Monday, May 16, 2016

Contemplating Classical Education: Various Types, Part 2 (Norms & Nobility and Catholic Classicism)....

It's been a couple of months, but I'm finally getting back to Classical Education: The Movement Sweeping America by Veith and Kern.  In this part 2, I aim to further my contemplation's on the various types of classical education.  You can view Part 1 here, which reflects on Christian Classical and Democratic Classicism.

Norms and Nobility

Much has been made in the Classical Education revival movement of David Hicks' Norms and Nobility: A Treatise on Education.  This less than two hundred page treatise was originally published in the early 1980's, but has since been reissued.  Hicks is the first to confess that his writing was not originally intended for a book with a variable audience in mind.

In the 1970's, Hicks was hired to write a curricula for the Westminster School in Atlanta, GA.  As part of his research process, he had the privilege of traveling to the best schools to get ideas for the development of his curricula.  As time went on, he decided to publish his findings so people could see what Classical Education is and what it was attempting to achieve.  His hope was then that parents and teachers would come up with their own ideas on how best to put those findings into practice in their own schools and homeschools.

In Classical Education, The Movement Sweeping America, Veith and Kern, say this about Hicks' book...
In his book, Norms and Nobility: A Treatise on Education (1981), Hicks develops these ideas into a comprehensive theory of education.  He places special emphasis on the importance of teaching morality and fostering virtue that characterizes the classical approach to learning but noticeable by its absence in most contemporary schools. Norms and Nobility offers a modern curriculum and methodology based on classical standards and ideals.... (pg. 48)
Veith and Kern further assert that "If the ACCS offers a Christian classicism and Paideia champions a democratic classicism, Hicks can be described as a spokesman for what he calls a 'normative classicism'."  I believe this to mean normative as of or relating to a norm, especially an assumed norm regarded as the standard of correctness in behavior, speech, writing, etc. and classicism meaning the ideas and styles that are common in the literature, art, and architecture of ancient Greece and Rome and/or a traditional style of art, literature, music, architecture, etc., that is usually graceful and simple with parts that are organized in a pleasing way.   Veith and Kern also suggest Hicks "...finds inspiration in the ideals of Plato.  He builds his educational theory on a search for the ideal and a condition that education should be a path to virtue".

In theory, according to Veith and Kern, Hicks argues that ancient education looks very different from modern education.
The present clash is between the normative and the analytical.  In the ancient world, teachers and students learned together in an atmosphere dominated by what Hicks calls the Ideal Type. The Ideal Type is an image of the fully developed human being.  
Because educators accepted the Ideal as a model or prototype, their instruction was aimed at cultivating within individuals what we now call "the whole person."  The educational Ideal informed what the individual aspired to become; it expressed what religion taught as God's will for mankind; and it incorporated the most elevated components of what classical culture held up for admiration.
The rise of "modern" philosophy changed all that.  The Ideal Type was replaced by scientific method, which reduced the reality of the Ideal to the particularity of atomized individuals whose traits could be measured.  (pg. 50-51)
Charlotte Mason addressed this same issue in Principle 12, which states 'Education is the Science of Relations'.  She believed in providing a broad and liberal education for all children in order to cultivate "those first-born affinities", rather than teaching to the test or providing a utilitarian education.

Hicks also advocates cultivating virtue in lieu of merely helping students become successful in a career.  He suggests that we rely on dialectic, the art of investigating, to teach virtue, as "Everything begins with the question." This should be done using good books, i.e. classic literature.
...classical schools should be selective about what students read.  Such schools will prefer time-honored books to those that superficially reflect current trends.  History will be studied without cynicism, and ancient soul-nourishing myths, folk tales, and Bible stories will be cherished.  Even science will be taught in light of virtue.  (pg. 52)
In Classical Education..., Veith and Kern explain Hicks' use of dogma, which is a Greek word meaning 'that which seems good' in teaching truth.
Classical teachers must be dogmatic teachers in the sense that they cannot be skeptical or neutral toward knowledge.  Instead, they must be committed and responsible to knowable truth.  (pg. 53)
The student accepts dogma, but as the teacher and student read, they question, or use dialectic, "to reformulate dogma to better align with truth".

