryness of their approach to the texts.  In her own writings, she not only tried to share the Greeks' ideas, but also emulated their style. 

It's also worth noting that, in the 20th century public high schools, the majority of Latin students were girls.  By 1910, more girls than boys were studying Latin even in the private schools.  This seems to go against the suggestion, which I've seen among some fans of Kopff's writing, that the decline of the classics was closely linked to the "feminization" of education.  I think Father Donnelly might have connected it more with "dehumanization."  

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FYI, I found part of the 1924 Classical Investigation Report on Google Books, by searching for "Classical Investigation" and "American Classical League."  I haven't read it, and don't know if it would be of any practical use, given Father Donnelly's comments.  I suppose it might give some idea of what not to do.  

In chapter 4 of PJEP, Father Donnelly describes the traditional curriculum in terms of the modern educational structure:

High school - 4 years - Composition; emphasis is on correctness.  Careful selection of authors also develops an implicit understanding of style, which builds up to the college course. 

Early College - 2 years - Criticism; explicit emphasis on style, with one year focusing on beautiful style & one year on forceful style

Later College and University (i.e., graduate study) - Science 

This adds up to six years for the literary course, which is on the short side in comparison with other systems.  I wonder if he thought they could do justice to Latin and Greek in that length of time.  Father Henle's simplified, abbreviated Latin curriculum was published a few years after PJEP, and Fathers Schoder and Horrigan wrote their intensive Homeric Greek course shortly after that.  I find it hard to imagine large numbers of students going from these books, to studying Cicero and Demosthenes in the original in their second year of college.  

Of course, the above is more of a historical question than a practical one, as this sort of college curriculum no longer exists.   But it would be interesting to know if it ever did work, even if only within a limited group.   

Getting back to the present day, homeschoolers would have some flexibility with the schedule.  It seems as if there are there are several ways of going about it.

One approach would be to shift the curriculum a few years, and aim to finish both "college" and the first part of "university" in high school.   For instance, we've discussed the idea of starting the secondary curriculum at age 11, studying rhetoric at 16 and science at 17, then applying to university in the usual way.  This is theoretically possible, but it raises practical questions about applying to college with all of the science credits taken in senior year.  It's also hard to know in advance how a given child would do with all of those courses stuck into one year.   I think it would be more prudent to have two "science years."  This would also give the student more time to work on research skills and academic writing, and would allow for some electives.  Of course, this would require either starting at 10, or graduating at 18.

While starting at around age 10-11 is traditional, we might have to rethink the materials for composition and rhetoric.  It seems to me that we can't rely on using Model English, as written, with most children of that age, and I also have some doubts about using Persuasive Speech at age 16.  So, then what?  I think we'd need a new plan, with different materials, and unfortunately Father Donnelly isn't here to provide suggestions.  

I actually wonder if Father Coppens' books might not be more practical.  They were definitely used with younger students, in the old system.  Are Father Donnelly's books much more traditional, or are their advantages more just that they're tailored for the modern 4+4 sequence?

Another way of arranging things would be to do the classical curriculum at home, then "dual-enroll" for the science year(s), putting together a natural science and philosophy curriculum a la carte from local and online college courses, with additional home-based study as desired.   I have no idea what effect this sort of patchwork would have on college admissions, but it seems like a simple enough option for the natural sciences.  It's much harder to find philosophy courses that are even somewhat appropriate, but I think CUA and Steubenville might have some available online.  

A third, more expensive possibility would be to do some of the classical language studies through a college, for credit, and then read Father Donnelly's Cicero and Demosthenes books, along with the other rhetoric materials, as independent study.  

Of course, all of the above could be combined in various ways.   But just writing down these possibilities is making my brain tired enough for now. 

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I've been trying to learn a bit more about the way St. John's College conducts their language tutorials.  These are a separate part of the curriculum, held alongside the better known discussions of Great Books in translation.   The language tutorials at Thomas Aquinas College are based on modern methods (Wheelock, essay-writing, etc.), but it turns out that the ones at SJC are much more traditional, in the sense of being centered on literature.  When they translate a passage from an author, there's a lot of discussion of style.  They write original literary pieces as well, which seem to be inspired by the work being studied, but I can't find enough information to see how this relates to Father Donnelly's recommendations. 

