There are two kinds of classical schools. There are classical schools which claim a classical education is about the cultivation of virtue, and there are classical schools which claim a classical education is about teaching students how to think, not what to think. The latter kind tend to present classical education primarily through the work of Dorothy Sayers and describe classical methodology in terms of developmental psychology and cognitive theory.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, “tone deaf” has emerged as the hot new go-to complaint. Granted, “tone deaf” isn’t entirely new. We’ve met before. For the last several years, “tone deaf” was the shy clever girl who only stepped off the sidelines to hit the dance floor when she really liked the song the DJ was playing— but now, “tone deaf” is everywhere and fabulous. So move aside, “sexist.” Sorry, “homophobic.” Deal with it, “toxic.” It’s time for “tone deaf” to shine.
The quarantine is the perfect occasion to develop a taste for something you wish you liked, but don’t, like black & white films, opera, coffee, chocolate, or, in my case, mid-century Modern literature. Since giving up social media, I’ve had so much more time on my hands, and a good bit of that extra time has gone towards reading fiction. In the early part of my career, I more or less gave up reading fiction and took up history and philosophy, in large part to become a more competent lecturer.
Over the last week, the administrative team at Veritas in Richmond collaborated with teachers to launch Veritas at Home, a strategy for quarantined students to carry on the school year in the safety of their own living rooms. As opposed to dictating to teachers all they should do, the administrative team began by seeking the counsel of several experienced teachers about what was reasonable to expect of students and teachers alike.
After a good bit of prefatory work on the part of teachers at Veritas, yesterday was really the first day in which students began working from home in earnest. My wife is on the administrative team at the school, and while the quarantine means less work for some people, it means far more work for people such as herself. So, between writing and podcasting, I supervise Beatrice (8) and Camilla’s (10) studies, field endless requests to play outside, and keep house.
After all these years, the real test has finally come.
The real test was never going to be a set of math problems. It was never going to be lab work. It was never going to be a list of facts. The real test was never going to be an essay on Jane’s relationship with Rochester, a fill-in-the-blank about which monster was Scylla and which one was Charybdis, or a series of multiple-choice questions about the Apostles, the Cold War, or “biblical economics.”
For the person who is not accustomed to staying home all day, and yet suddenly finds that fate has decreed it so, there is a good chance that snacking will become a dependable way of alleviating boredom. For those who work away from home, eating is simply what you do in your home: In the morning, you get out of bed, you shower, you eat, you leave. In the evening, you return, you eat, you shower, you get into bed. Cooking and eating take up the lion’s share of time spent at home, which means that spending more time at home means eating more food.
On day four, a little collection of recommended documentaries. Several of these are available to view for free. A few of them will set you back a few dollars, but I promise they're worth it.
On day three, I offer a reading list. With a little bit of luck, the classical school to which you send your children isn’t demanding they do too much work in the absence of an actual classroom and there is sufficient time for leisurely reading. What follows is a list of books I recommend for high school students, especially chosen for the time of year and the cause of this unexpected hiatus from formal schooling.
On Sunday morning, I woke and— like many faithful Christians over the last two thousand years— did not go to church. Last Friday, the archbishop announced that a skeleton crew would conduct the Divine Liturgy every Sunday morning through the end of the month. The faithful were exhorted to stay home and pray the Typica, a lay service of Psalms, prayers, and Scripture readings.