Monday, March 29, 2010

Norms & Nobility, prologue III

Without any explanation, or apology for the long silence (nearly a year!), I'm blowing the cobwebs out of the blog so I can use it to participate in the discussion of Norms & Nobility by David Hicks, that Cindy is leading from her blog.

I suspect my thoughts might get too unwieldy for the comments section, so I'm posting here and will link from there.

I've read this book before, more than once, and my copy is heavily underscored, with penciled comments in the margins. I talk to my books, and I had plenty to say to this one.

One of the particular points of this discussion (from my perspective, anyway), is to point out where David Hicks' vision of classical education intersects with Charlotte Mason's philosophy of education. In my opinion there is no better book for this job, because it was this book that gave me the first glimmering of how CM's ideas fit into the larger picture.

David Hicks begins to make his case for the importance of normative education, and notes that we have abandoned the normative question (what ought I to do?) for the operational (what can I do?). Anyone familiar with the motto of CM's schools ("I am, I can, I ought, I will") should notice the similarity of the words, and the order in which they occur. I am affirms existence, and I can indicates power to act, but I ought suggests that there are norms/standards by which actions should be governed, and I will is the most important of all--the determination to act, without which, all the previous steps are virtually nullified. All that is required for evil to triumph is for good men nothing. Classical education reaches to the level of "ought" in CM's motto, and attempts to touch "will," but (I'm leaping ahead) David Hicks is going to suggest that this was classical education's failure.

One of the points that Hicks makes in this section is that classical thinking cast man in the station of a servant--serving God, the state, self, something. The nature of his his position was one of service, and it was part of classical education to teach young people to cast in their lot to serve what was best and finest (and they did not always agree on what that was).

David Hicks also hints at something he is going to explore at length later--the analytical method as the exclusive way of thinking taught in modern schools. I would suggest to anyone joining this discussion that if you were educated in a 20th century school, secular or religious, this is the way you were taught to think, if you were taught at all. Since classical education as David Hicks presents it hasn't been implemented except in a few very isolated places, we are all hampered by our tendency to approach new things analytically (and I hear anybody reading this saying to themselves, "what is wrong with that?").

But this is just the preface, so I guess the real meat of any discussion on this point has to come later. I'm looking forward to it.

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At 2:35 AM , Blogger Dominion Family said...

I am so happy I lured you out of hiding. No matter how long you disappear for, I never delete you from my Bloglines because I am always so rewarded by your reading and your words.

The more I learn about CE, the more I have to agree that Charlotte said it best.

At 7:37 AM , Blogger Krakovianka said...

She was brilliant, and I mean it literally. The further afield I range, the more convinced I have become that Charlotte was there before me. AND she was completely self-educated, as most of us have become. If she hadn't been such a product of her Victorian times and had been able to say it all more concisely, I suspect she would be more accessible to impatient modern readers.

At 8:34 PM , Blogger Mama Squirrel said...

Did you ever notice that there are actually two versions of the "I am" statement? The first time it comes up (Vol. 1) it's "I am, I ought, I can, I will." But I taught my kids to say, "I am, I can, I ought, I will." (One of them who couldn't read very well used to say "I orange, I will.") Do you think it makes any difference which order you say it in? (minus the orange)

At 4:40 PM , Blogger they spread the word said...

Delighted to read your commentary and will try and keep up with the discussions.

Dana in GA


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