Here's a post on French in the undergraduate program:

https://thejohnniechair.com/2019/02/04/what-is-french-like-at-st-johns-college/

On the language tutorials generally:

https://thejohnniechair.com/2021/01/29/three-tales-of-language-learning/

On Greek in the graduate program:

https://colloquysjc.com/2019/03/05/preceptorial-spotlight-ancient-greek-second-semester/

 

 

 

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It's interesting that although students at St. John's do very intensive language study, to prepare for literary translation work in a short time, they don't use the oral methods that are increasingly popular today.   I was also just looking at the catalog for an elite American prep school, which only offers one year of Greek, but says that this prepares the students to read Plato and Homer.  I wonder what methods they're using?  The savings of time would certainly make the integrated classical approach to literary studies more feasible in our day, and puts a different perspective on the question of language teaching.  

My understanding - from Father Donnelly, Father Stephen M. Stephenson and others - is that the old-time schools used oral Latin incidentally, in the course of teaching grammar and literature.  Learning to speak wasn't the primary goal of the curriculum, nor were the methods based on spontaneous discussion or large amounts of assorted "input."  That seems to have originated more recently.

Are there any classes available to homeschoolers that take an approach based on reading and literary translation, with or without the use of Latin as a classroom language?

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It also turns out that the use of linguistic methods in foreign language teaching was heavily promoted and organized by the US government, most obviously as part of the WWII effort, and also for foreign relations goals in general.   There's an article from 1964 about this here, and some blog posts here.  Kind of a downer to realize that the best methods from a humanistic, literary perspective might not be the ones that get the research funding, but I guess we sort of knew that.  And it seems likely that there's still some benefit to be gained there.  

The philosopher Richard McKeon started working at the University of Chicago in 1934, the same year that PJEP was published.  He was a close associate of Adler and Hutchins, and took part in planning their core curriculum.  (Reading between the lines, he might have provided much of the brains behind the outfit, while the others were its public face.)  He was also involved with the army language training program that's described in the first article above.   Many of his own writings were on what he called "New Rhetoric," which was very influential. 

So, all told, while far from an advocate of traditional or classical forms of education, he made major contributions to new approaches to logic/dialectic, as well as new rhetoric, and maybe even new grammar.  I just don't really know what they are.   I'm not usually able to get through large amounts of philosophy, and his writings certainly aren't an exception.  Traditions of Eloquence refers to his writings on rhetoric at some length, but I'm not sure where my copy is, and TBH I didn't find the explanation there very clear either.  

Marshall McLuhan's PhD thesis on the classical trivium was influenced by McKeon's work, but McLuhan took it in a different direction, advocating for a renewed form of the Ciceronian model of rhetorical education.  He was in touch with Hutchins, and apparently wrote a 10,000 word proposal for improving their curriculum.  It would be interesting to find out more about this.  But as McLuhan was a recent convert to Catholicism, I don't know if he knew anything about Father Donnelly, or even much about traditional Jesuit education.  (If he did, it might have been through the English professor and historian Father Walter J. Ong SJ, who was a colleague of his at St. Louis University, and went to a Jesuit high school and college during what would have been the Model English era.  Will have to look into that.  I know that Fr. Ong was rather unsentimental in his description of the traditional study of Latin grammar, calling it a "puberty rite.")

Oh, and McKeon, famously, seems to have been the basis for the "Chairman of the Committee on Analysis of Ideas and Methods" in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.  It's been a while since I read that; maybe I should assign it to one of the Big Kids.  There's certainly a lot of food for discussion, and the thoughts about Quality tie in to the questions in this thread about teaching criticism.   Book II of Model English is even subtitled The Qualities of Style.

I might not be much good at classical education, but maybe meta-classical education will have some benefit.  :laugh:

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Okay, after some attempt at thinking, I've noticed two characteristics of "the new grammar" (i.e. linguistic methods) and "the new rhetoric" (as a general term).  

