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    Classical Education: Liberating the Enslaved

    December 14, 2008 by Brandy Vencel

    On Wednesday night, I saw a dear friend. This is one of those friends that I wish I could see more of and for some reason it just doesn’t work out. We all have friends like that. As I inquired about her family, she heaved a big sigh and groaned, “Public school…” She went on to detail the painful education her children were receiving. She described her daughter being given ditto after ditto without any concept learning going on at all. This particular friend of mine was once a teacher herself, and she was heavy on concepts; dittos were extra, something to occasionally supplement, but mostly for substitute teachers.

    I bet my friend was a very good teacher, though I never got to see her in action.

    Anyhow, I’m praying for this friend, who has a deep longing to do right by her children in the area of education.

    The philosophy of classical education, which mostly describes our philosophy here at the homeschool, is completely antithetical to the idea of The Ditto.

    I’ve spent a lot of time here at Afterthoughts working out why exactly we do what we do. So often when we talk about homeschooling, we discuss the benefits. These benefits are many and vary by family and personal esperience. Unfortunately, sometimes the benefits are mistaken for reasons. This is why I wrote my post Why We Homeschool, where I tried to separate out these benefits and focus on the true, timeless reasons.

    Benefits change; reasons should focus on more permanent things.

    In fact, it is the existence of Permanent Things that has caused our family to pursue Classical Education, using Charlotte Mason’s methods when appropriate. I quoted James Taylor quoting John Senior in my post Dewey, Real Education, and the Child With a Soul before, but let me repeat it:

    John Dewey taught that schools are instruments of social change rather than of education, and that is one reason why Johnny neither reads nor writes nor dreams or thinks; but real schools are places of un-change, of the permanent things.

    This is why dittos will never effectively educate a child. Dittos are change in action, a thing that catches the eye and delights for the moment {or perhaps doesn’t…}. Dittos are the newest thing, the latest, coolest subject.

    Unchange. This would be symbolized by the books which reach through the past into the present, which cultivate our moral imaginations, which push us toward virtue.

    I do not pretend to be an expert in Classical Education. My journey has only just begun, and I have eighteen more years {minimum} ahead of me. However, I believe that the foundation of Classical Education could be considered the one unchanging truth that the child has a soul. The personhood of the child {compared to Dewey’s view that the child is “an organism, a Darwinian species”} is central to understanding what is properly meant by the idea of education, and most especially a Classical Liberal Arts Education, which is to say an education which liberates, which makes free.

    Andrew Kern hit one out of the ballpark today when he posted Educating People for Slavery over at Quiddity:

    Speak all you like about the conomic and political ideals of the contemporary school, the education they provide is an education for slaves.


    The free mind is the mind that sees into the nature of things.


    Your goal is to set them free, and that means giving them eyes to see.


    The modern school is an education for slavery. Why would you expect its approaches to work for free people?

    If you read the entire post, you will catch a vision for teaching algebra to a free people. But the vision is for more than just algebra. Kern dares to ask one of the most important questions regarding education:

    If you were educating them to be and think like free people, how would you teach differently? To think that through, you have to ask this question: How does a free person think?

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