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    The DtK Book Club {Introduction}

    January 7, 2014 by Brandy Vencel

    I never know how to write about an introduction. An introduction is, by definition, incomplete. It usually asks more questions than it answers. It is often overly simplistic — but all the while making promises to make one wise if one will only keep reading.

    So far, I’ve kept reading. In fact, I’ve read this introduction three times now. Surely this portends great things.


    So, are you going to be reading along with us? Have you bought your copy yet? If not, we are only in the introduction, meaning there is still time.

    The thing that baffles me about this introduction is that the author is quoting some of the greats without actually quoting them, if that makes sense. Isn’t it amazing how good ideas are so universally true, to the point where we can arrive at them by different paths? I mean, Smith is writing a book on education without quoting many of the educationalists, right? At least, not the ones we’ve been reading around here over the years.

    So Smith writes:

    What if education, including higher education, is not primarily about the absorption of ideas and information, but about the formation of hearts and desires? {p. 17}

    And I’m thinking about CS Lewis’ wonderful little essay collection, The Abolition of Man.

    Again Smith writes:

    What if the primary work of education was the transforming of our imagination rather than the saturation of our intellect? {p. 18}

    And I’m checking the index to see if he cites Russell Kirk — and his somewhat famous concept of the moral imagination — anywhere.

    Smith starts discussing the power of liturgy — and here he defines the term broadly, rather than strictly — and he says:

    [E]very liturgy constitutes a pedagogy that teaches us, in all sorts of precognitive ways, to be a certain kind of person…[I]mplicit in them is an understanding of the world that is precognitive, that is on a different register than ideas. {p. 25}

    And I’m wondering if Smith has ever read my favorite book ever, ever, EVER, James Taylor’s Poetic Knowledge.

    When Smith says,

    I will propose that the primary goal of Christian education is the formation of a peculiar people… {p. 34}

    he’s not saying it the same way that David Hicks said it in Norms and Nobility, but I was one who heard the echoes, nonetheless. Isn’t that really what Hicks meant when he said the goal of true education is virtue?

    Reading the introduction was like walking through a hallway and noting pictures of old friends, and yet…and yet the hallway is new. This is what I’m enjoying about Smith. Because he hasn’t read the books we’ve read, he’s saying it in a different way, which, I think, tends to round out the understanding.

    I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to read more.

    More DtK Book Club Introduction posts can be found over at Mystie’s blog!

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  • Reply Pilgrim January 9, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    Thank you for pointing out all the ways that this work is tied, in thought and theme, to others. I know that in past posts about this book Cindy mentioned that the tone of the work bothered her. I wonder if it’s, in part, because he seems to think that these are somewhat new thoughts, newly rediscovered, when actually he is part of an intellectual stream (possibly unknowingly) that we are familiar with. So what he sees as a novel understanding (his vocabulary and approach is different) is not as unique as he might think. We have other authors and books playing in the back of our minds that apparently he is not as familiar with. Anyway, thank you for tying streams of thought together.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel January 9, 2014 at 4:11 pm

      I think I’ve hit the place of “tone” actually. He’s doing exactly what Cindy said: debunking America, and patriotism in general. He seems to confuse patriotism with jingoism and throw the baby out with the bath water.

      If I remember correctly, Cindy’s concern was not exactly this, but that he was debunking in general, which is what Lewis warns against in The Abolition of Man. I was/am concerned that he discarded patriotism as a school of love.

    • Reply Lisa A January 9, 2014 at 7:34 pm

      I agree with what Pilgrim says about how it seems that maybe he thinks that he is presenting new ideas, when he’s actually saying many things that have been said before. The way he says it though is definitely different and I think that’s a good thing, because sometimes different people need different words to receive the same message. If you look at his sources, he doesn’t draw much (or really at all) from authors who write specifically about education, his influences seem to be other philosopher types and people who’ve written about worship and culture as such. So I guess for him to take what they’ve written and apply it to education *is* new and different – from their perspective. From our perspective, as people who have been immersing ourselves in this stream of thought, it is like another confirmation of what we have found, and are continually finding, to be true. He has come to it by a different path and because of that he offers fresh ways of looking at it.

      It’s funny though, because the more I read on education, the more I go back to Charlotte Mason, realizing that she’s already said it, and said it well. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Mary Frances January 9, 2014 at 4:04 am

    I’ve not read any of the books that you mentioned so I found it very interesting to see that this book will deal with the same sort of issues that those books do.

    And, also, thanks for the reminder that it IS okay to read things more than once! I forget that.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel January 9, 2014 at 4:13 pm

      It is…unless you’re going to narrate in a PNEU classroom. Then: watch out! πŸ˜‰

  • Reply Jen January 8, 2014 at 1:31 pm

    I love it when people who don’t necessarily have anything to do with the CM movement draw conclusions similar to what she did. I saw CM and Poetic Knowledge all through the intro too! (And agree with the previous comment about this post being dangerous – there are now more books on my TBR pile too. Norms and Nobility, especially. For someday anyhow. So many books, so little time.)

    • Reply Brandy Vencel January 9, 2014 at 4:15 pm

      N&N is a great book. You’ll get there. πŸ™‚ Right now I can’t believe the price on that book! I think I bought it for $19 way back when, and I thought *that* was expensive! I wish David Hicks would reissue and bring the price down.

    • Reply Jen January 11, 2014 at 8:40 am

      I may just have to splurge on it at some point. My goal is to read it sometime before we hit the HEO years, since I know HEO is based somewhat on his ideas. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Virginia Lee January 8, 2014 at 7:10 am

    Ok, this post was dangerous and wonderful. I do believe I have just added more books to my TBR pile. Poetic Knowledge is just popping up all over the place. And I did see some of Mason in his introduction. Not TONS but some. It will be interesting to see how Smith fleshes everything out in the chapters to come.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel January 8, 2014 at 10:59 pm

      I think you’ll see a lot more Mason as we move on! At least, I did my first time through the first couple chapters. πŸ™‚

  • Reply Mystie January 8, 2014 at 4:17 am

    It does appear that he’s going the same direction, but arriving by a different avenue, by different books and threads of thought. It makes it a fresh look and more than a rehash or development. I’m really enjoying it.

  • Reply Corinna January 8, 2014 at 12:10 am

    Hi and welcome to a brand new, exciting year. I really enjoy being inspired by you so thanks for the effort you put into your musings here. Oh and I really like the new look you have created. Very calm and pleasing on the eyes (and I’m sure very user friendly but I haven’t spend much time here yet today). I also wanted to say that your words here have set my mind to thinking, in a very good way. So maybe, just maybe, I need to add Smith’s book to my early this year reading list….then I read the couple comments/replies above and any doubt about reading it was resolves – Charlotte Mason / Smith, Yes Please.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel January 8, 2014 at 10:50 pm

      I’m glad you like the new look. I admit it made me a little nervous at first, but I’m adjusting, and I *do* think it’s easier to find things now that it’s less cluttered. πŸ™‚

      I definitely think you should read Smith! πŸ™‚

  • Reply dawn January 7, 2014 at 4:34 pm

    I agree. And, when I read parts of it before, I scoured the index for Charlotte Mason, certain that she would be highly quoted simply by what Smith said, but she *wasn’t* I was astounded.

    • Reply Brandy Vencel January 7, 2014 at 4:38 pm

      I keep thinking that someone should tell him to read CM. He’s like her, I think! πŸ™‚

    • Reply Lisa A January 7, 2014 at 5:17 pm

      I agree. I scoured the index for her as well! πŸ™‚
      You put it well, Brandy – the idea that all these ideas we’ve come across before are here.. in a new way.

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