Former Prime Minister, the Hon John Howard OM AC, sat down with Campion College President Dr Paul Morrissey to discuss the state of education in Australia, and why a traditional liberal arts education is so crucial to the future of the country.
The notion of a well-trained mind is familiar to the classical educator and the aim of this training is equally transparent: to engender wisdom and virtue. In 1972 Professor László Dobszay, referred to the music pedagogy of the great 20th Century musicologist, composer and philosopher Zoltán Kodály when he asserted that adding a well-trained ear, heart and hand would allow the human spirit to “even today overcome the apparent destiny of history” (Dobszay, 1972). What may we glean from Kodály’s pedagogical approach? How are a well-trained ear and a well-trained heart connected? How is this connection important to classical education?
Annie Proulx, who is incapable of writing an imperfect sentence and whose prose is more genuinely poetic than much that passes for ‘poetry’ today, reflects, in Bird Cloud, that ‘sometimes I don’t know what poetry is’. She will ’stumble into and around poetry, frequently knocked sideways’ by it. But she certainly recognises it when it is genuine, citing a poem ‘I liked so much I almost fell over’. Real poems, for Proulx, have a kind of physical force and impact, being possessed of the ‘Thing Which Cannot Be Explained’.
In the late 1960s, a group of inmates in South Africa’s notorious Robben Island prison, staged a performance of Antigone, Sophocles’ 2000-year-old tragedy. One prisoner, with little stage experience, was keen to participate. His name was Nelson Mandela.
In his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, Mandela describes his role as King Creon:
At the outset, Creon is sincere and patriotic, and there is wisdom in his early speeches when he suggests that experience is the foundation of leadership and that obligations to the people take precedence over loyalty to an individual.
English in a nutshell (thanks for that metaphor Shakespeare!) is all about storytelling. At one of our English Teachers Association conferences author of The Book Thief, Mark Zusak, stated that “really, what we are made of are stories.” Stories that are full of tragedy and triumph, ups and downs, birth, rebirth, death, happiness and sadness, destruction and creation, colourful characters and dialogue. In the most simplistic sense, people’s life can be understood as have a beginning, a middle and an end. Everyone here, has an individual story of their life. And as a community here at Northside we have a collective, corporate story about who we are and what our task is, and where we are headed. Beyond these stories though, is a larger story. A metanarrative. The bible is that story and it is a story about who God is, and who we are in relation to Him. This grand narrative of the world and humankind’s place within it invites our students to consider that this ultimate author may have written a part for them to play in His story of redemption.
The English essayist and humourist, Max Beerbohm, once remarked that, after reading a single paragraph of a work, he knew whether the author had received a classical education. He based this judgment, not on the display of learning or the citing of classical references, but simply on the quality of the writing. Having received a classical education at Oxford, he extolled the virtues of Latin in cultivating precision in the use of language and the expression of clear thought.
Mathematics has always been a core part of western education, from the medieval quadrivium to the large amount of arithmetic and algebra still compulsory in high schools. It is an essential part. Its commitment to exactitude and to rigid demonstration balances humanist subjects devoted to appreciation and rhetoric as well as giving the lie to postmodernist insinuations that all “truths” are subject to political negotiation.
As a poet and editor, this is a sentiment I’ve heard expressed more than once, albeit less bluntly. And I can’t help thinking that it’s a very modern question: our twenty-first century world increasingly values those activities which can be linked to tangible and financially lucrative ‘outcomes’ over others. This is reflected in turn in current trends in education, both in Australia and overseas.
While preparing for our Parent Practicum on 28 June, I have had the marvelous opportunity to dwell on yet again, the fifteen tools that Classical Conversations promotes and teaches to gift your child (and yourself) a classical education. These are not new, they are derived from the classical style of learning from centuries before with Aristotle and Plato, and they really help to train the brain to think classically.
People often ask, 'What is the best age to start Latin with children?". This brief article will look at a new program coming out of the University of Dallas, which, using Classical pedagogy, presents Latin to children in a meaningful and engaging way from a very young age.
Andrew J. Zwerneman
At the heart of an authentic classical education is the range of studies we call the humanities. Together, they are the principal means by which we learn what it is we hold in common as humans: our nature, the human condition, our origins, and our common purposes.
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.
Education is born free and everywhere is in chains. The quote may be mistaken but I trust the sentiment is not: the mass of contemporary schooling is anything but liberal, being the servile follower of every fad and fashion that descends out of academia’s ivory tower like mana from heaven. A generation ago, information technology was touted as the new summum bonum for students; since then, we’ve had open-plan classrooms with flexible or project-based learning and, more recently, STEM. All the while, the gap between young people’s years in school and their basic competencies in reading, writing and arithmetic is growing further and further apart. Why is this happening?
- Written by: Jonathan Hili
Why we need a classical renewal? This was the theme of a conference hosted by the Circe Institute, with the support of the Australian Classical Education Society. Held in April over two days, expert speakers, from both the USA and Australia, spoke about the importance and benefits of a classical education.
Dr Paul Morrissey, principal of Campion College, Australia’s only tertiary college dedicated to the study of the liberal arts, reminded listeners that wisdom is a most fundamental principle for the education of our young. It is a principle, or more accurately, in the words of Dr Morrissey, a “virtue,” that is often neglected in today's modern education system.
- Written by: Joe Capuana
After the wave of inspiration and connection arising from the ‘Renewal’ conference a group of us in Queensland were fortunate enough to meetup on Monday, 11th April. This was the first of hopefully many face-to-face meetups that will serve the Classical Education community in South East Queensland.
- Written by: Sarah Flynn