Saturday, May 07, 2005

Unhorsing Windmills: Classics vs. Contemporary Education

A great student review of Tracy Lee Simmons's book Climbing Parnassus, a book in which Simmons sets classical education against modern American education and the former wins.

Some excerpts:

Simmons makes the case for the classics by examining the history of the study of these dead languages and their poets, philosophers, and orators. The rigor of classical learning develops minds, "No one bothered with what we call skills of 'critical thinking,' which came naturally to anyone successfully navigating this course of study."

Both Harvard and Yale, when established, required mastery of Greek and Latin for acceptance. Simmons lauds our Founding Fathers as perhaps "the wisest, best-read public servants to preside over any government since ancient times." I shudder to think what course history would have taken had they been given a modern education.

Studying Greek, Latin and their works is an intellectual exercise regime second to none. There is no need to create a new form of education that will produce intellectual, self-controlled, virtuous citizens. For the model has been "inherited from antiquity, rediscovered by men of the Renaissance, and sustained by the brighter lights of the modern world. The curriculum ... already existed ... It was classical education."

But this education provides more than a gymnasium for the intellect. "Classical education provides keys to understanding Western civilization." It imbues students with a historical perspective and a base for our culture. For instance, those who wish to understand the Federalist Papers would do well to begin their journey in Greece and Rome.

Mere here.