Monday, October 24, 2016

Classical Education

Classical Education gets a bad rap. Chief among its harshest criticisms are that it is inherently dogmatic, racist, and robs children of critical thought.  In many ways this criticism is deserved. There exist many works online and in print which praise and encourage a need for Classical Education.  Public Schools wishing to adopt a Classical Curriculum find that the majority of these works are inadequate for the secular requirements of a state funded school. While the authors of these works often raise good points, their solutions rely heavily upon anecdotal rather than substantive evidence. 

This may be due to the fact that in current of Classical Education is one which is now dominated by apologists, whose chosen discipline emphasizes a defensive rather than investigative approach, and well meaning literature majors whose work demonstrates a lack of the investigative research methods honed by professional scholars.  As such, their perspectives are skewed.  Rather than practicing scholarship, they engage in scholasticism: borrowing from those scholars of the past with whom they agree, while not bravely and critically examining their own presuppositions / beliefs.  They thus miss a huge chunk of context in development of human thought and ideas.   The result is an incomplete perspective which lacks the  insight familiar to research historians of philosophy, science, music, mathematics and the like.

In recent decades, the majority of published works on Classical Education have fallen away from the investigative trajectory set forth by Socrates and carried through the works of the great scholars, scientists, and humanitarians of the world.  As such their works are not based upon tested cognitive development, researched educational theory, nor is the subject matter informed through rigorous academic scholarship which utilizes critical examination of Classical sources through historical methods and textual reception. More often than not, these works limit the variety of actual Classical thought -- cutting away significant primary sources which challenge the convictions of the particular market to which they are trying to sell their product.  Furthermore, as an example, emphasis on marketing reputation of a school based upon excellent test scores flies in the face of the premise of Classical Education,- critical investigation. 

What I provide here, is an approach to Classical Education which is not mired in 19th century Idealism and Historiographical essentialism, but one which embraces the variety of thought and methodologies which have always existed.  It is one which stresses the importance of learning History, Reasoning, and the traditional subjects of Classical Education.  It is one however whose sources are informed by Academic Peer-Reviewed Research methodologies in History, Cognitive Development, Science, et al.  It is one which does not fear the Scientific Method or Discovery.  It acknowledges the known issues regarding the uncritical acceptance of the traditional Western Canon. Among these issues are equating literature for historical fact and the elimination significant contributions by women, subcultures and other civilizations in order to support a position of exceptionalism. No source is viewed as "authority" instead considered a voice in the Great Conversation.  Below I have provided links as a starting point for individuals and schools committed to providing Classical Education free from the anecdotal convictions of Authoritative Biblical, Anti-Science, Anti-Dewey rhetoric which has so often derailed proponents searching for an honest approach to provide education for students desiring to Learn for Life in a Global, multi-cultural society.

What Classical Education Means

The Unexamined Life, Diversity, and Classical Model

Source Studies

The Problems with Dorothy Sayers, C.S. Lewis, Gene Veith, and Andrew Kern

Reconsidering John Dewey's Relationship with Ancient Philosophy

In Praise of John Dewey - (compare / contrast Dewey and E.D. Hirsch 

Eudaimonia, Truth, Beauty, and Goodness

Instincts and the Pursuit of Truth

Freedom - Liberty - Happiness

Eudaimonia and Virtue Ethics

Virtue and The Goods of Fortune in  Boethius and David Foster Wallace


Class Expectations for Students of Xen McGuire

1 comment:

  1. In the introduction of his final book, Carl Sagan remarked on this educational theme, "At the University of Chicago I also was lucky enough to go
    through a general education programme devised by Robert M.
    Hutchins, where science was presented as an integral part of the
    gorgeous tapestry of human knowledge. It was considered
    unthinkable for an aspiring physicist not to know Plato, Aristotle,
    Bach, Shakespeare, Gibbon, Malinowski and Freud - among
    many others. In an introductory science class, Ptolemy's view that
    the Sun revolved around the Earth was presented so compellingly
    that some students found themselves re-evaluating their commitment
    to Copernicus. The status of the teachers in the Hutchins
    curriculum had almost nothing to do with their research; perversely
    - unlike the American university standard of today -
    teachers were valued for their teaching, their ability to inform and
    inspire the next generation.
    In this heady atmosphere, I was able to fill in some of the many
    gaps in my education. Much that had been deeply mysterious, and
    not just in science, became clearer. I also witnessed at first hand
    the joy felt by those whose privilege it is to uncover a little about
    how the Universe works." - Carl Sagan - "Demon Haunted World" 1996…/sh…/17349.The_Demon_Haunted_World