Survey a number of parents on the most important aspect of a school, and the majority will say “community.” Community is a fashionable word. Everyone talks about building community, being in community, or doing life together. Because man is a political animal, this is perfectly reasonable. Yet, like many trends, the word is often used without a sensible definition. Communities are founded upon something. There is a glue which binds them. Much like bricks without mortar, a people cannot cohere without something holding them together.
In my last article, I submitted Charlotte Mason’s practice of narration for consideration as another lost tool of learning. My main contention in its favor followed Charlotte Mason’s claim that narration is a natural gift of children as persons made in the image of our storytelling God.
For those coming late to the party, narration is a simple and elegant teaching tool containing two parts:
The concept of a tool of learning will be familiar to many from Dorothy Sayers’ famous essay “The Lost Tools of Learning.” The underlying idea is derived from the medieval conception of the liberal arts as rational skills or practices that enable a person to fashion knowledge. Just as a skillful carpenter can use the tools of his trade to produce a beautiful and serviceable chair, so the master of the liberal arts can produce new knowledge by means of those arts.
Writing about a writer is like painting a portrait of person when she’s standing right next to you. While you are deciding what color her shirt should be and whether or not to emphasize the cheekbones, she is there, expressing her thoughts on everything from dinner plans to Shakespeare. You end up thinking to yourself: “Why am I painting a portrait? It’d be better if people just met her.” But a portrait can be more accessible than a person. For a quick and easy acquaintance, it is easier to read an article about a writer than to read her books.
To the classical thinker, vice lies at the opposite ends of a corresponding virtue (Aristotle's golden mean). A vice can be the manifestation of a virtue in extreme exaggeration or deprivation. Courage is an example of virtue. Its corresponding vices are impetuousness (the exaggeration), and pusillanimity (the deprivation). In post-Christian Christianity, doubt has unfortunately been elevated into a virtue and any type of certainty has been made a vice, a problem which can be traced back to Descartes.
Some who encounter medieval philosophy complain of too much minutiae, too many abstruse questions. Proofs. Counter-proofs. Articles. Objections. It's foreign stuff, no doubt. At the same time, we might challenge the reigning prejudice against this kind of rigorous questioning. Men like Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus retained the child’s love of asking questions. How embarrassing it is then that the medievals are younger than we are.
The mind rooted in faith operates differently from the mind rooted in doubt.* Doubt, interestingly, comes from the Latin "dubitas," which can as easily be translated "fear." In Elizabethan times, that correlary was not obscure, as you can see when you read, for example, Hamlet.
Does it disturb you that children generally lose their creativity the older they get? Have you considered that this might not be accidental or a mark of maturity, but rather a result of a system that conditions conformity? As with other things in society, this is an intentional undermining of humanity and the image of God within mankind. Creativity is an aspect of the image of God and thus it ought to be cultivated through education not diminished.