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  • A Classical Education in the Azores

    Posted by David Foster on March 12th, 2017 (All posts by )

    Here’s a very interesting article by a Portuguese teacher who developed and ran an intensive classical-studies program for high school students in the Azores Islands.  Highly recommended.

    Meanwhile, back in the USA.


    8 Responses to “A Classical Education in the Azores”

    1. Phil Ossiferz Stone Says:

      My children will be home schooled. There is no way in hell I would feed them into an educational system that teaches not only the abnegation of self and nation, but of gender — as all three Western coastal states can and do.

      The civilization I grew up in has turned necrotic. It is up to us to create pockets of healthy tissue.

    2. Brian Says:

      I don’t think this sort of program scales. It is far too teacher-centric, and requires a large number of very highly and specially skilled teachers that just don’t exist in those numbers.

      To me the reform of the US school system should be based on the student-primer-centric methods that were common well into the 1930s, until urbanization and centralization took such strong hold. Get a complete system set up, and then let students go at their own pace. The most important activity that occurs in a classroom is not TEACHING, it is LEARNING.

      The current system has a goal of mediocrity, so that’s what we get–barely.

    3. dearieme Says:

      I find this sort of thing thin: “Who fought in the Peloponnesian War? Who taught Plato, and whom did Plato teach? How did Socrates die? Raise your hand if you have read both the Iliad and the Odyssey. The Canterbury Tales? Paradise Lost? The Inferno?” You could argue that the glories of the classical world are Euclid’s geometry, the proof that the square root of 2 is irrational, and the principles of Roman Law. Why no mention of them? As for Chaucer, Milton, and Dante, personally I’d settle for the youngsters having developed an appreciation of Shakespeare.

      “Who was Saul of Tarsus?” Fair enough; one ought to know that the principal apostle of Christ had never met the fellow.

      “What were the 95 theses, who wrote them, and what was their effect?” Also OK; some German history that isn’t all about bloody Hitler is welcome.

      “Why does the Magna Carta matter?” If you insist. “How and where did Thomas Becket die?” What on earth is that trivial episode doing on this list?

      “Who was Guy Fawkes, and why is there a day named after him?” Small beer in the history of civilisation: the St Bartholomew’s Day massacres and the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes would make more sense as topics.

      “What did Lincoln say in his Second Inaugural? His first Inaugural? How about his third Inaugural? What are the Federalist Papers?” Oh for heaven’s sake: parochial stuff that should be on a different list altogether.

      Are they familiar with the remarkable story of Tycho Brahe, Copernicus, Kepler and Newton? With the development of the steam engine? With the First and Second laws of thermodynamics? With the Wealth of Nations? With Hume and Kant? With Gibbon? Do they know why Maxwell, Planck and Einstein mattered? Do they have a grip of Darwin and Mendel? Can they demonstrate the principle of Chaos with a simple numerical calculation?

    4. David Foster Says:

      Dearieme….well, the guy (who wrote the second linked article) is a professor of Constitutional Studies, so it makes sense that he would focus more on history and literature than onscience and technology. I would agree, though, that a true liberal arts curriculum should include quite a bit of science and technology.

      A cynic might say that we have resolved the issue of the ‘two cultures’ raised by C P Snow by the simple expedient of ensuring that most students are fluent in *neither* culture.

    5. Mike K Says:

      A series of questions like that might uncover gaps that are important. Allan Bloom made similar points in his book “The Closing of the American Mind.”

      Some of us read Plato’s Republic, but not in the original Greek.

      I had two years of Latin and decided I was going to be an engineer and took drafting.

      I agree with home schooling and worry about my grandchildren. Both mothers work and cannot do it.

      Two friends of mine compromised and the wife took each of the three boys out of school for a year and homeschooled him. They did this all through K-12.

      The three sons are all engineering students/graduates, one is a Marine pilot, the second has a masters in Petroleum Engineering and the youngest is still an undergrad.

      They also did not have a TV while the boys were growing up.

    6. Anonymous Says:

      ““Who was Saul of Tarsus?” Fair enough; one ought to know that the principal apostle of Christ had never met the fellow.”

      And there is no road to Damascus either.


    7. PenGun Says:

      Oh lord the Greeks. Even more boring than the Romans.

      I had a classical education on two continents. The English school system for the primary part and a fancy private school for the rest. What it really does is give you connections.

      Some Latin helps with the English language. The Greek and Romans are seminal to western thought and some understanding of their history and philosophy helps a lot in understanding where out ideas and beliefs came from.

      Context, it’s everything.

    8. dearieme Says:

      In tick-box world context is verboten.

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