While appearing to be strange bedfellows, using mathematics to teach English is worthwhile and has a long history stretching back to the classical schools of rhetoric. To couple letters and numbers might appear to many educators as a strained partnership, a view that is probable due to the pervasive tendency of modern schools and universities towards over-specialisation and relativism. While admitting that respective fields of study should have a practical degree of autonomy, this autonomy does not supplant the fundamental principle that undergirds all fields of knowledge – namely the unity that belongs to all truth. “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe," wrote the naturalist John Muir, an observation also reflected in Charlotte Mason’s definition of education as “the science of relations.”
“Beauty will save the world.”
The words of a madman – or of an oracle? My new book - The Revival of Beauty: Aesthetics, Experience and Philosophy - explores two duelling schools of thought: Anti-Aestheticism and Beauty Revivalism. For the former, these words are lunacy: for the later, prophecy.
In his perennial novel The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis’s character of the Professor bemoans the state of modern progressive education. “Logic!” he cries, “Why don’t they teach logic at these schools?” Despite there being many teachers who have read the book and re-read it to their children or students, this pointed question hasn’t really sunk in and continues to go unaddressed. The pursuit of logic vanishes like a summer fog in the clamour of educationalists, politicians and social commentators demanding a greater curriculum focus on literacy, numeracy or – God-forbid! – STEM.
- Written by: Jonathan Hili
As a current graduate student in the great books program at St. John’s College, Annapolis, U.S., I am regularly asked to give an account of what liberal arts education is, and to justify its relevance. I believe that an investigation into the relationship between the terms of liberal education and the liberal arts will help illuminate their relevance and key benefits offered by their advocates.
Emeritus Professor Steven Schwartz AM, FASSA
Whenever I mention classical education, I am often told that such an education is “Catholic,” a way of attracting parents and their children to Catholic schools.
I respond by explaining that the roots of classical education are in the educational systems of Ancient Greece and Rome having developed long before Christianity existed. The classical method has been refined over the centuries, adapting to cultural and societal changes but maintaining its core principles. I talk about the Trivium (Latin for “three ways”) and describe the three stages of Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric.
Dr Kevin Donnelly
The Catholic Weekly, July 5, 2023
As Campion College in Sydney is one of the few tertiary institutions dedicated to the liberal/arts it should not surprise it was chosen as the location for a recent seminar dedicated to exploring the nature and importance of a classical school education.
Much of the debate surrounding schools and education centres on falling standards, teacher quality, school funding and what constitutes the most worthwhile curriculum and effective pedagogy. While such matters are important, more significant is the question: what constitutes the purpose of education? Given the rise of AI and chatbots and the fear humans will soon be replaced by computers, the question is even more urgent.
There is no question that the study and appreciation of poetry have been under active threat or at best regarded with indifference for too long, even in those very places where one might have imagined that their nurturing would have been safeguarded – in school English curricula and university English Departments. Schoolteachers of English are heard to say that they ‘don’t like’ poetry (and, no doubt, say so to their students) and, because of sufficient syllabus flexibility, they can avoid teaching very much of it, or any of it. Many years ago, I met a prospective high-school English teacher who was finishing her studies and already doing some teaching stints in schools. She proudly declared – to me, of all people - that, not liking poetry, she had been able, by a careful negotiation of her choice of courses, to avoid studying poetry almost entirely during her undergraduate years in which she was (nonetheless) majoring in English Literature.
Andrew J. Zwerneman
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School as school just does not cut the proverbial mustard any longer. Fortunately, there is a mounting interest in recovering our bearings about education, and the turn toward an education with classical roots and liberal purposes is catching a great wind in its sails.
After Perugino’s Pietà
And in the granite tenderness
with which she lays her hand
over his long pale body laid out
stiffly across her knees, is written
every mother’s deepest fear, that it should
come to this. She’s set apart;
the portico around her makes sure of that,
framing her in air. And yet—
The mainstream educational landscape stresses an understanding of history that is characterised by an economy of power and oppression. Pierre Bourdieu’s theory of ‘social capital’ verbalises the status of individuals based on the sum total of their group identities, e.g., race, sexuality, and economic class. It is the dominant currency through which students are called to understand their own place in the world. By extension, literature serves as an important discourse through which these phenomena may be articulated.
The Italian Renaissance is rightfully recognised as having rediscovered some of the glory of Ancient Greece and Rome. It did not look back to the past impartially but interpreted it through, and ultimately married it with, a burgeoning Christian humanism. Much of the content of these movements forms the basis of what we understand as Western liberal arts (classical) education, and they arguably found their climax in the eighteenth century through another fusion: the French Enlightenment as expressed in neoclassical art.
- Written by: Jonathan Hili