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Who's pulling the strings in Classical Christian Education? (CC content)


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19 hours ago, Bluegoat said:

 

Well, I can't really speak to a particular model without knowing what it is.  Maybe to the point, I'm not a classical homeschooler, I'm a person educated as a classicist and a CM educator.

There are some models that see a particular thing as the heart of not only classical, but real education, and therefore they tend to see modernity as flawed because it rejects that thing.  Models that focus on language as being the very substance of education might be an example. 

For Christian educators, there is also a certain sense in which the idea of the tradition of the Church also affect the sense of time.  

 

Yes, I think I'm asking the impossible of a forum.  I have no name for the model, other than *they* put the name "classical ed" on it.  It makes it impossible to communicate, and real life conversations with those who have experience with it wouldn't be wise, or likely productive.  

17 hours ago, 8FillTheHeart said:

I think what your missing is an understanding of cultural philosophy and how it pervades who we are and how we perceive things without our being aware of it. So many people today think they are "above" cultural influences and that culture does not impact how the understand and view the world.

Studying philosophy and how philosophical views are ever present forming our beliefs can be both disconcerting and enlightening. We are not as "enlightened" as we think we are.

Classical education does not prefer antiquity. It prefers recognizing the system that impacts our culture and our formation of view. Dominant philosophies have shifted over centuries, and you most definitely see the impact of those philosophies on culture.

But that all cycles back to classical education viewed grammar, logic, and rhetoric as the elementary subjects as the foundation for the quadrivium, not as ages and stages. 

 

So, I think I'm definitely missing something, and I know I'm hacking this all to bits as I attempt to communicate it.    

When I say classical ed prefers antiquity, I mean that it is the place we reach back to for our definitions.  We then use those to recognize the present system working upon us.  And yes, precisely because culture is pervasive, and we can see ourselves and the things of culture in full view.  I'm tracking with you.

It is the constant evaluation of philosophy and motive that I find exhausting.  As an artist, especially.  There's a tension classical education presents an artist with regard to time, presence, and the position we assume as evaluators of culture, as opposed to participators.  

I don't know when I'll get back to this thread... a full weekend and week ahead!  But I do appreciate so much all the contributions and food for thought.    

     

Edited by Doodlebug
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8 minutes ago, Doodlebug said:

 

Yes, I think I'm asking the impossible of a forum.  I have no name for the model, other than *they* put the name "classical ed" on it.  It makes it impossible to communicate, and real life conversations with those who have experience with it wouldn't be wise, or likely productive.  

 

So, I think I'm definitely missing something, and I know I'm hacking this all to bits as I attempt to communicate it.    

When I say classical ed prefers antiquity, I mean that it is the place we reach back to for our definitions.  We then use those to recognize the present system working upon us.  And yes, precisely because culture is pervasive, and we can see ourselves and the things of culture in full view.  I'm tracking with you.

It is the constant evaluation of philosophy and motive that I find exhausting.  As an artist, especially.  There's a tension classical education presents an artist with regard to time, presence, and the position we assume as evaluators of culture, as opposed to participators.  

I don't know when I'll get back to this thread... a full weekend and week ahead!  But I do appreciate so much all the contributions and food for thought.    

     

I don't have much time, either.  But, I am not sure you understand exactly what I am attempting to articulate (not your problem....mine b/c I am way too tired to post coherently.)  But, classical education is not stating that western values are superior in terms of "time-tested values" or "virtues." Classical education states that western history and philosophies have shaped our culture and our western views today.  Simply b/c classical education providers may project a seeming preference of antiquity over modern times, that is not what the essence of classical education is.  The purpose of classical education is to understand who we are, why we believe what we believe, why we hold the views that we have.  And, THAT cannot really be understood without understanding how culture and history (particularly Western culture and history) have formed our thinking.   

I didn't have time to read this link other than very superficially, but maybe it might have some thoughts that will provide some clarity in the goals behind understanding classical education takes that position.

Eastern and Western philosophies

From my outside perspective, I think you are struggling with "provider" definitions and not necessarily with the objectives of classical education.

