Dead Poets Society is a truly great film—if for John Keating alone. It’s Robin Williams at his best: a mentor authoritative yet tender, aristocratic yet plebian—a wise teacher balancing on the knife’s edge between the pater and peer. Who doesn’t rejoice at the demolition of the textbook? Who can hold back his soul when Williams performs his John Wayne Macbeth and Marlon Brando Marc Antony—rigor mortis jawline and all? And is there any teacher in film more iconic than Mr.
Creativity is the ability to bring about something new. Somewhat counterintuitively, structure, rules, and standards invite creativity. Aristotle, Plato, and the Scriptures tell us to “train up” a child. Aristotle, referencing Plato, emphasizes the importance of “having been definitely trained from childhood to like and dislike the proper things; this is what good education means” (Nicomachean Ethics Book 2, 1104b).
Latin and Greek are the bane of many a classical self-educator; as we adult latecomers play catch-up to get the classical education we weren’t lucky enough to have in school, it’s hard enough to find time to read Homer and Augustine in translation, let alone the original. To learn the classical languages seems simply out of our reach.
My reading in the Year of Our Lord 2018 was marked by some fairly deliberate attempts (emphasis on attempts) at slow reading as a counter to my long-standing tradition of attempting to speed read. Hilariously, I am but a poor example of either discipline.
Have you ever quarreled about something (that you later realized was insignificant), and in so doing, lost sight of what was truly important? Have you ever been waylaid by something distracting, and lost your way as a result? Well, if you haven’t experienced this in a while, you may recall a similar gist in one of Aesop’s fables, “The Ass and His Shadow.” (If not, read on!)
“Do we have to do Latin?” Students gloomily contemplate its grammar charts, teachers of other subjects wonder what it’s doing in the curriculum, and homeschooling parents find it a constant thorn in their sides. Do we study Latin as a mental exercise, like math? To improve our English? To get a higher SAT score? Many of us aren’t sure, and we wish we could do something useful instead of studying a dead language.
What is Homer’s Odyssey about?
Occasionally, academics need a good lampooning. Perhaps often.
“There’s no magic in this series.”
The medieval trivium has been central to the American classical education movement of the past three decades. For many of us it is our defining concept, our method against public school madness, even our child psychology. And so it may surprise us to discover that in a book subtitled An Introduction to the History of Classical Education, the trivium is not once mentioned. The title of this book may also surprise us: Vittorino da Feltre and Other Humanist Educators. Don’t worry, this isn’t the secular, atheistic humanism of our own day.