1)  The subject is generally approached as a science rather than as an art.  This attitude sometimes makes it into the student materials, but even if it doesn't, it's a big part of the teacher training.   And these methods usually require a lot of teacher training.  In the case of the experiments with "the new English," it's hard to say whether the approach was good or bad in itself, but most people agree that it was taught very badly.  

2)  Avoidance of respect for traditional sources of authority.  In classical education (though perhaps not in mainstream US education), rules of grammar were neither prescriptivist nor descriptivist in the modern sense.  Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that they were both.  Standards for language were based on the usage of the "best authors," and of educated people generally.   Again, this brings us back to judgments of quality.  

Similarly, generic "rhetoric" textbooks, and even books that set out to teach classical rhetoric, often use models that aren't classics by anyone's definition.  When they do include passages from the "best authors" (a judgment that varies widely from one text to another), there are usually few representing the styles that were taught by ancient and Renaissance educators.  This all seems to be not so much a matter of building on a tradition, as of fundamentally changing it.  

 

Re Father Ong, while I haven't found any direct references to Father Donnelly's work so far, I did find an article of his on problems in the teaching of literary criticism.  This was published in the 1939 Jesuit Educational Quarterly, when he was still in formation himself.   

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Sorry for all the meandering.  I will try to get back to PJEP

It's just very interesting to look at the different ideas for liberal education that were being discussed at the time.  I'm especially interested in modifications that were made to Great Books to bring it more in line with traditional methods.  The St. John's approach seems distinctive, and I've noticed quite a few of their graduates writing and speaking in various venues, so maybe there's something to the way they've reintroduced the literary study of poetry and rhetoric.  It's not the most prominent part of the curriculum, but perhaps this is somewhat made up for by spreading it over four years, rather than two.

It also seems as though their approach to literary criticism is closer to the young Walter Ong's ideal, than to the rote teaching that seems to have gone on in some early 20th century Jesuit schools.  The problems he describes in the article probably have a lot to do with mediocre or burned-out teachers, but I wonder if the difference also has to do with the students' age and ability.  According to a book I found online (I think it was by Fr. Ganss?), the Jesuits' 16th century curriculum expected that the boys would already have learned Latin somehow in early childhood.  They would thus be able to cover grammar at ages 10-11, with poetry at age 12 and rhetoric at 13.  In the 19th century, as I understand it, poetry was taught around age 15, and by Father Donnelly's time, it had moved up to age 18.   I can see how an approach aimed at 12 years olds, even if done well, might seem stale and rote for students of today's college age. 

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I found another introductory textbook that we might read together:  The Art of Persuasion, by A. J. Grunthaler.  The introduction gives an explanation of what rhetoric is, and describes its traditional importance in liberal arts education.  The main body of the book is in the form of a reader, with selections from ancient authors on different aspects of the subject.  Aristotle and Quintilian are represented the most.  I was glad to see that St. Augustine's famous passage on Christian rhetoric made it in as well.

Appendix A, "The Art of Argument," provides an overview of logic in the context of rhetoric.  Appendix B is made up of "Some Seriously Great Speeches," mostly modern, with a few rhetorical analysis questions for each one.   There's also a helpful bibliography, which includes further readings along the same lines, as well as more advanced works.  So there's a great deal packed in there.  

The author says in the introduction that "rhetoric is not a particularly difficult discipline," which is refreshing, especially after trying to wrap my head around McKeon's abstractions.  It must be true, too, if they used to teach this material to 13 year olds!

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In the 1940s, there were rumors that the US Navy planned to take over the campus of St. John's College in order to expand the naval academy.  During an exchange of letters, Stringfellow Barr wrote that St. John's was considering reducing the curriculum from four years to three during wartime, by eliminating summer vacations.  He also said they were considering taking students in their second year of high school, so that they would have completed their liberal education by the time they reached draft age.  What's more, he said that taking students at this early age had been part of their plan since the St. John's program was developed in 1937.  