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Classical education provided the foundation for knowledge in the past because higher education relied on the grammar (and history) of the classical tradition.  The trivium provided for that in stages but also in specific content to some degree.  I wouldn't say that ED Hirsch is classical, but he was trying to provide somewhat of a educational / cultural literacy in his Core Knowledge books - by harkening back not to antiquity, but to the cultural literacy of the 1950's (in my opinion) though that relied in some part to the cultural literacy that shaped it going back even further.  I think that the cultural literacy provided by classical education is more suited for those wanting a good foundation for higher level thinking - esp. at the university level - because you need that foundation in order to understand things especially in the humanities.

I think that some of the current models of classical education fail - not so much in content - but in moving beyond the grammar (or as Sayers would say, the "Poll-Parrot stage").  Once you get beyond that, critical thinking allows for a wider variety of thought - as long as you can defend your thesis.  Some of these models don't want to allow for that divergence in thought.  (This is just my opinion as an observer who has never enrolled any of my kids in any program but who does get weekly and sometimes even more frequent emails and articles outlining many of these programs.) 

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1 hour ago, 8FillTheHeart said:

I don't have much time, either.  But, I am not sure you understand exactly what I am attempting to articulate (not your problem....mine b/c I am way too tired to post coherently.)  But, classical education is not stating that western values are superior in terms of "time-tested values" or "virtues." Classical education states that western history and philosophies have shaped our culture and our western views today.  Simply b/c classical education providers may project a seeming preference of antiquity over modern times, that is not what the essence of classical education is.  The purpose of classical education is to understand who we are, why we believe what we believe, why we hold the views that we have.  And, THAT cannot really be understood without understanding how culture and history (particularly Western culture and history) have formed our thinking.   

I didn't have time to read this link other than very superficially, but maybe it might have some thoughts that will provide some clarity in the goals behind understanding classical education takes that position.

Eastern and Western philosophies

From my outside perspective, I think you are struggling with "provider" definitions and not necessarily with the objectives of classical education.

 

59 minutes ago, Jean in Newcastle said:

Classical education provided the foundation for knowledge in the past because higher education relied on the grammar (and history) of the classical tradition.  The trivium provided for that in stages but also in specific content to some degree.  I wouldn't say that ED Hirsch is classical, but he was trying to provide somewhat of a educational / cultural literacy in his Core Knowledge books - by harkening back not to antiquity, but to the cultural literacy of the 1950's (in my opinion) though that relied in some part to the cultural literacy that shaped it going back even further.  I think that the cultural literacy provided by classical education is more suited for those wanting a good foundation for higher level thinking - esp. at the university level - because you need that foundation in order to understand things especially in the humanities.

I think that some of the current models of classical education fail - not so much in content - but in moving beyond the grammar (or as Sayers would say, the "Poll-Parrot stage").  Once you get beyond that, critical thinking allows for a wider variety of thought - as long as you can defend your thesis.  Some of these models don't want to allow for that divergence in thought.  (This is just my opinion as an observer who has never enrolled any of my kids in any program but who does get weekly and sometimes even more frequent emails and articles outlining many of these programs.) 

 

Thank you thank you thank you.  I have a cake in the oven for a birthday and a niece and nephew waiting for me... But these were so helpful to read.  

I'm in the middle stage of homeschooling... which means my reading time isn't what it used to be... and when I do have that time, I'm tired and my brain doesn't cooperate.  I find I'm more vulnerable to the messages I encounter.  (Joan, I think we're getting the same emails.  LOL!)  I'm trying to hold on to what I started with, which is what you clarified, 8.  But it isn't what classical education providers are promoting, and I'm not exactly at the place yet where I can confidently say, "Rubbish."  

 

 

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1 hour ago, Doodlebug said:

 

 

So, I think I'm definitely missing something, and I know I'm hacking this all to bits as I attempt to communicate it.    

When I say classical ed prefers antiquity, I mean that it is the place we reach back to for our definitions.  We then use those to recognize the present system working upon us.  And yes, precisely because culture is pervasive, and we can see ourselves and the things of culture in full view.  I'm tracking with you.

