View Full Version : Christian Classical Educator or D. Sayers follower?

06-11-2009, 07:58 PM
This is a very interesting article which should be forwarded to all of those Christian homeschoolers who want to educate their children in a Christian classical way.
Just few quotes:

"When we hear programs and schools outside of the CLAA using the phrase "classical education", they usually mean that they're implementing ideas found in Dorothy Sayers' essay "The Lost Tools of Learning". The ideas of Sayers have nothing to do with classical education as a careful reading of her essay proves. Dorothy Sayers may have some ideas that differ from modern schools, but they differ as much from classical ideas. Call it what you wish, Dorothy Sayers is not an advocate of classical education."
Everything is pretty good through here, but we should never be impressed by criticism. It is always easier to identify symptoms of disease than to diagnose them truly and propose a remedy. Sayers' identification of the symptoms is fine, but her diagnosis and proposed cure are absurd.
We will see below that Sayers' proposed solution does nothing to remedy this problem. I would even argue that it makes it worse, for she takes nothing out of the modern curriculum, but proposes that we add more. Sayers claims that the difference is not so much content as it is emphasis. The CLAA argues that it is both the content and the emphasis that need correction. The burden of content is what leads to the deemphasizing of what is most important, just as an abundance of material goods necessarily distracts one's devotion to spiritual duties. Monks and nuns take vows of poverty for a reason.
She is proposing a modernized program of study that borrows the "progression" idea from the Trivium, but is re-oriented around "stages of learning" and not specific knowledge and skills. Whereas the Trivium consisted of three specific arts, she is now referring to three different stages that resemble the Trivium by way of analogy. This is NOT classical education, but something she is inventing on the spot. Moreover, they are not based on universal principles or broad observations, but on her own experiences as a child.
Here we have the invention of these three stages of learning: Poll-Parrot, Pert and Poetic--terms coined right here by Sayers. She is not claiming to be following the Trivium here--that was merely referred to for illustration. This three stage theory is her own invention.
I will stop here. Read the whole article Call it What You Wish - A Commentary on "The Lost Tools of Writing (http://www.classicalliberalarts.com/library/sayers.htm)
What do you think?

06-12-2009, 07:35 AM
It looks like there's more on the debate about the meaning of "classical" education for modern homeschoolers. While not a new topic, debate is a fabulous way to learn, and a debate about the best way to learn should be a wonderful opportunity to learn how to teach.

We should, of course, begin by reading this man's entire article, and taking time to understand his points. One thing that impressed me on a quick read through this critique is that William Michael is writing with reference to his own program, which he teaches from Classcial Liberal Arts Academy. What struck me about the critique most at first glance was the fact that we need to know what our goals are when we throw terms around. Nothing in the Bible constrains us to be "classical" or "modern" in our educational approach. One of Michael's critiques is that Sayers is that she's not really being "classical" as traditionally defined. My question would immediately be, "OK, well, do we NEED to be strict? Can we be eclectic? Can we take some ideas from classical education and also add such helpful points as the stages of learning that Sayers identifies?"

I think we can; in fact, this is what Tapestry of Grace has sought to do in its essence. We have learned from many different styles of education, and added in not only our own experiences in educating our six children over 22 years, and the students from over 50 local families in a co-op setting, but what we considered to be the most efficient and effective approaches from a variety of educational settings and time frames.

Formal debaters are very careful to define their terms, so let me clarify what Lampstand Press means by "classical Christian homeschooling" with Tapestry of Grace. To start with, we are inclusive, not purist. There are at least two different major meanings of "classical education" as they are typically used in the context of modern homeschool circles. One of the meanings comes from Dorothy Sayers, as spelled out in her "Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning." What we mean here is the pursuit of stages of learning that are primarily (but neither rigidly nor exclusively) devoted to the facts, connections, and then analyses of various (in our plan, interrelated) academic disciplines. We add that we offer approaches to each of these disciplines from visual, auditory, and tactile modalities. We also embrace Sayers' idea of integrated learning: we attempt to cross connect the content of as many of the humanities (arts, letters, composition, history, church history, theology, etc.) in each week-plan as we can. And, we also seek to enable parents who have a broad spectrum of educational foundations themselves to become Socratic questioners and thus employ the Dialectic in their teaching. We support and embrace the teaching of formal logic and careful argumentation as Sayers suggests as well.

The other meaning that we embrace in Tapestry of "classical education" is the broader notion of joining in a "Great Conversation" based on the "canon" of Western civilization. We selectively choose classics of the Western world (and include books that define Eastern thought as well) in order that students become acquainted with the great ideas that underlay our civic and personal conversations. We offer biblical analyses of the ideas we cover as well, so that parents can have a starting place (we cannot be exhaustive, and the Spirit directs parents to have their own insights in addition to what we present) to help students both understand the ideas of civilization and not be captivated by those that set themselves up in opposition to the Word of God.

For Tapestry users, "classical Christian homeschooling" is not an either/or issue--it's a both/and situation with God's help and to His glory.

Scott and Marcia Somerville

06-12-2009, 07:48 AM
I definitely lean more toward the traditional (Drew Campbell to put a modern face to it) classical definition rather than the Dorothy Sayers (Susan Wise Bauer) neo-classical model. Even so, Mr. Michael tweaked my nose right from the start with his first comments that come off, to me anyway, as unnecessarily angry. He ends the same way. It's the humility of people like Andrew Kern and Drew that accomplish more for the movement of returning to the roots of classical education. They come across as wanting to encourage and build up, this man appears to want to tear down.

In a nut shell, yes, I agree tacking on Latin and Logic to a modern educational philosophy is not a classical education. I have witnessed the problem of Sayer's three stages at the Classical Christian school down the street from me. It's not what I am attempting to do here at home. But rather than forward this essay, I think I'll direct people to Drew's web site. http://tapestryofgrace.groupee.net/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_smile.gif

06-12-2009, 08:35 AM
What is Drew's website, Karen? http://tapestryofgrace.groupee.net/groupee_common/emoticons/icon_wink.gif

06-12-2009, 09:42 AM
It's Andrew Campbell's site, the author of The Latin-Centered Curriculum (http://www.latincentered.com/).

06-12-2009, 09:43 AM

Mr.Campbell is taking praeceptor course at CLAA himself (http://www.classicalliberalarts.com/praeceptor.htm)

06-12-2009, 01:12 PM
I know and he posted this article on Facebook, didn't see that till after I posted here.

06-12-2009, 04:28 PM
As I dig deeper into this gentleman's site I see one cannot enjoy a true Classical Christian Education and be a Protestant either:

Non-Catholic families are welcome to study in the CLAA, let that be clear. However, it is a matter of fact that the principles of Protestantism and Evangelicalism are inconsistent with the principles of true classical learning. Point 1 (http://www.classicalliberalarts.com/admissions/requirements.htm)