Tag: Classical Education
Libraries and Laboratories
The bookish people that gravitate toward classical education can sometimes take a harsh view of science, mathematics, and rigorous quantitative reasoning. They champion poetry and the imagination at the expense of empirical fact and deduction. This is a mistake.
Reading for Wisdom
Ancient cultures had a special wisdom literature, such as Proverbs or Ecclesiastes in the Bible, a literature which gives direct, sage counsel. To a great extent, however, all of ancient and medieval literature counts as wisdom literature. The authors frequently understood themselves to be passing on wisdom to their readers whether they wrote poetry or philosophical dialogues, and readers sought out literature as a principal means of becoming wise.
The Idea of a Canon
How do I know what to read? If I have not read a book before, how do I know whether it will be any good? After all, reading a book, especially if I read it well, is a significant investment of hours. Every time I commit to reading one book, I am simultaneously choosing, by implication, not to read a functionally infinite array of other books that may be just as good---or better. In reality, of course, this isn't how it works. When I sit down to read a book, even one I have never cracked open before, I usually have a pretty good idea whether it will be worth my time. I know this because the book has a reputation.
A Liberal Education
Liberality---freedom---is the opposite of servility, and this means escape from our cell. The trick is that the door is locked from the inside. The only thing needed to open it is the will to do so, just as Lady Philosophy told Boethius in his cell before his execution so many centuries ago. The servile men speak of escapism as a dirty word. It's irresponsible to become distracted from the grind, for the grind is the whole of their religion and their only hope of salvation. The escapism of the bookish life, they think, is to lapse from the real world where things are getting done into the realm of fairy tales and lofty, abstract philosophies. Quite the reverse is true. The chthonic liturgy of their daily grind is the unreality of Plato's cave. The world we open onto in literature, history, poetry, and philosophy is the real world seen aright, the world of acorns and mountains and the human heart.
Ashes and Shadows
This is my translation Horace's Ode IV.7, famous for the opening words 'Diffugere nives,' and the echo of Abraham's sentiment that we are but 'ashes and shadows.'
We all want our children to become virtuous, so we naturally shop around for the schools and communities that have the best results. Upon inspection, however, we find that the graduating classes at even the best schools are not infallibly filled with saints. Parents eventually complain. Teachers complain too.
I am often required to give students "helpful feedback" on their writing. I mark missing commas or misspelled words in red ink. I circle the occasional awkward phrase. I fear, however, that these marks are really doing the students a disservice. They give the illusion that their bad writing would become good writing if they were to insert the missing commas and fix the spelling mistakes. To become good the whole thing would need to change, and this means a change to the student's deeper habits of life. So here are my four recommendations.
The Mind of a Gentleman
This essay explores St. John Henry Newman's conception of a gentleman's education; it was originally published in the Classical Teacher.
Dust Jacket 3: Towles
In Session 3 of the Dust Jacket podcast, Martin Cothran and I discuss Amor Towles' marvelous book *A Gentleman in Moscow*
I appear on the Classical Etc. podcast to discuss the concept of leisure.
Dust Jacket 1: Newman
In Session 1 of the Dust Jacket podcast, Martin Cothran and I discuss St. John Henry Newman's *Idea of the University*
My address at the 2017 Mars Hill graduation.
Christopher Graney on Galileo
Christopher Graney talk about Galileo.