It is the constant evaluation of philosophy and motive that I find exhausting.  As an artist, especially.  There's a tension classical education presents an artist with regard to time, presence, and the position we assume as evaluators of culture, as opposed to participators.  

I don't know when I'll get back to this thread... a full weekend and week ahead!  But I do appreciate so much all the contributions and food for thought.    

     

 

There is a kind of weird element of being almost stuck in a weird meta-position in modern culture.  As if on the one hand you want to just live in your context as a natural citizen, or as a fish swims in the ocean.  But the, on the other had, you are very aware of the ocean, and the fact that there are other oceans ad even continents.  And somehow, you end up always feeling like you are a bit of an alien.

A small example that comes to my mind is a discussion I had with someone around artistic depictions of Christ, and whether we should not accept older books and such where the pictures of him look European.   And then, whether perhaps it was a good idea to depict him as a variety of ethnicities, so that he would be a symbol for all kinds of people.  After all, people in the past, be they European, Asian, or African, have tended to just picture Christ as looking pretty much like themselves.

The problem of course is that we look at it from the outside  We know that he was in fact from a time and place and would have looked a certain way, and not another way.  We are looking at our own cultural tradition, and the tradition of other cultures too, like a sort of out of body experience, we don't seem to belong to any of them - all we can do is borrow., which is not very satisfying - it seems inauthentic.  

I suppose what I wonder is, when we are blissfully unaware, as westerners, do we really have that authenticity?  I suspect we don't, we are too educated to have that, we always stand outside in some sense - this is maybe why people get so concerned about things like appropriation, it's a manifestation of this alienation.  But through that perspective of antiquity we become fully conscious of that meta-position.  

I wonder if this isn't the price of self-conciousness described to us in the Genesis account - by knowing we become divided within ourselves, seeing ourselves as subject and object.

 

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On 3/1/2019 at 9:08 AM, Doodlebug said:

 

Yes, I think I'm asking the impossible of a forum.  I have no name for the model, other than *they* put the name "classical ed" on it.  It makes it impossible to communicate, and real life conversations with those who have experience with it wouldn't be wise, or likely productive.  

 

So, I think I'm definitely missing something, and I know I'm hacking this all to bits as I attempt to communicate it.    

When I say classical ed prefers antiquity, I mean that it is the place we reach back to for our definitions.  We then use those to recognize the present system working upon us.  And yes, precisely because culture is pervasive, and we can see ourselves and the things of culture in full view.  I'm tracking with you.

It is the constant evaluation of philosophy and motive that I find exhausting.  As an artist, especially.  There's a tension classical education presents an artist with regard to time, presence, and the position we assume as evaluators of culture, as opposed to participators.  

I don't know when I'll get back to this thread... a full weekend and week ahead!  But I do appreciate so much all the contributions and food for thought.    

     

 

I don't think classical education is preferring antiquity. I think it's more of a rejection of modernist and in order to reject the modernist view of education you need to push back to an era before the modernist. There are specific points when our view on education began to change and certain idea's and philosophies began to be the dominating view. The change to a scientific approach to education and many trials and errors (Dewey and prior to that Unitarians and even Darwins views) a belief that we have no absolutes and many other turns throughout the last century that brought us to a place where education is completely unrecognizable compared to the 2 centuries before it. It is hard to really look at classical education due to the current Neo-Classical education that dominates. When you look to neo-classical education it has somewhat murky roots. Dorothy Sayers is who most companies point back to but there is also the great books movement and others who influenced the neo classical movement.  I believe some of them had the desire to bring us back to our roots but they somehow missed so many important parts of what classical education was. Trying to put classical education in a light that current, modern people will identify with and trying to add in modern pedagogy has created something that I feel really missed the mark or soul of classical education. I don't consider myself classical due to not studying greek and latin (well latin lasted 2 years but we've since dropped it) but there are so many aspects that I've learned in reading about classical education that I feel has changed our homeschool for the better. While facts do need to be taught and of course you can't debate something if you know nothing about it my focus isn't facts. Our focus is cultivating that child. At its root though I don't think this is possible without absolutes which makes bringing back classical education on a large scale impossible in today's era. In a homeschooling home though, we can somewhat attempt it. Teaching a child to see the truth through the propaganda, lies and poorly constructed arguments is possible. Understanding what true beauty is as opposed to the sparkly, inticing, greed filled beauty that is often put forth as beautiful. Understanding that beauty is not quantitative. Trying to understand the content of an argument or thought as opposed to the measurability of it. 

