“The most extraordinary thing in the world is an ordinary man and an ordinary woman and their ordinary children." G K Chesterton

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Dorothy Who?

Being that I live my life in hyperbole (8 boys?), I will now say something fantastical. If all we had of this book, Beauty in the Word, was the Introduction, we would have a much better guide to education than Dorothy Sayers' (still my favorite writer), treatise on the trivium. I have nothing against Dorothy's essay only I wish some people hadn't read it.

Stratford Caldecott is da bomb.

First he quotes an obscure work titled The Didascalicon of someone named Hugh of Saint Victor and in a twinkling of the quote we have the fog part on the trivium:

‘Grammar is the knowledge of how to speak without error; dialectic is clear-sighted argument which separates the true from the false; rhetoric is the discipline of persuading to every suitable thing.’

Then Caldecott takes up the clay and remolds it once again so that we can finally 'get it.'

"That is the reason you will find the chapter on Grammar headed ‘Remembering,’ the one on Dialectic headed ‘Thinking,’ and the one on Rhetoric headed ‘Speaking.’ I wanted to emphasize the fact that we are discussing the fundamental skills of humanity itself. So under ‘Remembering’ I reflect on the birth of language and how Being reveals itself in speech. Under ‘Thinking’ I am concerned more precisely with the use of language to reveal what is true and what is not, and the question of how we know which is which. Under ‘Speaking’ I look at how we communicate what we know to others within a moral community of free persons."

Once he nails down the word 'remembering' we are like birds set free. We are, indeed, free-free from the chains of grammar. Yes, yes, we want to teach grammar but we want to teach it as free men not slaves.

Then Caldecott channels our dear Charlotte, as he should:

"The seven liberal arts were in any case never intended to constitute the whole of education. They were embedded in a broader tradition of paideia or human formation, which included ‘gymnastics’ for the education of the body and ‘music’ for the education of the soul (terms that have changed and narrowed in meaning over the centuries)."

Finally, he begins, in the Introduction no less, to explore the connections between the poetics and the sciences. I am telling you that this is a vast unexplored country and wildly exciting for the future. Poetry is the key to so many things. If that does not make sense to you now, take it on faith for the future of your little scientists, mathematicians and musicians.

"This is what I am searching for in the present book. Inadequate though my answers may be, I know the questions are valid. Rationality and poetry, science and art, need not be opposed. After all, we owe scientific breakthroughs as much to great acts of imagination as to feats of observation or calculation (one thinks of Einstein trying to picture running alongside a beam of light,..."

Read a biography of Einstein if you need further proof. Great men have great imaginations. Remember that as you plan your next school year.

"It must be possible to use this intrinsic connection between reason and imagination to overcome the alienation between the humanities and sciences."

I highlighted much more in the intro but I am getting away from the ideal length of a blog post.

I just love this book so much...in my best Holly Hunter accent.


Also read Pollinating Imaginations

17 comments:

  1. I was excited that you are blogging through Beauty in The Word. I look forward to reading your reflections - even if it is more informal. I will also be blogging because after I listened to Jenny Rallens talk about lectio, meditatio and compositi, I realized that blogging helps me to do that better. For the introduction I just pulled quotes to show how he defines Christian Classical Education. Thank you also for your thoughts about the Catholic influence on this work and the tradition. I actually emailed a Catholic friend after I first read this introduction because it brought up some questions for me. I also agree that this is a more wholistic view of education than the derivitives of Sayers. I guess that is another reason for blogging because I have many friends strongly influenced by that strain of thought. http://pollinatingimaginations.blogspot.com/2014/03/beauty-in-word-introduction.html

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    1. Pilgrim--Is there a link to the Jenny Rallens talk you mentioned? I don't remember her using those categories in the SCL talk on liturgy. Did I miss a talk there?

      --Jami

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  2. I posted my thoughts on one sentence today. And ended up with more questions than answers. You did a much better job of talking about what Caldecott is talking about. LOL

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  3. "Great men have great imaginations." That sentence should be a large part of the foundation for my school year next year.

