Kenneth Difff Crowther
If you are a teacher in Australia that has an interest in Classical or Liberal Arts education, a group I call the ‘Classically Inclined’, what should you do?
I ask this very pointed question because it is not only the logical, but also the imperative question to ask. The recent online conference hosted by ACES and CIRCE demonstrated the interest in classical education in Australia. It was heartening to see over 100 virtual attendees in many presentations, most of which were from Australia, not to mention the countless others who have watched the presentations after the fact.
The presentations were true, good, and beautiful. They spoke to the importance of thinking deeply about what it means to be human, the nature of the good life, and the true purpose of education. They presented classical education as an answer to many of the current concerns of contemporary life and culture in the West, and as a viable and important alternative to the educational situation in which we find ourselves in Australia.
But the potential is that we allow it to stay there – in the cerebral, the philosophical, the literary. I have no intention here to discredit or diminish those wonderful presentations; however, what are we now to do? Being convinced of the value of classical education is one thing. But how convinced are we really if it remains merely head knowledge? How convinced are we really if we sit smug in our own understanding, without spreading the awareness of the better way?
There are a great many strategic processes underway across Australia with the intention to see the proliferation, growth and flourishing of classical education in our country. But this should not be the only action. Arguably, without being accompanied by individual movement in individual classrooms across all sectors and stages of education, these large strategies will not gain the traction they need.
So, if you count yourself as one of the Classically Inclined and you have the privilege and weighty responsibility to stand before young people each day and lead them towards truth, beauty, and goodness, then do so. Make sure that it is front and centre of your thinking. Yes, we have HODs and Heads and the National and State Curriculums and NAPLAN and wellbeing and everything else to consider. But it is possible to account for all these things and still teach classically. It is possible to implement the National Curriculum and still lead students to truth, beauty, and goodness. It is possible to teach in any school and reveal the value and reality of virtuous living.
This can be achieved through approaches to curriculum and to pedagogy. In curriculum, if you have the scope to make selections for novels in an English class, choose a classic, and make sure it is read first and foremost to be enjoyed, not pulled apart, deconstructed, critically analysed, and destroyed in the process. But don’t be too ambitious. Forcing Crime and Punishment down the throats of barely literate fifteen-year-olds will make few converts to the inherent value of reading great books. Meet your students where they are, while showing them somewhere better they can be.
In pedagogy, most of theby Dr. Christopher Perrin. Watch the video, do the things.
For Classical Education to flourish in Australia, it cannot remain as mere lofty ambitions, philosophical belief-systems, or self-righteous judgements upon the status quo. It needs to be enacted and embodied in classrooms, by real teachers with real students. It is possible, and it’s possible to start right now.