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30 minutes ago, Momto4inSoCal said:

I don't think classical education is preferring antiquity. I think it's more of a rejection of modernist and in order to reject the modernist view of education you need to push back to an era before the modernist. There are specific points when our view on education began to change and . . . that brought us to a place where education is completely unrecognizable compared to the 2 centuries before it.  It is hard to really look at current classical education due to the Neo-Classical education that dominates. . . . had the idea of bringing back our roots but somehow missed so many important parts of what classical education was. Trying to put classical education in a light that current, modern people will identify with and a mixture of modern pedagogy has created something that I feel really missed the mark or soul of classical education. . . . At its root though I don't think this is possible without absolutes which makes bringing back classical education on a large scale impossible in today's era.

This reminds me of David Hicks' article "Is Classical Education Still Possible?"  I'm not as pessimistic as he is about the possibility of families and small communities genuinely recovering pre-modern ways of thought and life (which I agree are necessary prerequisites for a pre-modern classical education).  But I do agree with him that you can't recover the culture *through* classical education - that the culture has to be in place *before* kids can be successfully educated in it.  If you don't understand the ideas and assumptions that animate a given curricula or approach, then no matter how perfectly it embodies them, you can still screw it up by importing your own foreign ones.  Which is a problem, because that culture is largely lost in this time and place. 

So many people seek out some kind of traditional classical ed in an effort to recover the culture that went with it. They don't know what the that culture is like, though they desperately want to, and since education is formative, they latch onto traditional classical ed as a means of forming both themselves and their kids in that alien-to-them culture. (A few years ago, I was right there with them - figuring out what to do when everything you know is wrong - wanting to do something different than what you know, because all you know is wrong - that's hard and frustrating. It's easy to idealize what you aspire to as a magic bullet.)   But it simply doesn't work: the classical teacher must *already* be formed by the classical tradition before they can pass it on to their students. You can't just rotely follow-without-understanding a classical curriculum and expect it to magically have imparted the culture that formed it to you.  You have to have recovered the tradition yourself before you can impart it to others. 

But it's very hard to recover a tradition without seeing it lived out, without being part of a community that is living it out.  And there are very few communities in the West that are living it out - there are a lot more people who *want* an alternative to modern education than there are people who genuinely *have* an alternative. There are significant differences between modern Western culture and premodern classical Christian culture, and too much contemporary traditional classical ed ends up just applying modern Western assumptions to classical education, which mostly just forms students in modern Western culture and largely fails to do much to form students in the pre-modern classical Christian culture they were aiming for.  And people don't realize it, because they don't know what they don't know.

 

IME, the sort of rigidity the OP describes is a result of the natural inflexibility of the zealous beginner, when *everyone* in the community is a beginner, when there are no genuinely knowledgeable people to teach and guide and correct and deepen understanding and generally keep the apprentices well aware of how much they still need to learn.  I mean, imitation is a powerful way to learn.  There's a common theme among committed adherents of given hs philosophies: at the beginning they followed the rules exactly, strove to be ever more pure in their implementation.  Then, later on, they start to really internalize and understand the *point* of the rules, and then are in a position to follow them more flexibly.  Usually this is retold with the moral of: since people with true understanding don't follow the rules rigidly, but flexibly, *no one*, including newbies, should ever follow the rules strictly.  But the problem with that is that beginners just don't have the knowledge or experience or judgment to flexibly apply principles from a position of deep understanding - because beginners don't have deep understanding by definition.  "Doing what experts do" doesn't itself build up the mastery necessary to *be* one of those experts.  It occurred to me: what if the newbie period of strict imitation was *itself* laying the foundation for the later true understanding.    The problem wasn't the strict implementation so much as the conviction that an ever-more-strict implementation *is* mastery, as opposed to the beginning step *towards* mastery. 