Could Barr, Buchanan et al have been influenced by reading books about the Ratio Studiorum, perhaps even PJEP?  It was published in 1934, and there's a copy in the St. John's library.  This might seem like a strange idea, but Cinthia Gannett's Traditions of Eloquence gives numerous examples of cases in which writers of modern rhetoric textbooks seem to have been influenced by Jesuit educational traditions, which they failed to mention.   

To add another twist, in the March 1955 Jesuit Educational Quarterly, Fr. M. J. Fitzsimons mentioned that St. John's had found that students needed a certain kind of secondary education in order to succeed in their program.  He doesn't go into details, but this doesn't make it sound as if the college would had much success with typical 15-year-olds. 

Fr. Fitzsimons' article, "The Spirit and the Letter," is itself a very interesting critique of Fr. Ganss' book, and it introduced me to Fr. Miguel Bernad, a Jesuit from the Philippines whose 1951 Yale dissertation was about the history of the teaching of arts in American Jesuit colleges.  Fr. Bernad also wrote essays about mountaineering.  I haven't found many of his works online so far, but here's an article from him about "The Ignatian Way in Education," and one from the JEQ about "The Class of 'Humanities' in the Ratio Studiorum" (taken from his dissertation).

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Thanks for all the interesting thoughts, Eliza. I'm looking forward to following many of those links as time permits. 

I've only seen one of Fr. Coppens books, but what appeals to me about Model English is that it is mostly a book of exercises, whereas the Fr. Coppens book I have is more of a traditional textbook with explanations, definitions, and some illustrations with few exercises. I've started using ME with my 12yo this term, and we are really enjoying it, but it has definitely required some adjustment of topics for the exercises. I ended up just making a big list of topics we are more knowledgeable about than some of those Fr. Donnelly relies on (no rowers here) that I can pull from as needed. I'm also getting a better sense of what I might like to do with my current 10yo over the next two years to be even better prepared for ME. The 12yo did some light grammar and maybe half a year of Kilgallon, which has been adequate, but now I can start to imagine what a more intentional preparation might look like. 

I hadn't realized the SJC language tutorials were so different from those at TAC - that is very interesting. It seems like it could work quite well with a  instructor able to discuss questions of style. As we've discussed, those are scarce, so I still tend to think that for most homeschoolers a broad input-based strategy (not all aural/oral, though, perhaps it would be better to call it an extensive reading strategy, similar to how Fr. Donnelly said a student well-read in English classics can get by without the formal study of rhetoric) might be easier to pull off. 

I wanted to get this bit from chapter 4 of PJEP on the thread because I think it is such a helpful summary of the rationale behind many traditional pedagogical practices that are at odds with how we generally do things now:

Quote

[In the 16th century] literature was no mere study of words, but meant the art of thinking, of reasoning, of imagining, of idealized, of clarifying ideas and of persuading their acceptance; the art of embodying truth, beauty and good in language. The special objection of Milton that science must precede literature because on cannot express what one does not know, leaves out of account the vast field of human experience, of personal reactions to environment, which have been the substance of all art. Such experiences will be supplemented by history and science when the growing mind is fitted to receive and digest such informations. Experience furnishes facts enough to cultivate literature, and then the mind capable of expression is ready for university work.

As we consider classical language pedagogy specifically, this paragraph seems significant:

Quote

The primary purpose of Latin literature, if the sixteenth century had its way, should be the power of thinking and expressing thought. Helpful and secondary will be grammatical drill, whose general principles apply to English and to all languages. Understanding of English words, derivations, spelling, technical terms of science, Latin quotations, ability to read foreign languages, these are subordinate objectives on the language side. They help to make composers of literature; they give variety and interest to the dull drill of class. The general habits of mind, attention, order, accuracy, imaginative realization, these and many other like qualities will be developed if the student be awakened from the passivity of listener and be made to furnish meaning rather than words, to translate with imagination rather than with vocal memory, and above all to create out of his own experience the beautiful and forceful phrase, sentence, paragraph, rivaling the masterpiece he is studying. 

