I distrust the concept of originality. An artist, author, educator, theologian, or philosopher who strives to be original is apt to spend far more time thinking of themselves than their field of study or their audience. The motivation to be different, to stand out, to make a place at the table can become a powerful impulse that demands ever greater attention and self-preservation. Striving to be original by necessity ignores or rebels against the history and development of a field.
I have scruples against calling myself a Writer, capitalized, but I echo Augustine in “profess[ing] to be one of those who, by profiting, write, and by writing profit.” Never especially disciplined or consistent in my writing efforts, never attempting any grand projects, yet over the years I have accumulated piles of notebooks, loose papers, and flash drives full of words I felt compelled to write when met by beauty too strong to forget or thoughts too tangled to untie.
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?”
With classes resuming next week across the country, it seemed a good time to revisit the most common delusions which beset American classical institutions. It seemed prudent to bypass those delusions which are commonly acknowledged (grades, grade levels) among classical educators in media outlets such as this and to move directly to second-tier delusions which often go unaddressed. As such, I offer the following five observations.
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.
Imagine being inspired to read Plato's dialogues by first reading the Autobiography of John Stuart Mill--yes, that John Stuart Mill, the naturalist and utilitarian. That is precisely what happened to Mortimer Adler.
There is no anxiety quite like homeschool mom anxiety. Can I get an amen?
Given how many classical educators attended public school when young, most classical schools have progressive “hangovers” as Dr. Christopher Perrin sometimes puts it. A progressive hangover is simply a body of assumptions about education which is uncritically and unknowingly derived from modernist philosophy, as opposed to classical or Christian philosophy. Renewing classical education necessitates slowly overcoming this hangover and rooting out all the false beliefs about education which we don’t even know we have.
This morning I begin teaching the first several weeks of our Cosmology course at New College Franklin. In preparation for the class, I developed a partial list of cosmological ideas that I plan on covering over the next weeks. My goal was to situate the discussion of cosmology within a greater medieval and theological context while providing enough handles that future connections and ideas can be made by students. The rest of the course will cover more concrete aspects of astronomy and cosmology.
What other concepts would you have included?