Saturday, February 27, 2016

Contemplating Classical Education: Various Types, Part 1 (Christian Classicism and Democratic Classicism)...

A couple weeks ago, I outlined what classical education is and how it has changed over the years according to Dr. Gene Edward Veith, Jr. and Andrew Kern, authors of Classical Education, The Movement Sweeping America. For further insight, I found What is Classical Education?, an article at the CiRCE Institute website.   In Classical Education, The Movement Sweeping America, Veith and Kern go on to explain different types of classical education in chapters 3-6, including Christian Classical, Democratic Classical, Norms and Nobility, and Catholic Classicism.  Today, I'll attempt a summary...

Christian Classical
Classical education has always been nourished by the Christian Church.  The Christian scholar Boethius (c. 480-524) first divided the seven liberal arts into the trivium and quadrivium as part of the early Church's endeavor to understand the relationship between Greco-Roman civilization and Christianity.  The medieval university, which was organized around the liberal arts, was likewise a creation of the Church.  The Protestant Reformation, which proclaimed that lay Christians must read the Bible, championed universal education.  Protestant churches opened thousands of schools in the Old and New Worlds, which nearly always followed the classical model.  (p. 21)
Veith and Kern further assert that parochial education today retains elements of classical education.  As a matter of fact, in 1994 the Association of Classical and Christian Schools (ACCS) was founded to encourage the formation and support of Christian Classical schools as the result of a conference on classical education hosted by Logos School.  Logos School began in 1980.  It was a pilot school created by Douglas Wilson, Senior Minister of Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho, as a gift to his daughter.  ACCS schools are dedicated to Dorothy Sayers understanding of the trivium as Douglas Wilson's ideas were strongly influenced by her essay, "The Lost Tools of Learning".
According to Sayers' essay, the trivium's significance rests on three enduring factors: the need to accumulate tools for learning, the process by which any subject can be learned, and the developmental stages of a child's growth. (p. 24) ACCS education is distinct because it relies on the trivium as an approach to learning while cultivating a Christian outlook on the world.  (p. 26) 
As of the 2013-2014 school year, Veith and Kern report there are over 40,000 students attending 236 schools within the ACCS.
ACCS has also gained considerable global influence. (p. 23)
There are now classical and Christian schools in Norther Iraq, Indonesia, Egypt, and Jordan with the bulk of the students coming from Kurdish Muslim families.  Curriculum developers such as Veritas Press are part of continuing support in the effort of building and maintaining Christian Classical schools in the U.S. and abroad.

For further study, consider Classical Education for Christians, an article written by Doug Wilson or his book, Rediscovering the Lost Tools of Learning.  (I have since read Wilson's book and commented here.)

Democratic Classicism
The two men most responsible for the revival of classical education in this century were Robert Maynard Hutchins, president of the University of Chicago from 1929 to 1951, and Mortimer Adler, leader of the Paideia movement.  Hutchins' academic reforms and curricular innovations served as prototypes for colleges that wanted to provide a genuine liberal arts education.  For Hutchins, classical education was no elitist affectation of the upper class.  Rather, the liberal arts - taught by "The Great Books" of all ages - would offer precisely the kind of education necessary to democracy. Every citizen, he believed, needed to be equipped with the intellectual tools for self-government, personal success, and - in the original sense of the "liberal arts" - freedom. (p. 31)
Veith and Kern note significant differences between schools that follow the ACCS and Paideia models.
ACCS questions the validity of government-run schooling, by contrast, Adler wrote the Paideia Proposal to reform public schooling. Religion is foundational to the ACCS curriculum, and Christianity is the point of integration through which all knowledge is made complete.  The Paideia Proposal does not dismiss the importance of religion, but its approach is more secular, and its foundational principle is democracy. (p. 31-32) 
In 1947, Hutchins and Adler established the Great Books Foundation, with the Great Books Discussion aimed at college students, and in 1962, Junior Great Books, geared more for kindergarten through high school.  Adler was also an editor of The Encyclopedia Britannica and an authored some 50 books as well as many essays, possibly best know by home educators for his book How to Read a Book.  He believed John Dewey was a great American educator and drew inspiration from his writings.

The Democratic Classical education gives all students the same program of study with little or no variation. According to Veith and Kern, there are few true Paideia schools today.  However, various groups aspire to implement parts of the Paideia vision in the hope of reviving Democratic Classicism and the dream of an equal education opportunity. For more information, you may consider reading The Paideia Proposal: An Educational Manifesto by Mortimer Adler.

Given the length and breadth of this post, I will continue another time with Part 2, discussing Norms and Nobility and Catholic Classicism.  For further reading on theory, practice, and schools associated with each of these thoughts on classical education, I highly recommend Classical Education, The Movement Sweeping America by Dr. Gene Edward Veith and Andrew Kern.

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