It's a common beginner mistake, to have no sense of the depths of mastery, to have no sense of what it means to act from a place of deep understanding of the subject.  But usually the masters knock that misconception out of the beginners.  But if there are *no* masters - everyone's a beginner - the field is dominated by the blind leading the blind - then beginner mistakes get enshrined as common knowledge.  Especially if none of the leaders of the community has ever truly mastered something - it makes it harder to realize how little you know of a new subject when you have no reference point for what deep knowledge of something would be like.   And double especially if the leaders of the community lack humility - if they are unaware or unwilling to admit just how much of a beginner they are, of how little their knowledge really is. 

 

Also, there's a certain kind of desperation that comes from realizing that it's not just that *you* have a shallow understanding of something vital, but that increasingly it looks like *everyone's* understanding of that vital thing has no roots.  I mean, then what?  There's no obvious path to solving it, no master to study under.  And the need to live by it doesn't go away even though your ability to do it has crumbled.  It definitely primes you to grab onto anyone who says they have a solution.  And if you had been one of the solution-givers before your uncomfortable realization, I think there's a temptation to just refuse to admit it, to refuse to poke at your shaky understanding out of fear it might crumble - to be ever more inflexibly confident in public to shore things up.  Possibly without ever really consciously realizing what you are doing.

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On a less philosophical note, thinking about what is pulling the strings in classical ed....  what if there was an organization (A)  that defined classical in a narrow way, a way that was quite different from other organizations (B, C, D, E).  But what if A began using resources from B and C.  Lots of resources, because A grew bigger and bigger.  And then maybe other clientele from B and C or other people affiliated with B and C were criticial of A and A's approach to classical education.  So what does B and C do now?  Stifle the criticism for the sake of sales? 

Purposefully vague.    

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1 hour ago, forty-two said:

So many people seek out some kind of traditional classical ed in an effort to recover the culture that went with it. They don't know what the that culture is like, though they desperately want to, and since education is formative, they latch onto traditional classical ed as a means of forming both themselves and their kids in that alien-to-them culture. . . . But it simply doesn't work: the classical teacher must *already* be formed by the classical tradition before they can pass it on to their students.

Looking at this some more.  If it's true that there's more to recovering pre-modern culture than recovering classical education, yet many people are nevertheless pursuing classical education "done rightly" as a magic bullet to resisting modern culture - then they are doomed to fail.  But if they respond to initial failures by figuring they just weren't "pure enough" or that they just didn't do classical education quite "authentically enough" - that the reason they failed is because they just didn't get it right enough - then it makes sense for every round of failure to result in increasing narrowness and increasing rigidity.  If pure classical education is our only hope, and it's not living up to that hope, then we must not be doing it right enough, purely enough yet.  Instead of more cowbell, we need more purity.

Also, it seems to pair with an assumption that there is the One True Way to do classical.  Either you are unaware of historical and cultural variations or you are searching for the One Best variation.  I had that naive assumption - that there was One True Classical Tradition to recover - but it was knocked out of me when I read a dissertation on classical education in the Lutheran tradition, comparing medieval Catholic to Reformation Lutheran to 19th American Lutheran.  He discussed what changes the Reformers made and why, and in the process opened my eyes to how they saw classical education as a *means* to an end, and not an end in itself.  When different groups had different ends, they modified their approach to classical education accordingly.  (It also showed how the 19th century American Lutherans had *already* lost a certain amount of understanding and their planned approach reflected a certain rigidity in their attempts to recover what was lost.)

I think that might be key: do you understand what end you are aiming at?  I know I used to be all gung-ho on recovering classical education *because* I knew I didn't know what end to aim at - I wanted to learn the classical end.  Of course, the problem is that there *isn't* just One True Authentic Classical End - there's a ton.  Plus there's the deeper problem Hicks pointed out: if you don't know what end you are aiming at, even if your materials do, you won't be able to get there.

