Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Norms & Nobility, prologue IV

Cindy isn't letting the grass grow under her feet with this discussion, so I'm moving along at her pace.

For me, the most important question in this section is this:

"What is the connection between how a man thinks and how he acts?"

Much of the modern classical movement (as I have encountered it) is taken up with "how a man thinks." Developing the skills (mostly involving the use of language) that classical education made use of may have a value in and of itself, but so does learning how to reupholster furniture. However, the skilled use of words is no end in itself, and does not ensure classical education any more than the skilled use of a gun ensures a fine policeman. Both the sword and pen can serve evil as well as good, and it is only as education lifts the character of the pupil, so that he desires to do what is right, and has some clear sense of what is right (or at least how to discover right) that it deserves to be called "classical."

Classical education is an education of the spirit of man, not just his mind. Those who are distracted with techniques "resemble the farmer who tries to plow a field with his eyes on the plow rather than on that imaginary point on the horizon on which he must fix his gaze if he expects to leave a straight furrow." That imaginary point is the ideal, and if we deny that there is any ideal to strive for, David Hicks says we deny the human spirit.

He also says the supreme task of education is "to teach the young to know what is good, to serve it above self, to reproduce it, and to recognize that in knowledge lies this responsibility."

My own conviction is that anyone deeply committed to a Biblical education will find much about the classical tradition (as it really was) that resonates with scriptural truths. The need for humility as we seek to know, the ideal to strive for, the sense of duty and obligation that accompanies knowledge--all these matter to anyone who wants to raise Christian children, whether they have a professed interest in classical education or not.

And to give CM her chance, here is a quote from vol. 5, Formation of Character, which touches on the question of knowledge and action:

To know is not synonymous with to do; but we should not leave our young people to stumble on right action without any guiding philosophy of life; the risks are too great. We who bear the name of Christ do not always give ourselves the trouble to realise how His daily labour was to make the Jews know; how 'ye will not understand' was the reproach He cast upon them. Even with the example of our Master before us, we take small pains to make our young people realise the possibilities of noble action that lie in them and in everyone.

I'll definitely be quoting more from the oft-neglected Volume 5 later. I don't blame anyone for not working through it--there are a lot of extraneous, non-relevant things in there--but this volume of Charlotte Mason's is probably the one that best articulates the classical nature of her philosophy. She even quotes Plutarch on education.

What is the connection between how a man thinks and how he acts? As we say in Poland, zobaczymy (we'll see).


At 8:30 PM , Blogger Brandy Afterthoughts said...

I appreciate all of your comments so far! I came over here via Cindy's blog, and I'm sure glad that I did.

I am actually reading through Volume 5 right now, and I really wish I had read it earlier as my children have a few bad habits I am now trying to use CM's advice to break them of. I find myself skipping chapters, though. Still, it is definitely worthy of reading, and I'm glad you are recommending it.!


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