Thursday, April 28, 2005
Training children classically is like building a road like the Romans did. You must begin with a solid foundation. Romans used large rocks as a foundation. In classical education, the informational boulders are large fact groups. These large fact groups make up the grammar of each subject. For Latin, these are the inflections for declensions and conjugations, and vocabulary. In math, these are multiplication tables and adding and subtracting facts. In Bible, these are major stories and characters, and books of the Bible. History, Science, Art, and Music also have grammars that form the basis of knowledge for each category.
Romans used various smaller rocks, gravel, sand, or flint for the next layers of a road. These are the things that packed everything together tightly and made the road solid. In education, these are the relationships between the information found in the large fact groups, and the relationships between the subjects themselves. This training is done during the junior high years, when students have mastered the grammar of a subject and are ready to begin studying how those facts came to be and how they affect the world. This is the time students are taught formal logic. Logic and the relationships between subjects cement the information into a single body of knowledge instead of fragmented groups of facts.
Roman roads were finished with smooth paving stones that were more comfortable to drive a cart or walk on and made travel more efficient. On these finished roads traveled the ideas of Greece and Rome, the power of the military, and the truth of the Gospel. In education, rhetoric has the power to swiftly and accurately convey ideas and truth. When the Romans equipped themselves with a network of completed roads, they were able to conquer other lands more efficiently and quell uprisings quickly. When a student is equipped with rhetoric, which has been laid on a foundation of grammar and the cement of logic, he is able to conquer ideas more efficiently and to persuasively tear down falsehoods quickly. It is through the rhetoric of students so trained that the great ideas and truths will be conveyed to the next generation.
It is the hope of the builders of the Christian classical education movement that the work being done in the hearts and minds of these students will stand the test of time as the Roman roads have.
Saturday, April 23, 2005
Friday, April 22, 2005
"...the heavens and all things beneath the heavens change their forms -- the earth and all that is upon the earth; and since we are parts of the world, we, too, are changeable. For we're not only bodies, but winged souls; and we can dwell in bodies of wild beasts and hide within the shapes of cows and sheep. And so, let us respect --leave whole, intact-- all bodies where our parents' souls or those of brothers or of others dear to us may well have found a home; let us not stuff our bellies banqueting, as did Thyestes. Whover cuts a calf's throat wtih a knife and listens, without pity, to its cries; whoever kills a kid that, like a child, wails loud; whoever feeds upon a bird that he himself has fed --profanely sheds the blood of humans: such a man abets a habit that is evil --little less than murder." (Ovid's Metamorphoses translated by Allen Mandelbaum)
Tuesday, April 19, 2005
As a sidenote, I've chosen translations of the Oddessey and Aeneid by Allen Mandelbaum. It was his translation of The Metamorphoses that I read and liked so much. I have been very impressed with his translations - in their fullness of meaning and simple beauty to read. I already had a copy of Lattimore's Illiad (which I had heard was an excellent translation), so I'll be interested to see the difference in their styles.
Saturday, April 09, 2005
I know what you're thinking - What?! What kind of a school hires a teacher to teach something she readily admits she doesn't know? And what kind of psycho ACCEPTS the position??!!! Well, as I was soon to learn hundreds of times over, "God doesn't call the prepared, he prepares the called." Little did I know that he had already been preparing me for this position. It all started when I was a baby...
When I was an infant, my parents had a friend and missionary staying at their home. He watched me in my crib, just beginning to form sounds in that baby-talk way and told my parents, "She's going to be good with languages someday."
Now fast forward a little over a decade or so to my freshman year of high school. Spanish I with Mrs. Montenegro. Now, Mrs. Montenegro was not a Spanish teacher by occupation. She was a nurse. But she happened to be a native El Salvadorian who learned English (by watching soap operas, I might add) and was willing to teach Spanish to a bunch of high schoolers. We learned all sorts of things that year. We learned to shop in a Spanish market and make authentic maize tortillas, we learned to give directions to the beach (nevermind that we lived in East Texas and the nearest beach was seven hours away), we learned to describe all the animals in a zoo (including a banana slug...), and many other things, all in Spanish. The one thing we didn't learn was Spanish grammar. Oops. Our Spanish II teacher was straight out of college with a degree in Spanish. Let's just say that she was a little more particular with proper Spanish grammar and a little less concerned with actual culture. All in all I'd say my Spanish classes were less than inspiring. Yet despite all that I made trips to Venezuela, Bolivia, Brazil, and Mexico in the next few years and conversed freely in Spanish with no major problems.
My junior year of high school I decided to try my hand at German. Because I already had a full classload and didn't need any more credits, I opted to audit the class. All was going pretty well until the teacher learned that I wasn't taking the class for credit - He chose then to poke at every mistake I made and make snide remarks about my lack of effort because the class didn't count. I decided it wasn't worth the persecution and dropped the class about half-way through the first semester. Yet - when we took a family trip to Europe the following year, I could hold basic conversations and navigate German signs just fine.
English having been one of my easiest and most enjoyable subjects in high school, I chose it as my major in college. As a liberal arts student, I would need four semesters of a foreign language to graduate. Our university didn't have a whole lot of offerings in the way of foreign language - you could either take Spanish or Greek. I'd had Spanish before so I thought it would be easy, but I heard horor stories about the professor. She was a native French woman fluent in Spanish, French, and German. Unfortunately, she conducted all of her classes only in Spanish and at that, Spanish with a French accent. The only people who managed to pass her classes the first time around were those who grew up in Spanish speaking countries. So... I decided to opt for Greek. By this point I had decided that I wanted to become a linguist and translate the Scriptures. With a degree in English and minors in Bible and Cross-cultural studies I figured Greek was the next step in my journey to missionary translation.