Some of this has been particularly on my mind this week as we've been reviewing tenses in preparation for DS12 to take the NLE. I was taught to furnish words, not meaning - you translate the imperfect "was x-ing" or some times just "x-ed" (when would you pick one or the other? who knows! I can't recall ever having been corrected on my choice) and the perfect as "x-ed" or "has x-ed." It wasn't until I looked at how tenses are taught in the elementary Montessori curriculum that I grasped the difference in meaning, not just words, these two tenses can be used to convey. But Fr. Donnelly seems to suggest that for the study of Latin is to develop "general habits of mind, attention, order, accuracy, imaginative realization," it must involve attention to those meaningful differences. 

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I'm glad you're having success with Model English.   Making a master list of topics is an excellent idea.  I came across an old 9th grade composition text, Sentence and Theme, with a teacher's guide ("Pilot Book") that has a few pages about choosing composition topics.  It's also dated, of course, but might suggest some more possibilities.  

For children younger than age 12, have you looked at Lewis Marsh's Literary Reading and Composition?   One of my older children did part of one book, and a former board member used some of the series as well.  I'm thinking about using them more with my younger ones.  They're a bit hard to find, though.  Two of the books are online here, in not very good scans, and I can't find the preparatory one right now.  [ETA:  Sorry, I just realized that those two are the same book, with different titles!  There are three books in the series, intended for approximately ages 11 through 13:  

"A First Book" starting with Goldsmith's "Whang, the Miller;" 

"Preparatory," starting with Hawthorne's "The Three Golden Apples;" 

"Combined Course," aka "Senior Course," starting with "A Wreck" from Dickens. 

Now that I look through them again, though, there isn't much in the way of imitation until late in the Senior book.]

Regarding SJC, Fr. Robert Gannon's The Poor Old Liberal Arts (1961) and a 1955 report from the college answered some of my questions.  The 1937 curriculum seems to have been considerably more challenging than the current version, as it required studying four foreign languages.  First-year students were expected to learn Greek, and read at least some of the ancient Greek texts in the original.  In the Latin year, they learned Latin, and so on with French and German in the third and fourth years. 

In the 1940s, the college decided to substitute English for Latin in the second year tutorials.  At the time of the report, they were studying Hooker's Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity, a hefty book known for its Ciceronian style.   The language tutorials were held daily, vs. three times a week at present.   It would be very interesting to know more about how these have been taught over the years, and what sort of results they've had. 

In the alumni survey cited in the report, quite a few people thought that there wasn't enough attention to developing writing skills.  Members of the conference of educators seemed to have a high opinion of the effect of the program on the understanding of language (though perhaps not writing per se), but they recommended dropping down to two languages to allow for more in-depth work.  I don't know when the college took this step. 

(As a side note, the great majority of alumni survey respondents approved of St. John's staying out of intercollegiate athletics, but a surprising number said that exercise should be made mandatory, to balance the development of body and mind.  One suggested that the students should have to do either athletics or something along the lines of "hoeing potatoes."  :laugh: )

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I've just been reading Fr. Pavur's translation of the 1599 Ratio, and it's leaving me with a lot of questions.  Maybe this would be a good time to go back to reading PJEP, if anyone is interested.  (Paging @LostCove !)

We finished up our school year at the beginning of this month.  Based on past experience, I had planned to give the upper elementary children two weeks off, then keep them somewhat busy with review and new activities over the summer.  When the two weeks were up, though, I changed my mind, and I decided to let us all have more of a vacation.  But this resulted in them pretty much just running around acting silly and arguing with each other, so I think it's back-to-school time for us.  

Now I see that the Ratio says that the vacation should be no longer than a month for the rhetoric class, three weeks for poetry, two weeks for upper grammar, and a week for lower grammar.  Sounds about right to me!  

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Hey ElizaG, I'm going to try to get back to this discussion. We've been using Model English long enough now that I hope some things in PJEP and elsewhere will start to make even more sense to me - and also give me some clues for where else I need to be looking to better prepare myself for teaching this way. I think I might have said this in the spring, but I'd like to make a more thorough study of Fr. Coppens' textbook, I think, or something along those lines. 