    I just finished reading the introduction but I have to go to work so I have no time to comment on it much except to say that I love the be-think-speak triad. I need to think about this more and perhaps I'll even get a blog post up about it this weekend. Thank you for recommending this book. I can already tell how much I'm going to like it by the number of sentences I underlined in the introduction. :)

    Joy

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  4. "I have nothing against Dorothy's essay only I wish some people hadn't read it." and "Stratford Caldecott is da bomb."

    You are *so* funny. That first sentence there is going to have me snickering to myself the rest of the week.

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    1. I need an "I agree" or "like" for this. I giggled at the same points ... and I only have 1 son.

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    2. I laughed over "only I wish some people hadn't read it" too. Very funny, Cindy.

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  5. First off I have got to say I often feel so simple and you are just so far above me in your understanding of education and then you throw out a Raising Arizona reference! (you had another something the other day too...I'll have to go find it) Thanks for that. :) That is EXACTLY how I felt when I read the word "remembering". The next part in the Introduction that spoke to me was "Too often we have not been educating our humanity. We have been educating ourselves for doing rather than for being."

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    1. Funny, I just realized you linked to that scene, I second guessed myself after clicking publish...so good to know I am not just being random. When my son is driving I try to practice my calm voice "turn here honey."

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    2. I love obscurity, Roberta, so I put up the Raising Arizona without the link at first. Then I second-guessed myself and added the link :)

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  6. Education, trivium, blah, blah...I just love the Holly Hunter reference! :) She's one of my favs.

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  7. Cindy, I LOVE you! Thank you for this post, I was just reading the intro. last night and kept underlining all the amazing concepts. Thank you for making this subject come alive even more! I look forward to the rest of the discussion and I will do my best to keep reading along with you. God bless you!

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  8. ‘Grammar is the knowledge of how to speak without error; dialectic is clear-sighted argument which separates the true from the false; rhetoric is the discipline of persuading to every suitable thing.’

    Yes, I marked that down too.
    Did I mention that I love that I am reading this *with* you?
    Well, I am. You make me feel smarter. You and Brandy.
    Like listening to "classical" music. Yes, I just put you in that category. :)

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  9. I decided to write down some more connections I made from the introduction to other education things I've read and heard.

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  10. I'm re-reading along too. This is the perfect book to read during "catalog season" isn't it? It's already helping me to refocus my priorities and not get swept away by all of the the new! shiny! products out there.

    I liked the section on how revelation alters the way subjects are taught and the relationships between them. Because all things hold together in Christ and we are in Christ. All subjects become *interesting* because we desire to know truth. "There are no 'boring' subjects--nothing can be ugly or pointless unless we make it so, turning our backs on the Giver of Being." That made me think of two things. Charlotte Mason's idea of education being the science of relationships. And Andrew Kern's frequent encouragement that all things are ours in Christ. But as Caldecott says, knowing by revelation how Christ is before all things and in all things alters the way subjects are taught and I know I very often make things boring, ugly, or pointless. And then my children scorn the lesson because I got in the way.

    --Jami

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    1. That is a toughie, Jami. It takes courage to not make subjects boring because that is all we know really. Did you see that CAP link to the article about lectures? That made me feel better about how I can't stay focused during long sermons and find them almost pointless. It is true for me that whatever I get out of a sermon often comes at the very beginning or maybe the very end when I have tuned back in. It all goes back to short lessons, too. Most things are interesting if we don't beat them to death.

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  11. Jami, my thoughts too. I posted here: http://wp.me/p3qJ0e-P mostly about Caldecott’s comments on how the Incarnation informs and coheres education. As believers, everything we study tells us something about God. DH and I had an interesting conversation about this today—about how it’s so exciting and peace-giving to know that God’s got a plan to all the complexity and beauty that we don’t yet understand. If we didn’t believe in His providence, I can imagine that studying the world around us would be nerve-racking, since the only “order” to it all would be natural selection. But having God to cohere the universe certainly makes studying anything exciting because it all leads back to Him!

    Cindy, I’m so glad to have found your blog. This book has been patiently waiting its turn on my shelf since Christmas and I’m glad to have folks to discuss it with!

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