Thursday, September 13, 2007

Make an impact!

Teach the Trivium to your children, and work to see that it gets taught in the day schools and colleges where you might have influence. If even the NAS cannot implement a basic logical test to research before it misleads millions, how much worse off might the rest of us be?

Not quite sure how to start? Here are some sources that might give you some good places to start. As you do, consider this:

A few hundred years ago, a man was thought ready for college when he could translate "Tulley," or Cicero, from the Latin. He had mastered the grammar, logic, and rhetoric necessary to understand the great works of historic literature. Typical coursework before college might include Greek and Hebrew as well--the college bound 16 year old of the time was at no loss when asked to comment on the works of Aristotle, Cicero, or Solomon.

Today, if a man learns logic, Latin, Greek, or Hebrew at all, it's generally in graduate school. Somehow it seems that we've inverted or subverted education, and if a Bible college, high school, or home school educator wants to really make an impact, they can do little better than to teach the Trivium. Who knows--the kids might be able to figure out that speed dating might not be the best way to get to know someone.


Lewis said...

This is my first comment on your blog, but as a victim of the "classical home-school movement," I feel compelled to chime in.

I greatly admire the movement's emphasis on the Trivium. The "three tools of learning" (grammar, logic, and rhetoric) are unmatched for incremental and lasting intellectual training.

What I do not understand, and which I see as a serious flaw in the classical movement, is the emphasis on learning classical languages.

Latin and Greek are complex and idiosyncratic languages, requiring enormous amounts of time to achieve even basic proficiency. I think this time is wasted, because:

1. The languages are "dead." Knowledge of Greek or Latin is unnecessary for communication.

2. If the justification is to become better acquainted with the Humanities, why not save time by studying English translations? Is it likely that a high-schooler (or college graduate) will parse his Greek better than say, Robert Fagles, Rex Warner, or Richmond Latimore? Further, is it likely that the student's studies will be so advanced to require knowledge of the subtleties of the original writings?

3. If the purpose is to develop our rhetoric by studying "English from the roots up," why not skip the circuitous route and study the great masters of English rhetoric? Ciceronian prose and mastery of English rhetoric are two highly disparate skills.

Time spent on Latin and Greek would be better spent elsewhere.

Bike Bubba said...

Welcome here--and I must concede that you're in good company with Ben Franklin in making your points. He recommended French over Latin in his autobiography, I believe.

Your points are well taken, but I tend to disagree; learning the ancient languages isn't a circuitous route, but rather a direct route to that which inspired the greats we know today. Moreover, no translator can translate the nuances of a culture in the way that even a mediocre reader of the language can.

I might build on your post in a friendly way if that's OK with you....

Lewis said... translator can translate the nuances of a culture in the way that even a mediocre reader of the language can.

True; my Spanish friend commented that you could never get the real "feel" of Don Quixote in a translation.

But, to articulate that "feel", to express it to others, you'll need to use English. You'll need to translate. And then we're right back to where we began. As a mediocre Grecian, I found that I'd rather quote Richmond Latimore than my own stumbling efforts.

A question: do you think that much (or at least some) of the drive to learn Latin is a vestige of Medieval/Renaissance scholasticism, in which Latin and Greek were the lingua franca of the educated world? A role that has now been largely supplanted by English, and hence rendered unnecessary?

I might build on your post in a friendly way if that's OK with you....

Please do; I'm curious to read your thoughts on this.

Bike Bubba said...

I'd also like to hear more from you about how you were a "victim" of the approach.