Here are my notes, thoughts, and questions from chapter five. On p. 28, Fr. Donnelly says:

Quote

Now, there are three stages and three general and possible objectives in the study of literature: understanding, appreciation, and composition. Understanding concerns itself with the content or subject matter of literature; it is informational and scientific in nature. Appreciation has to do with the literary form of the content, the artistic presentation in both thought and word. Appreciation is synonymous with criticism. Composition is the last stage, the stage of art, where literature makes writers and speakers.

At first, "understanding" seemed to me to be roughly equivalent to what we usually call "reading comprehension" today, and then "appreciation" is more or less what English classes get to at best these days, though I'm not sure current "literary criticism" as it's done in high schools and colleges maps quite exactly on to what Fr. Donnelly is talking about. But then I wasn't sure if I was understanding these correctly, because he says in the paragraph immediately following, "The art of composition should be the primary objective of the high-school course; criticism the primary objective of the early college course, and science the primary objective of the later college and university." So that seems like the opposite of how he laid out the stages earlier. Thoughts? What am I missing? 

I appreciated his reminder that many different objectives "may be followed, but as it is impossible to teach all simultaneously with good results, these objectives must be sorted and subordinated to enable the teacher to select what he should teach intensively with concentration and drill. Distinguish, therefore, between primary objectives and secondary, between main products and by-products of the course." It seems useful to thinking about main products and by-products - if we choose the right end-goal, we can meet some other goals along the way as they are natural by-products. For example, on the next page, Fr. Donnelly says that, at the high school level, "ideals should be a by-product of an imaginative understanding of literature."

He also says there that "literature in high-school and early college should not be subordinated to history or to any other science."

At the end of the chapter, he has some specific recommendations for ordering the classical curriculum, but they may be helpful also in thinking about teaching vernacular literature and composition. His says the current grading of authors (which is still more or less hold for high school Latin) is totally inappropriate, and in particular, there is way too much Caesar and too much oratory. Many current Latin pedagogy-reformers would agree with him. 

He says "there should be a prose author in each year for drill-work in grammar and composition. For many reasons this author should not be a poet." How he applies this to the vernacular can be see in the first volume of Model English, which is all Washington Irving. It would be interesting to consider which other English authors would be good options for a year of this sort of work. To be clear, this isn't to say only one author would be read, but just one author would provide examples for imitation. 

Last thing from this I wanted to flag was that "authors should be arranged according to the difficulty of composition. Such an arrangement in prose would be letters, description, essay, history, speeches. In poetry, narrative, descriptive, epic, lyric, dramatic." Ideally, these authors and genres would be coordinated across all languages studied, of course! 😆

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Hmm, good question about the three stages!  I'll think about that.

On the subject of appreciation and criticism, I recently happened across an article from around 1920 by the Reverend E. C. E. Owen, on the subject of the Public Schools (i.e., elite British private schools).

"The Reconstruction of Public School Education"

Owen was a classicist who taught at Harrow for decades, and was known to be very open to the late 19th century addition of English as a parallel subject to Latin and Greek.  By the time he wrote this article, he still favored this approach but had some serious concerns.  The impression he gives is that, while there were problems with the teaching of the classical curriculum, the problems with English teaching were turning out to be even worse.  He thought that the problem was mainly with the English teachers, who were often unsuited to the job, and tended to fall back on assigning the same sorts of comprehension questions that we often see today.

