Friday, July 12, 2013

Classical education. . .

Check it out!
A visit with a shut in ended up talking about education (the person had been involved in education for most of the adult life).  It ended up with a lament that too much emphasis is placed on vocational education -- simple training to do a job.  Now this person understands the fact that education, especially secondary, has become expensive and often peripheral to job openings and employment possibilities, but this person also insists that a liberal arts education (could we call it "classical" education) should not be allowed to disappear.

The person spent a life in literature and sadly reflected upon the fact that you can hardly find a book in his kids homes -- even though they are well educated and economically successful.  They do not read -- not paper or digital.  The shut in found this tragic for the adult children and the grandchildren (some of whom graduated from ivy league schools).  They seem oblivious to the great body of literature which has become the hallmark of learning (at least in the past).

I related a conversation about the movie "Gatsby" in which a twenty something young woman suggested that the movie was so great she wished that it had come out in book form.  Duhhhhhh.  As a child growing up in pre-politically correct times, even the cartoons were replete with references to great literature, opera, music, and history (cannot forget Bugs Bunny massaging Elmer Fudd's scalp while Rossini's Barber of Seville played in the background).  Today it is much more likely that children's videos and programming has little to draw them into the tremendous body of classical literature and music, much less history!

That led me to a new book by Cheryl Swope called A Beautiful Education for Any Child.  According to one reviewer:  Classical education is best-known for its powerful academic chops, for its cultural richness, and for its compatibility with the Christian view of the world.  You can Google her and the book or buy it here on Amazon.  It is a wonderful book -- accessible for the general public, born from a home schooling experience, and addressing the whole way we view education at large.

Another fan:

Cheryl Swope ostensibly writes about special education, but she also makes one of the clearest and most compelling cases for classical education in print. The first argument of the book is that academically-challenged students are human beings too, and they deserve an education commensurate with that fact. While current special education doctrine favors compromising on content, Cheryl proposes only to moderate its measure. If a child cannot accommodate the amount or depth of knowledge of most children, it is not less, but more important that what they learn be of the highest quality. She implicitly understands St. Thomas Aquinas’ principle that the slightest knowledge of the greatest things is greater than the greatest knowledge of the slightest things. Her second argument is that it has been done and can be done. How many people know that Helen Keller had a classical education? And if a person who was blind and deaf could achieve what she achieved, how much more can a student do who faces less severe challenges? Cheryl shows how, in an important sense, classical education can open the eyes of the blind and unstop the ears of the deaf.

I heartily commend it.


Anonymous said...

I work at a classical Lutheran school and our entire faculty is reading Cheryl Swope's book this summer. She'll be speaking, along with many other wonderful educators at The Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education conference next week at CTSFW.

Anonymous said...

Classical education is vital to our country today. Only those who receive this sort of education will be prepared to carry our culture forward, into the future. Unfortunately, it appears that this will be the domain of only a privileged elite, those whose parents were willing to sacrifice for their children's real education, in place of the public indoctrination centers that we call "public schools."

Fr. D+
Anglican Priest

David Gray said...

I think classical education has much to commend it but the idea that the only folk who will be able to carry our culture forward are those who've experienced it is pretty silly. If that were true there would be no culture to carry forward in a living sense. It is an excellent approach but not the only one.

ErnestO said...

The brain is not to be filled like a vase rather it is a fire that needs to be kindled. The Holy Spirit has the match and no better fuel in the world could be found than in the bible and then classical literature.