ETA: Because if you don't know the end you are aiming at, but only the means you hope will *reveal* that end to you, then you can't deviate from those means at all, because you have no idea how they work.  You can't really *evaluate* if they are working; all you can do is just *trust* that they *will* work.  The only thing you can really evaluate is your fidelity to the means.  That, and how well your means stack up to the (worthy) classical educators of the past.  Purity and narrowness.

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Thank you for sharing that link @forty-two  I have multiple thoughts on the article.  First, I do agree that in general that this is true: 

Quote

But like many of the terms one finds bandied about in the world of education, the term “classical education” does not so much describe a specific and well-understood approach to learning and teaching as something that feels good and appeals to this second group of reformers and to those, mostly parents, who no longer trust the first group and are looking around for alternatives to their failing local school systems. We are, after all, talking about a world in which the affective trumps the cognitive, truth is whatever we care to believe or what an enlightened “majority” somewhere tells us to believe, and our leaders lie brazenly and with impunity because their lies confirm our prejudices.

The article highlights the misguidance of people adhering to popularized definitions of classical education.  When you hear definitions such as cyclical history or polly-parroting grammar stage as defining classical education is, then the essence of the philosophy has been synthesized down to an input-output educational formula far removed from forming a critical thinking person rooted in an educational philosophy embracing Western heritage.  It is about "its" goals  vs. "whys" personhood formation. I do see the argument of the article in mainstream culture, but I am not quite so pessimistic overall.

2 hours ago, forty-two said:

Looking at this some more.  If it's true that there's more to recovering pre-modern culture than recovering classical education, yet many people are nevertheless pursuing classical education "done rightly" as a magic bullet to resisting modern culture - then they are doomed to fail.  But if they respond to initial failures by figuring they just weren't "pure enough" or that they just didn't do classical education quite "authentically enough" - that the reason they failed is because they just didn't get it right enough - then it makes sense for every round of failure to result in increasing narrowness and increasing rigidity.  If pure classical education is our only hope, and it's not living up to that hope, then we must not be doing it right enough, purely enough yet.  Instead of more cowbell, we need more purity.

Also, it seems to pair with an assumption that there is the One True Way to do classical.  Either you are unaware of historical and cultural variations or you are searching for the One Best variation.  I had that naive assumption - that there was One True Classical Tradition to recover - but it was knocked out of me when I read a dissertation on classical education in the Lutheran tradition, comparing medieval Catholic to Reformation Lutheran to 19th American Lutheran.  He discussed what changes the Reformers made and why, and in the process opened my eyes to how they saw classical education as a *means* to an end, and not an end in itself.  When different groups had different ends, they modified their approach to classical education accordingly.  (It also showed how the 19th century American Lutherans had *already* lost a certain amount of understanding and their planned approach reflected a certain rigidity in their attempts to recover what was lost.)

I think that might be key: do you understand what end you are aiming at?  I know I used to be all gung-ho on recovering classical education *because* I knew I didn't know what end to aim at - I wanted to learn the classical end.  Of course, the problem is that there *isn't* just One True Authentic Classical End - there's a ton.  Plus there's the deeper problem Hicks pointed out: if you don't know what end you are aiming at, even if your materials do, you won't be able to get there.

ETA: Because if you don't know the end you are aiming at, but only the means you hope will *reveal* that end to you, then you can't deviate from those means at all, because you have no idea how they work.  You can't really *evaluate* if they are working; all you can do is just *trust* that they *will* work.  The only thing you can really evaluate is your fidelity to the means.  That, and how well your means stack up to the (worthy) classical educators of the past.  Purity and narrowness.