"It will be said, no doubt, that the great Greek or Latin author suffered no less indignities at the hands of his teachers, and no doubt they had blood upon their hands. But they were the heirs of a tradition centuries old, and, whatever their personal weaknesses, their gerund-grinding, their failure to appreciate their authors' greatness, their want of sense of proportion, they inevitably dealt with questions which had loomed large in their own training, e.g., the differences in style between Herodotus and Thucydides, between the Augustan and Silver Ages, the contrasts between the style, characters, and thought of the three chief Greek Tragedians, the rhythm of Virgil, his likeness and unlikeness to Homer, the epigrammatic quality of Tacitus, the Roman genius for satire. In a boy of taste and imagination the foundations of literary taste and appreciation were well and truly laid. The occurrence of these topics did not depend on the excellence of the teacher; tradition forced them to the front. They were taught well or ill, with the right emphasis or the wrong, but they were in evidence. A boy was even, as has been said already, expected to be sufficiently conversant with differences of style to imitate the excellences of one or another author, and to shun certain modes of speech and peculiarities of syntax. Anyone who has tried to bring home to a division the characteristic marks of an English author's style will know how hard the task is, because the pupil has not read enough to make comparisons; yet it was done with the classical writers under the old régime. Where is this fine sense now? What effort even is made to create it? Yet how can a boy discriminate without it between the style and characters of Mrs. Florence Barclay and Thackeray, the imagination of Ella Wheeler Wilcox and Shelley? How can he love good literature and hate bad?"

I wonder if Lewis Marsh's "Literary Reading and Composition" books were written in response to these sorts of concerns.

Anyway, it was interesting to see clear evidence that this understanding of one of the main purposes of classical education was still alive in British schools in the twentieth century, even though their approach differed in some ways from that of the Ratio Studiorum. 

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Okay, some initial thoughts about your question.  I don't entirely understand the part about primary vs. secondary goals, and chapter 5 - which consists mainly of a copy of Fr. Donnelly's response to a survey of teachers - might just be too dense and analytical for my liking. 

Looking back, though, chapter 3 (p. 32) says that the Ratio of the lower schools is directed to the art of composition.  This art itself involves all three stages:

"The teachers are not professors of Latin or Greek, but of grammar or clear expression, of humanities or beautiful expression, of rhetoric or forceful expression."

All of these stages are subordinated to the end of expression.  By contrast, the study of grammar for the sake of acquiring information on the subject would be "scientific," and would be for the university level.  Chapter 6 gets into this a bit more.  

I don't know why the stages are in the opposite order on the macro level, but will try to keep thinking about this. 

Also, while discussions of criticism tend to be beyond me at the moment, it's interesting that "humanities or beautiful expression" involves judgment.  The field of aesthetics is sometimes referred to as the philosophy of art.  In the lower schools, though, we're not supposed to be studying this field for its own sake, but for the sake of learning to communicate more effectively. 

So the studia humanitatis trained young adolescents to make aesthetic judgments, while the medieval university system trained them to make dialectical judgments. 

Again, just some preliminary thoughts!

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On 7/30/2021 at 3:23 PM, ElizaG said:

Also, while discussions of criticism tend to be beyond me at the moment, it's interesting that "humanities or beautiful expression" involves judgment.  The field of aesthetics is sometimes referred to as the philosophy of art.  In the lower schools, though, we're not supposed to be studying this field for its own sake, but for the sake of learning to communicate more effectively. 

So the studia humanitatis trained young adolescents to make aesthetic judgments, while the medieval university system trained them to make dialectical judgments. 

This seems to get right to the heart of the matter, and it's very interesting to me that for so much of its history, classical education at the "general education" level was primarily about developing aesthetic judgments NOT dialectical ones. Marrou had some interesting things to say about this, as I recall, and I think I have posted them before around here somewhere, will try to dig them up. 

Chapter Six has more things to note than I have time to this evening, but here's a start. For one thing, we learn that under the Ratio, there were 25 classroom hours a week and "all, excepting one hour given to Greek every other day, were directed to Latin composition." That really puts in perspective the kind of time commitment this curriculum involved. They could do this because "all sciences, even arithmetic, were relegated to the university." This puts me in mind of an EFL article I recently read from towards the end of her career, in which she argued that elementary school should be primarily for language instruction and math can wait until high school. 

Fr. Donnelly describes the changes that have happened in American schools: "The experimental sciences, vocational courses, history, all of which are constantly changing in their information, are taking up more and more time. Mathematics, which for a while held a larger place in the schools, is losing its preeminence except for technical schools. The information of experimental sciences, and a changing information at that, is largely replacing the composition-work of former schools." As for literature, "information and some appreciation are taught, but original composition is disappearing or has become the extracurricular activity of a few." 

