Doesn’t it feel like we are living in times of chaos? I mean… educational chaos. Everywhere I look. Everywhere I read. Everyone seems to be an “expert.” An expert at something. Doesn’t seem like your kids are guinea pigs in the classroom? Doesn’t it seem like politicians want to raise your kids? We parents, too, have a wide range of school choices: we can choose public, private, homeschool, charter… And if we choose homeschool–we have a dizzying array of curriculum to choose from. What do we choose?
I choose classical education. It’s been around for 2500 years. The method is timed and tested and proven to be the best form of education. The roots of classical educations dates back to Greece. In Greece, to educate means raising virtuous and able citizens. Instilling core values, enunciating standards, and setting moral precepts. It offered nothing less than membership in a culture.
American education fails in so many ways to bring up kids that can enter into an “American culture”. What is the American culture, anyway? Is it that we speak one language, eat same food, want the same luxuries…? Our education teach our kids only practical skill, if that.
A traditional classical education per the Greeks, formed kids in NOT just in terms of politics but formed kids spirituality. Their goal was to raising kids to be happy–a healthy soul. This was the greatest good any person can aspire to be in life. This method trained citizens to fulfill their duties and prepared FREE people for a life beyond the marketplace.
This idea is in direct contrast to what our kids in America are taught today. Our kids are more depressed today than they ever were and they are less prepared today to live a life outside the marketplace.
So what does education today consist of? reading and STEM. Today, teachers are so confused and bewildered by what they need to do to get the kids functioning in society that they miss the point about what it takes to raise a well-trained citizen.
The Greeks focused on giving their kids (boys, really) enkuklios paideia. In other words, ‘full circle of learning’–education meant teaching the seven arts: grammar (which included literary studies, rhetoric, dialectic, arthmatic, music, geometry, astronomy. These were the core subjects. You couldn’t be truly educated then if you didn’t master all seven of the liberal arts–these subjects were what made you a FREE man.
In Rome, the Romans quickly instituted the Greek method. And a child didn’t begin primary studies until age 7. My son’s age. Then, coming under the tutelage of the teacher of grammar (includes the parts of the speech and great works of the culture).
A normal day in the classical school included saying the previous day’s work–reading aloud and copying a piece from a book. Listening and taking notes, memorizing and repeating a list of nouns or lines of verses, discussing grammar, etc.
What’s interesting about Greek education in ancient times is that after elementary, you would either continue to a school of rhetoric or something else. If he continued to the school of rhetoric, it would prepare him to give speeches. The goal was to develop a command of the resources of language and be able to to say the same thing in many different ways. The schoolboy would learn to not express his feelings and experiences but to “elaborate and adorn his theme along accepted lines–to paraphrase, for example, a moral maxim and support it by a simile, example, and quotation”–hence he was developing a speaking skill. In high school, at age 15 to 18 or so, the student would attend lectures. Then, the student would graduate and may continue his studies or something else.
A classical education is holistic. The aim is to form the emotions, the will, and the aesthetic sense. It develops a love for the good, the true, and the beautiful. The goal is to form people that are knowledgeable and virtuous.
Classical education is conservative. It gives each generation the best ideas of the world.
Classical education is literary. It leads students to proficiency in language. It is the soundest method.
Lastly, classical education is based on the study of two languages: Latin and Greek.
What does this have to do with today’s education chaos? Neither the district leaders or the teachers truly understand how to give students a world class education. Because our leaders today, aren’t a knowledgeable or virtuoso lot. The best that these leaders came up with is that “reading isn’t just about decoding words.” Oh my lord, help us.
The problem isn’t that you pick from a gazzillion different standard of curriculum but that you instill a knowledgeable and virtuous lot of people by the time they graduate. That can be the next leaders in the world. Currently, after my generation the X generation, I don’t believe we have a knowledgeable and virtuous lot of people that can lead a free nation. And I don’t believe we can continue to be a free nation if our schools continue teaching the way they do.
Great thinkers with a strong background in grammar can close skills gaps of literacy for our students and ensure a literate lot of thinkers and leaders.