I have not personally experienced this sense of individual loss even though I have felt it in terms of societal loss.  I feel blessed bc I am firmly rooted in my Catholic faith and have always embraced the Ignatian philosophy.  FWIW, I found this link discussing classical ed and where I was equally off base in creating my own definition of classical ed.  😉  (way back then I was momof7) I went through a stage where I wanted to identify as classical but I didn't want to think that meant I needed to embrace Latin and Greek studies.  Over the yrs I recognized I was completely wrong.  Those are core to an authentic classical ed; it just took a while to get through my hard head that, no, I am not a classical educator.  So my mom of 8 self would correct my mom of 7 self and say that the study of the languages at the core of Western civ are part of what defines classical ed b/c I have come to agree with Ester Maria's pts that what is studied is the methodology that formed the mind to ponder and contemplate the whys.  But, the Ignatian philosophy has always been and always will be my guiding core.

Janice has some good thoughts in this thread.

 

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22 hours ago, forty-two said:

 

This reminds me of David Hicks' article "Is Classical Education Still Possible?"  I'm not as pessimistic as he is about the possibility of families and small communities genuinely recovering pre-modern ways of thought and life (which I agree are necessary prerequisites for a pre-modern classical education).  But I do agree with him that you can't recover the culture *through* classical education - that the culture has to be in place *before* kids can be successfully educated in it.  If you don't understand the ideas and assumptions that animate a given curricula or approach, then no matter how perfectly it embodies them, you can still screw it up by importing your own foreign ones.  Which is a problem, because that culture is largely lost in this time and place. 

So many people seek out some kind of traditional classical ed in an effort to recover the culture that went with it. They don't know what the that culture is like, though they desperately want to, and since education is formative, they latch onto traditional classical ed as a means of forming both themselves and their kids in that alien-to-them culture. (A few years ago, I was right there with them - figuring out what to do when everything you know is wrong - wanting to do something different than what you know, because all you know is wrong - that's hard and frustrating. It's easy to idealize what you aspire to as a magic bullet.)   But it simply doesn't work: the classical teacher must *already* be formed by the classical tradition before they can pass it on to their students. You can't just rotely follow-without-understanding a classical curriculum and expect it to magically have imparted the culture that formed it to you.  You have to have recovered the tradition yourself before you can impart it to others. 

But it's very hard to recover a tradition without seeing it lived out, without being part of a community that is living it out.  And there are very few communities in the West that are living it out - there are a lot more people who *want* an alternative to modern education than there are people who genuinely *have* an alternative. There are significant differences between modern Western culture and premodern classical Christian culture, and too much contemporary traditional classical ed ends up just applying modern Western assumptions to classical education, which mostly just forms students in modern Western culture and largely fails to do much to form students in the pre-modern classical Christian culture they were aiming for.  And people don't realize it, because they don't know what they don't know.

 

IME, the sort of rigidity the OP describes is a result of the natural inflexibility of the zealous beginner, when *everyone* in the community is a beginner, when there are no genuinely knowledgeable people to teach and guide and correct and deepen understanding and generally keep the apprentices well aware of how much they still need to learn.  I mean, imitation is a powerful way to learn.  There's a common theme among committed adherents of given hs philosophies: at the beginning they followed the rules exactly, strove to be ever more pure in their implementation.  Then, later on, they start to really internalize and understand the *point* of the rules, and then are in a position to follow them more flexibly.  Usually this is retold with the moral of: since people with true understanding don't follow the rules rigidly, but flexibly, *no one*, including newbies, should ever follow the rules strictly.  But the problem with that is that beginners just don't have the knowledge or experience or judgment to flexibly apply principles from a position of deep understanding - because beginners don't have deep understanding by definition.  "Doing what experts do" doesn't itself build up the mastery necessary to *be* one of those experts.  It occurred to me: what if the newbie period of strict imitation was *itself* laying the foundation for the later true understanding.    The problem wasn't the strict implementation so much as the conviction that an ever-more-strict implementation *is* mastery, as opposed to the beginning step *towards* mastery. 