Another more practical pedagogical note on how the "grading" of composition worked and differs from how history and science are "graded": "In history and in science generally the material is rigidly and exclusively divided, but in art the same excellence is adverted to and exercised year after year, with better appreciation, with fuller theory and with more perfect mastery." An artistic, as opposed to a scientific curriculum, has an "arrangement of reiteration with progress." This seems to make traditional literary education very suitable to adaptation for family-style education, with differently aged students studying the same piece of literature at different levels of appreciation, theory, and mastery.

"Any good point of literary art may be noted and commented on at any time in any class, but the treatment should not be systematic, technical or thorough, except where that specific point belongs to the grade of the class." I'm still trying to figure out where to find which points were graded to which classes - based on what Fr. Donnelly says, it doesn't seem like even older textbooks are going to be that helpful in understanding this. 

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A few more things from chapter 6 and a connected thought about what to do with the younger child.

I forgot to preface this chapter by noting it is a list of "principles for the teacher." The principles the above material fell under were "teach an art" and "grade the classes." Fr. Donnelly also lists "foster activity," "have variety," and "give encouragement."

Fostering activity is closely linked to the first principle "as art is a habit, and as a habit is acquired by repetition of acts, naturally activity must rule in the Ratio classroom." Fr. Donnelly repeats Professor Gildersleeve's summation of old-style language teaching: "A minimum of precept, a maximum of practice and early contact with the author in mass."

And then here comes a paragraph that is hard for me:

Quote

Although the Ratio analyzes thoroughly, and even simplifies orally the author, the complete text is always before the student. He is never permitted to learn an artificial primer language, which must immediately be unlearned. First Latin and Greek books and primers, in which language is shredded for the sake of grammar rules, are a recent invention, are pedagogically unsound for art training and have now been used long enough to demonstrate their futility. The teacher may profit by the devices of these books, but he is to be the living first book for his class. They should never see anything but real language and real literature. 

The longer I go on, the more convinced I am that Fr. Donnelly is basically correct here, but at the same time, the more sure I am that this type of teaching is almost entirely out of reach for the present. Even most trained classicists today do not have the language skills to pull this off. For now, the best way forward seems to require some primer language, although we should be careful in which we select (for example, I think that Oerberg's text more quickly conforms itself to classical syntax and idiom than many other First Latin Books), maybe make more use of post-classical Latin as a stepping stone than would have been done in Fr. Donnelly's time, and keep always the goal of reading the authors forefront in our minds. 

I was reading Fr. Coppens' English Rhetoric yesterday and thinking about how all the principles he covers apply just as much to classical languages as to the vernacular. For example, in the beginning he sets out exercises that can be adapted for "the youngest students," and it dawned on me that the sort of things he describes - object lessons and contact with "real literature" dealing with concrete things - are, in fact, exactly what EFL did for her elementary Latin lessons. Some of the earliest Latin textbooks we have, like Comenius's Orbis Pictus (after which EFL named her own Latin booklet), are text-based object lessons; these presumably went along with a teacher explaining "real literature" in class. 

In some ways, this older method could be seen as adhering more to the dictum of the current "comprehensive input" school of language instruction to "shelter vocabulary, not grammar (though pretty much all CI-informed classical language instruction I've seen still actually "shelters" grammar quite a bit). Vocabulary is initially restricted to concrete things, but, through real literature, students are immediately exposed to even "advanced" grammar topics. This, in turn, requires teachers who are themselves very comfortable with that real literature and explaining and simplifying it as necessary to make it "comprehensible" to their students. And that gets us back to the major obstacle to restoring Ratio-style classics. 

Still, it is encouraging to me to realize how many resources that could be helpful in this direction already exist and also to see people out there starting to pick them up and piece them back together. Someone just published a new trilingual edition of Comenius' Vestibulum, for example - this and memorizing prayers and Bible passages could be your syllabus for elementary classics.

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