Schizophrenia

“The abandonment of the normative question for the operational – ought for can – was predictable.  Since the Enlightenment, education has developed an acute case of schizophrenia.  Its antipathetic selves have fought over the question of man’s identity, the old self asserting a knowledge of man derived from the transcendent ideas and inherited truths of religion, art, and letters, and the new self insisting that man can know himself only by examining the composition of the material universe and drawing his inferences from that.” (p. 8)
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Joining In…

I am going to be posting a little more regularly, I would assume, as I have joined up with some folks online to read through N&N together. If you would like to jump on the wagon, it can be found here:  http://groups.yahoo.com/group/normsandnobility/

The more we understand, the less we really know…

“The better our students understand and learn to manipulate the material universe, the less they seem to know and govern themselves.” (p. 61)

Our Getting Better Has Made Us Worse…

“In short, technology has widened the sphere of our moral responsibility and increased our leisure, while undermining the normative and cultural strengths of our educational tradition.” (p. 58)

Unity vs Chunks

“Whereas the ancients, contemplating divine ideas with pure intelligence, posited a fundamental unity in the universe, modern man, with his eyes fixed on matter, can see only a world broken up into numberless quantifiable chunks.” (p. 59)

chunks

Summary of Chapter Four

True education calls us to ideals that are above all of us.  The ancients knew that the main purpose of a good education was to raise the bar for its students so that they would be seeking the ultimate good for the rest of their lives, not sensing that at some point they were above average.

The power of calling a student to an Ideal Type (Image) is that such can be personal and must be embody by the teacher himself.  There is no such thing as impersonal learning in the classical classroom.  Hicks notes that even as we have stopped speaking of this Ideal in educational theory, it still is clearly the impetus of all truly great teachers.

“The Ideal Type, like the Word, unites the warring mythos and logos.  Poetry and philosophy both seek to explain the condition of human life through some formal idealization of experience that in identifying the material universe’s immanent order as allegorical, logical, or arithmetical, prescribes as it describes.  Myth began this process by defining the Ideal Type in the works and days of men.  The myth maker observed or imagined an action that he and his fellows inherently admired.  He recorded it, and the universal appeal of the Ideal emanating from his record constituted mankind’s best proof of an aprioric moral absolute, Later, reason measured the Ideal – the tyrannizing image of human perfection – as the distance between what man is and what he ought to be.” (p. 44)

“In any case, classical education eventually fills the young person’s head with the sound of voices; the impassioned debate of the many great figures of myth and history concerning what is good, beautiful, and excellent in man.  Through his imagination, the student participates in this dialectical confabulation, and his thoughts and actions become literally involved with the Ideal type.  The Ideal is refined, and action and thought join inextricably in the life of virtue.” (p. 47)

But the modern man is not attracted by virtue as much as by cash value.  This has led ultimately to the demise of the Ideal Type and classical education.  Man’s appetite needs to be whetted for the great again.

“For reasons to be considered in the next chapter, the scientific understanding of objectivity and universality gradually replaced the classical one.  The Ideal Type, unable to justify itself in terms of science and therefore at a loss to prove itself “real,” faded from the classroom. The laboratory took its place.  A strict analysis conquered the classroom and expelled the normative study of arts and letters, which had for centuries contributed dialectically to the Ideal. One no longer heard questions reminiscent of Plutarch raised in the classroom: “Tell me Johnny, how did Jefferson think a good man ought to live his life?”  Insight fell under the methodological axe, and research began to satisfy the demands for thought. Education entered a new era of the real.” (p. 50)

Summary of Chapter Three

True education aims at educating a child into an adult, not forming the eternal child.  Hicks builds a strong case for how Rousseau brought to the modern mindset the attractiveness of leaving a child to be a child and not calling them into the adult world.  He then shows that the classical model has never wanted anything other than a fully formed human, which means one who has attained maturity, not held such at arm’s length.

“…Isokrates must have perceived childhood as a period of becoming rather than as a state of being.” (p. 38)

“In his quest for the best education, the ancient schoolmaster possessed two advantages over the modern educator. First, he knew exactly what kind of a person he wished to produce…Second, he agreed in form upon an inquiry-based or knowledge-centered – as opposed to a child-centered – approach to education.” (p. 39)

“In many instances, the modern lesson plan disguises the teacher’s embarrassing lack of knowledge, especially of the sort relating that day’s gobbets of information or activity to fundamental human concerns.  The ideas and beliefs men live for and die with seldom come out of lesson plans, but the lesson plan satisfies the teacher’s need for an appearance of knowledge.  To foster this appearance, new courses and new departments spring up in the hope that once pulverized, the body of knowledge will yield up all its secrets in one of its stray particles even to the most indolent mind.” (p. 42)

The Ideal Type quote, almost becomes poetry under Hick’s pen…

This elongated quote from pages 44-45 almost turns into a song…

“The Ideal Type, like the Word, unites the warring mythos and logos.  Poetry and philosophy both seek to explain the condition of human life through some formal idealization of experience that in identifying the material universe’s immanent order as allegorical, logical, or arithmetical, prescribes as it describes.  Myth began this process by defining the Ideal Type in the works and days of men. The myth maker observed or imagined an action that he and his fellows inherently admired. He recorded it, and the universal appeal of the Ideal emanating from his record constituted mankind’s best proof of an aprioric moral absolute. Later, reason measured the Ideal – the tyrannizing image of human perfection – as the distance between what man is and what he ought to be.  From the Proverbs of Solomon to the Golden Sayings of Epictetus, philosophy tried to generalize upon the myth maker’s particulars in order to establish a table of virtues or a code of conduct in accordance with the Ideal Type. In this way, the philosopher hoped to turn poetry to practical use and help man span the gap between what he is and what he ought to be.” (pp. 44-45)

Summary of Chapter Two: The Word is Truth

Education must be about the pursuit of truth, and truth must change the learner to conform more closely to reality.  Only through both the myth and logic can man pursue truth.  The modern decision to rule out the mythopoeic forms of knowledge and focus solely on that which can be known by the senses is a tragedy.  The deconstruction of all language to remove any value or impetus toward common virtue also make the study of myth impossible.  For education to truly be recovered, the student and teacher must once again seek truth through both myth and logic.

Modern contempt for myth kills the soul

Hicks shows that the deliberate and methodological excluding of myth kills any attempt to change the student or raise his soul.  This in turn leads to the student becoming less able to deal with the necessary virtues of this life, because they have been reduced or even done away with by deconstruction of our language.

“Righting this imbalance necessitates a classical understanding of the nature of language, which acknowledges its mystery and weds the word to the mind through the imagination, not exclusively to the external object through the senses.  The descriptive weakness of language, for which it is being broken down and rebuilt by the social scientists, is also its prescriptive strength.  It clings to the normative essentials underlying the flux of appearances, thereby saving the appearances and making the world intelligible in a way that science cannot.  Affirming that decision is a poetic ideal, as well as a requirement of science, teaching that a love of words and an understanding of language is the creative movement of the spirit across the face of the waters, showing how words disclose the transcendent order of meaning and value behind the curtain of a transient world – these beloved and arduous tasks of the classical schoolmaster abide.” (p. 35)