We are probably not going to get through the chapter in this post either. Each subsection is too meaty to pass over but it is this first chapter of the book which is transformational to the discussion of classical education and we are in no hurry.
In the section titled Defending the Art of Memory Caldecott brings up the famous Dialogue of Plato in the Phaedrus where Socrates "suggests (writing) has a tendency to 'implant forgetfulness' in the souls of men."
Imagine living in a world where it was imperative to remember. Homer lived in that world and that is probably why we still have his words. Imagine now a world where you needn't remember anything because of Google. It is a scary thought. Writing has given us textbooks and textbooks have given us information and now we have Wikipedia and Google. "The written text pretends to master and contain truth. which in reality exceeds anything that one person can grasp."
On the other hand, writing can often be a form of memorization. We may write something down, not to have it on hand for the future but to solidify it in our minds. Do you remember a sermon better if you have taken notes rather than just listened? I am not sure.
Caldecott then makes an important distinction. The point of the Phaedrus is not for us to memorize by rote vast amounts of information.
"But how is this to be achieved? By bringing back rote memorization in schools, and by testing students on their recall of information? Partly, no doubt, but it is worth noting that there is also implicit in Plato a critique of ‘rote’ memory. True human memory is not mechanical repetition; it is an organic assimilation and appropriation. What is remembered is not something other than the self, but something experienced and known through the self. This means that we must probe a little more deeply into the meaning of memory, before we try to work out how to recover it."
Benjamin Jowett in his introduction to the Phaedrus reminds us that what Plato is doing is giving us "a picture not a system." I just love this distinction. Systems get us in trouble. Systems are for machines not humans.
Likewise, Caldecott reminds us that "remembering is inseparable from knowing and loving...."
Augustine then says that education is not about the trivium of remembering, knowing and loving ourselves but rather education is remembering, understanding and loving God.
"This by speaking of Memory or Remembering we are rally speaking of the foundations of attention of the integration of personality, and of the road to contemplation. We are also speaking of 'conscience.'"
Wow!! This is it. This is why we are educating. One of the most intriguing manifestations of education in our day is The Principle Approach. They place great emphasis on conscience using James Madison's famous quote:
"Conscience is the most sacred property of all."
The problem is that there are no shortcuts to this sort of education. The development of the conscience is a delicate matter which can be easily derailed by over-zealous educators as Charlotte Mason warns us over and over again.
Caldecott is telling us that we have a tool to shape the conscience: not memorization but remembering.
What does this mean?
How does it affect our planning?