This chapter holds some really great information that I will not further give away here, but suffice to say, I hope to someday read Norms and Nobility for myself.  If you're interested in more information regarding David Hicks and/or Norms and Nobility, may I suggest this podcast between David Hicks and Matt Bianco,  this CiRCE Institute Q&A Podcast with David Hicks, or this CiRCE Magazine interview with David Hicks.   Brandy Vencel at Afterthoughts blog also did a series of posts relating her thoughts on Norms and Nobility against some of Charlotte Mason's theory.

Catholic Classicism
No institution has a longer tradition or more vigorous claim to classical education than the Catholic school.  While only a few Catholic schools refer to themselves as classical, Catholic education has always contained a classical element, and today there are a variety of classical forms within the orbit of Catholic education, including home schools., home school co-operatives, parochial schools, and private schools.  Though a relatively small movement, classicism has a long heritage and a natural home within Catholicism.  (pg. 59)
I attended a Catholic school from 1st through 8th grade.  I am no longer a practicing Catholic, but I have always felt privileged by the wonderful elementary education I received in comparison to my public high school counterparts.

Veith and Kern point out the excellence of Catholic education as being rooted in tradition.  The history of Catholic education dates back to the early church fathers beginning with Cassiodorus in the sixth century, Thomas Aquinas in the Middle Ages, Ignatius Loyola and the Jesuits in the sixteenth century, John Baptist de la Salle in the seventeenth century, and Elizabeth Ann Seton in the U.S. in the early 1800's.  With the rise of Catholic schools, came a conflict with dominant Protestant culture eventually sparking the 1834 burning of a Catholic convent and the 1844 Philadelphia Bible riots.   As a result, state funding was ended for Catholic schools.  To no avail, the Catholics instead embraced the change and enrollment in Catholic schools increased, peaking in 1965 at over 6 million students.  Sadly, a great decline has occurred for a variety of reasons since.

The theory of Catholic Classicism, as cited by Veith and Kern, outlines five qualities of Catholic schools.  First, Catholic education forms the whole child with "eyes fixed on a vision of God."  "Second, Catholic schools are founded on a Christian anthropology - a term that means "an understanding of man" and that comes from the Greek word for 'man,' anthropos."  Third, the school is developed as community based on teamwork among all involved, interaction of students and teachers, and the school's physical environment and appearance.  Fourth is a distinct Catholic Worldview.  And, fifth, Catholic schools attempt to maintain staff "who meet the standards of doctrine and integrity of life essential to maintaining and advancing a school's Catholic identity."  Veith and Kern further assert,
These five characteristics of Catholic education mesh well with the four characteristics of classical education presented in this book, namely: a high view of man, logocentricity, a respect for the Western tradition, and a pedagogy that concentrates its efforts on a true classical liberal arts education. (pg. 65)
Catholic education is rooted in a tradition that values a sense of history.  (pg. 65)
Catholic schools prioritize the liberal arts, emphasizing knowledge, thought, communication, and conversation.  (pg. 65)
Catholic schools promote personalism over individualism.   (pg. 65)
If you are interested in learning more about the practice of Catholic Classicism, Designing Your Own Classical Curriculum by Laura Berquist is a great place to start.  "Berquist founded Mother of Divine Grace School in 1995, and it now serves about 4,000 students. It is accredited and licensed in California and provides home schooling legal and curricular assistance to families."   The Kolbe Academy is another excellent resource, as is Seton Home Study School.

This wraps up the various types of Classical Education as outlined by Veith and Kern in Classical Education, The Movement Sweeping America.  There are a few chapters left that I will attempt to outline as I read and ideas are sparked.

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