I would like to take this opportunity to thank the CiRCE Institute for awakening me to the concept of teaching classically. I am a masters-educated, certified teacher, yet I don’t think that I was ever taught how to educate!
In his Confessions Augustine recounts his early education, an education which many of us would be proud to impart to our own children. From a young age he was steeped in the Greek tragedies, Roman histories, and classical languages of Greek and Latin. Yet as he reflects upon these matters he expresses deep sorrow over how his heart was led astray by his own carnal lusts and isolation from his Maker. The classical education he had received had become the fodder for his idolatry and hubris (word the ancient philosophers would have used for “pride”).
Every pianist has been told at some point that the secret to beautiful performance is staying relaxed. This does not mean working less hard. It means working only the muscles that are supposed to be working while eliminating tension everywhere else. Relaxation is an important piano technique because it makes an incredible difference in the sound the instrument produces. Much of a piano is made of wood, a living material, which responds to slight differences in touch. This is a beautiful metaphor for teaching and learning.
If you have not read Josh Gibbs’ article on classroom décor, do it. My teachers were blessed with training this week from one of our writing curriculum publishers and for us, the article could not have been timelier. Our trainer spoke of the necessity of hanging paper word lists on the walls for our students to create a “word rich” environment and object permanence. What to do? As a headmaster who never taught in grammar school, this can be difficult.
In the early 1900s the educational system in America was in the throes of transitioning to a “progressive” education. There were also a number of theological debates raging in the halls of seminaries, the pages of theological journals, and in the pulpits of the nation. The issues ranged from origins, to the nature of revelation, to the nature of Jesus and salvation. At the root of the debate was one singular question: “What relationship is there between faith and reason?”
What if virtue formation isn’t just about submitting oneself to the authority of great books of literature? If virtue formation were so confined, would it not mean that the only truly virtuous classes would be great books classes? Natural science, rhetoric, and music wouldn’t qualify.
There is no anxiety quite like homeschool mom anxiety. Can I get an amen?
Myth: The trivium (grammar, logic, and rhetoric) corresponds to stages in child development.
The origin of this fantastic claim, a nearly ubiquitous presupposition of classical education literature and the central organizing tenet of many a school’s curriculum, can be traced back to Dorothy Sayers’ essay, “The Lost Tools of Learning.” So foundational (dare I say creedal) is the significance of this text for the Classical School Movement, that many schools require applicants for teaching positions to submit an essay on it.
Is Shakespeare a moral enigma? Many critics have thought so. Take the late Anthony Nuttall, who contended that “we have no idea what Shakespeare thought, finally, about any major question”—or Harold Bloom, who has argued that the Bard was “too wise to believe anything.” Such remarks challenge Shakespeare enthusiasts: When a play like Twelfth Night contains such a diverse cast of characters, such a motley crew of moral viewpoints, how can we know which characters represent the playwright? How can we know what Shakespeare thinks?
It is pivotal that we read the right stories to our children when they are young so they will learn three things. The first is to never get involved in a land war in Asia. The second is to never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line. And the third is to never—never—accept and eat any food that is offered to you by a witch.