It's a common beginner mistake, to have no sense of the depths of mastery, to have no sense of what it means to act from a place of deep understanding of the subject.  But usually the masters knock that misconception out of the beginners.  But if there are *no* masters - everyone's a beginner - the field is dominated by the blind leading the blind - then beginner mistakes get enshrined as common knowledge.  Especially if none of the leaders of the community has ever truly mastered something - it makes it harder to realize how little you know of a new subject when you have no reference point for what deep knowledge of something would be like.   And double especially if the leaders of the community lack humility - if they are unaware or unwilling to admit just how much of a beginner they are, of how little their knowledge really is. 

 

Also, there's a certain kind of desperation that comes from realizing that it's not just that *you* have a shallow understanding of something vital, but that increasingly it looks like *everyone's* understanding of that vital thing has no roots.  I mean, then what?  There's no obvious path to solving it, no master to study under.  And the need to live by it doesn't go away even though your ability to do it has crumbled.  It definitely primes you to grab onto anyone who says they have a solution.  And if you had been one of the solution-givers before your uncomfortable realization, I think there's a temptation to just refuse to admit it, to refuse to poke at your shaky understanding out of fear it might crumble - to be ever more inflexibly confident in public to shore things up.  Possibly without ever really consciously realizing what you are doing.

 

Yes, I think this is so true.  And in terms of education generally - I think university education follows that pattern as well, with the undergraduate phase being the phase of simply learning and following the norms and patterns of the relevant discipline.

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On 3/2/2019 at 2:35 PM, forty-two said:

IME, the sort of rigidity the OP describes is a result of the natural inflexibility of the zealous beginner, when *everyone* in the community is a beginner, when there are no genuinely knowledgeable people to teach and guide and correct and deepen understanding and generally keep the apprentices well aware of how much they still need to learn.  I mean, imitation is a powerful way to learn.  There's a common theme among committed adherents of given hs philosophies: at the beginning they followed the rules exactly, strove to be ever more pure in their implementation.  Then, later on, they start to really internalize and understand the *point* of the rules, and then are in a position to follow them more flexibly.  Usually this is retold with the moral of: since people with true understanding don't follow the rules rigidly, but flexibly, *no one*, including newbies, should ever follow the rules strictly.  But the problem with that is that beginners just don't have the knowledge or experience or judgment to flexibly apply principles from a position of deep understanding - because beginners don't have deep understanding by definition.  "Doing what experts do" doesn't itself build up the mastery necessary to *be* one of those experts.  It occurred to me: what if the newbie period of strict imitation was *itself* laying the foundation for the later true understanding.    The problem wasn't the strict implementation so much as the conviction that an ever-more-strict implementation *is* mastery, as opposed to the beginning step *towards* mastery. 

 

 

@forty-two   This resonated so very much.  The rigidity is what gets my attention.  However, it brings with it the dawning realization that I am pushing into what I believe is the deeper territory of wisdom as a lone ranger--and this is what makes me incredibly uncomfortable.  Especially as a Christian.   Ideal and imitation are significant facets of faith.  The person of Jesus, the Word made flesh.  Philosophy with skin. 

It may be wrong, but I want some skin on my educational philosophy.  Being unable to find any is not a comfort.  Rather, it sends me into checking my ego and evaluation mode.  And here we are.  🙂       

 

 

      

  

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On 3/2/2019 at 3:34 PM, forty-two said:

 

I think that might be key: do you understand what end you are aiming at?  I know I used to be all gung-ho on recovering classical education *because* I knew I didn't know what end to aim at - I wanted to learn the classical end.  Of course, the problem is that there *isn't* just One True Authentic Classical End - there's a ton.  Plus there's the deeper problem Hicks pointed out: if you don't know what end you are aiming at, even if your materials do, you won't be able to get there.

ETA: Because if you don't know the end you are aiming at, but only the means you hope will *reveal* that end to you, then you can't deviate from those means at all, because you have no idea how they work.  You can't really *evaluate* if they are working; all you can do is just *trust* that they *will* work.  The only thing you can really evaluate is your fidelity to the means.  That, and how well your means stack up to the (worthy) classical educators of the past.  Purity and narrowness.

 

I'm aiming at a loving humble boy  man who will exercise his gifts to God's delight, and for the world's good.  

 

Edited by Doodlebug
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