Friday, March 4, 2011

Classical Education

The books housed in the display case outside the of library include a 1942 First Edition of T.S. Eliot's The Classics and The Man of Letters. This book is the transcription of The Presidential Address delivered to The Classical Association on April 15 1942. This book, and the others in the case, are from the personal collection of Grant Riley who comes to Union from Franklin Classical School where he was educated in a manner consistent to the ideas of T.S. Eliot.  Franklin Classical School has only existed as long as Grant has, as they were both born in 1992, fifty years after Eliot's address. Dr. George Grant founded Franklin Classical School in order to teach highschoolers the essential tools of learning. A classical education seeks to train students how to think. By using the trivium (Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric), the classical system trains students to move from merely knowing something, to knowing how they know, and then to why they know. Dorothy Sayers a contemporary of Lewis and Tolkien once explained the problem of modern education, "we often succeed in teaching our pupils "subjects," we fail lamentably on the whole in teaching them how to think: they learn everything, except the art of learning." If one would like to learn the basic principles of classical education then they should begin by reading Dorothy Sayers' essay, The Lost Tools of Learning. George Grant defined education as an act of repentance, an admittance that you do not know all that you need to know and you need someone else to teach you.

David Dockery upholds these principles in his work Renewing Minds, in which Union's president envisions the integration of faith and learning. While Union's view of education may or may not be labeled classical there are many things in common with Union's aim to reclaim the best of the "Christian intellectual tradition".  Professor Brad Green here at Union is also an advocate of the model of Classical education and highly involved with the Augustine School in Jackson.

The display from Grant's personal library  attempts to capture the spirit of a Christian Classical education. The books in the case include a 1939 publication of The Oxford Book of English Verse, an 1880 PF Collier publication of Shakespeare's Tragedies, the first American printing of G.K. Chesterton's Orthodoxy, Chaucer's Canterbury Tales from 1857, a German Psalter and a beautifully illustrated copy of Longfellow's Evangeline from 1850.

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