Until the time Plato began teaching, it is likely that the art associated with persuasive speaking in law courts and legislative assemblies had no technical name. Those who taught the skills of persuasion called themselves sophists, wise ones, and purported to teach wisdom in the form of powerful words. In Plato’s Gorgias, for example, Gorgias, sophist extraordinaire, not only boasts of being able to answer any question to his inquirer’s satisfaction, but to do so in as many or as few words as the inquirer would wish.
In the world of classical education, we talk about “Great Books.” However, other than a handful of obvious works (those by Homer, Virgil, Dante, Shakespeare, and a few others in particular) there is much debate about which books should actually fall in the category of “Great Book”. Which raises the question: what does it mean for a book to be great - is it an actual measurable category of assessment? To find out, I asked a couple of people who have thoughts on the matter, ostensibly anyway. What’s their conclusion? Well, I’ll let you decide. Here is their conversation.
Shakespeare undoubtedly belongs on the Mount Rushmore of authors that classical educators most highly esteem. Other than Homer, and maybe Virgil, what author could possible bump the Bard from such a sculpture? Given that, we classical educators rightly feel the need to give our students a healthy dose of his canon. But that’s easier said than done. Which is where filmic adaptations of his work can helpful.
From his birth in 1875 till his death in 1937, Maurice Ravel encountered change wherever he looked. And for this composer, the era’s changes in musical composition were as significant as the changes brought by technological advancements and a world war. In fact, while we might tend to view developments in music theory as far removed from these historical transformations, Ravel was keenly aware that change in music reflects change in the world. His own compositions can help us to understand this truth.
When friends ask me what my favorite novel is, I tell them, "That's easy. Crime and Punishment. Or Anna Karenina. Depending upon which one I read last."
As a teacher at a great books college, my job demands much reading of literature. It is a task I happily embrace. Accordingly, I have read many of the classics of the Western canon. And, after all that reading I am convinced that for power of psychology, for characterization, and for theatrical tension, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy count among the greatest writers in the canon.
Teaching: a job where you must constantly be “on.” Yet not just “on,” always one step ahead, because if you’re not, you lose control of the class and find the drum of voices getting steadily louder, and the calm of focus evaporating. A job where you must always be excited about grammar, composition, math, handwriting, spelling, and everything else—because the kids watch you and everything you do. A job where you have to smile and be pleasant even when you’re physically and emotionally exhausted and what you really want to do is sit on the couch with a book, afghan, and cup of tea.
Here at CiRCE we believe there's strength in numbers. If the Christian classical renewal is going to be truly meaningful and lasting then we have to work together, wherever and in whatever setting we are teaching. In some ways we need to think of ourselves as one large community. So we thought why not explore that idea a little bit. In this first installment, we chat with Cindy Rollins -- experienced homeschooler and author of Mere Motherhood -- about what homeschoolers can learn from their counterparts in traditional schools.
My sister-in-law and a good friend of mine are both getting ready to begin teaching for the first time, and in talking with them recently I was reminded of the first few weeks of my own teaching career. I was terrified.
Some musical works, especially classical ones, resemble Mr. Darcy at the Netherfield Ball: they require a formal introduction for proper acquaintance (and woe betide the Mr. Collins who thinks otherwise). But other works, like other people, welcome strangers. It is sometimes possible to love a person before you learn his name and to understand a work of music before comprehending its composition. Such is the case with Bedrich Smetana’s “The Moldau.”
Take a listen.
This spring, Brian Phillips triggered my midlife crisis. At the Rocky Mountain Regional Conference, he gave a talk in which he made a casual statement that led to a poignant discovery. “In the Iliad, Achilles seeks glory, while in the Odyssey, Odysseus desires home,” he announced.
Nothing new there.
“But really,” he continued, “They were both seeking the same thing.”