The two years I spent in Greek were all-consuming. I ate, slept, and breathed Greek participles, paradigms, and conjugations. My classmates and I formed a bond that could only be formed by trudging through two years of life-draining academic rigor. I ended the first semester with a hard earned A, followed by two B's, and finally a C, for which I was eternally grateful. By the time I finished my last semester of Greek, I didn't care if I ever saw another foreign language again. I was burnt out.
I didn't really think about language again until that interview with Petra. Noticing that I'd learned Greek, they wanted to know if I would consider teaching Latin.
"Do you realize that I don't know any Latin?" I asked.
They assured me that I had a month before school started to learn. Wow. After praying and consulting those who knew me best (and having all of them say, "Go for it!") I accepted the position and set about the task of learning Latin. I have to admit that, though I tried, I had no idea where to start and got very little accomplished in that first month. But "God doesn't call the prepared, He prepares the called." and He set out that first year to prove once and for all that it was He who was at work - not I. Once school began, never did I sit down to study and learn the material. As I read and planned each lesson, the information clicked into place immediately and fit with the rest to build the picture of Latin I was being given. God gave me what I needed, when I needed it, and not usually long before I needed it.
Now that my second year is drawing to a close, He is still working to supply me with the knowledge I need to do the job He has called me to do. And the more knowledge He gives me, the more I see how much I still have to learn. Learning is a never ending process, and I hope that I never stop learning. There is so much I still have to read and learn and develop before I even have a decent mastery of Latin, much less any of the other subjects in which God has so richly revealed himself. I am convinced that as I (through God's grace) develop my understanding of Latin, I will constantly be presented with new ways to raise the bar and hold myself to a higher academic standard. I stumbled across one of these tonight in an article written in 1912. I know the classical Christian movement is still in its infancy, and I know that it will take time to grow to maturity, as will I. But I pray that God will continue to provide such goals as only He can help me achieve so that my dependence will always be on Him, that my studies in any area will always lead to Him.
Sunday, April 03, 2005
To begin the chapter, Weaver presents a dilemma in which leaders must unite a people are no longer like-minded on fundamental issues. Originally the people were united by a shared belief or common religion. As religion deteriorated and the people became fragmented and individualistic, the leaders were forced to try to unite them again so that they could be led (or rather, so that the leaders could have a group to lead.) The leaders' solution was
"to let religion go but to replace it with education, which supposedly would exercise the same efficacy. The separation of education from religion, one of the proudest achievements of modernism, is but an extension of the separation of knowledge from metaphysics... We include here, of course, the education of the classroom, for all such institutionalized instruction proceeds on the assumptions of the state. But the education which best accomplishes their purpose is the systematic indoctrination from day to day of the whole citizenry through channels of information and entertainment."And so the Great Stereopticon was constructed to so indoctrinate the public.
As Weaver addresses each of the three parts to this machine, he speaks of how each is used in the breakdown of a thinking society. Newspapers, by their bold article titles and carefully worded reports elicit automatic responses.
"Headlines and advertising teem with them [carefully chosen phrases to evoke specific responses of approval or disapproval], and we seem to approach a point at which failure to make the stock response is regarded as faintly treasonable, like refusal to salute the flag."Because of this, journalism becomes something to be feared. So many are not used to thinking that when they feel a response contradictory to the one suggested by the piece, they don't know what to do.
"If our newspaper reader were trained to look for assumptions, if he were conscious of the rhetoric in lively reporting, we might not fear this product of the printer's art; but that woul be to grant that he is educated."This is the education we are seeking to do through Classical Christian education, that most of us did not receive ourselves.
As for Weaver's discussion on movies, I found his ideas of censorship very interesting and inconsistent with those I was raised to hold. On censorship he says,
"For what the public is reconciled to seeing censored are just the little breaches of decorum which fret bourgeios respectability and sense of security. The truth is that these are so far removed from the heart of the problem that they could well be ignored. The thing that needs to be censored is not the length of the kisses but the egotistic, selfish, and self-flaunting hero; not the relative proportion of undraped breast but the flippant, vacuous-minded, and also egotistic heroine. Let us not worry about the jokes of dubious propriety; let us rather object to the whole story, with its complacent assertation of the virtues of materialistic society."And possibly most interesting was his critique of the radio and television. Being an NPR addict myself, I thought, "What could possibly be wrong with NPR?" For the radio and television he states that the problem lies in the "daily mechanical wrecking of hierarchy." Through our daily consumption of these media,
"we are made to grow accustomed to the weirdest of juxtapositions: the serious and the trivial, the comic and the tragic, follow one another in mechanical sequence without real transition."This approach separates us from the reality of our world and feeds us the metaphysical dream of progress, somehow making us feel that though the world is in disarray, it will soon be all better and we need not worry now. Cheerful commentators come on the air to discuss in the same breath the death of Pope John Paul II and the rising gas prices, as through they had equal significance and impact. This fragmentation has never seemed inconsistent to me, but then I have been inundated with it my entire life. It seems no stranger to me that 2 minute commercial breaks (which are divided into four 30 second segments) break up an hour long news show (which is itself broken into four or more segments) than it does that the days are separated into hours and minutes and divided by night. How do we, who are so satiated with the ideas fed us through the Great Stereopticon become free to think and reason without its influence? I'm sure there is much to be said to answer this question and I will continue to think on it, probably for years. But I know my starting place... "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." ~Proverbs 1:7
A really interesting blog on The Great Stereopticon can be found at The Misspent Life.