Reforming Education

This morning Alan Jacobs posted the first two paragraphs of Stanley Fish’s column from yesterday’s NY Times, “A Classical Education:  Back to the Future.” They caught my attention, I read the column.  Here’s hoping for the same effect:

I wore my high school ring for more than 40 years. It became black and misshapen and I finally took it off. But now I have a new one, courtesy of the organizing committee of my 55th high school reunion, which I attended over the Memorial Day weekend.

I wore the ring (and will wear it again) because although I have degrees from two Ivy league schools and have taught at U.C. Berkeley, Johns Hopkins, Columbia and Duke, Classical High School (in Providence, RI) is the best and most demanding educational institution I have ever been associated with. The name tells the story. When I attended, offerings and requirements included four years of Latin, three years of French, two years of German, physics, chemistry, biology, algebra, geometry, calculus, trigonometry, English, history, civics, in addition to extra-curricular activities, and clubs — French Club, Latin Club, German Club, Science Club, among many others. A student body made up of the children of immigrants or first generation Americans; many, like me, the first in their families to finish high school. Nearly a 100 percent college attendance rate. A yearbook that featured student translations from Virgil and original poems in Latin.

The column is a brief overview of three very recent books which make the case for a retrieval of something like the classical model as the key to significant and enduring educational reform.  That case, however, has been made for almost two decades now by various voices within the Christian community and their efforts have constituted a modest movement of classical Christian schools across the country which have yielded impressive results.

If this is at all interesting, take a look at Dorothy Sayer’s essay, “The Lost Tools of Learning,” which is something of an Ur-text for the contemporary revival of classical education.

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