A book review of Consider This: Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition by Karen Glass.
I loved Karen Glass’ book, Consider This: Charlotte Mason and the Classical Tradition. It truly is the bridge into classical principles for those not ready to undertake Norms and Nobility or Poetic Knowledge. Those are daunting, heady books that will take most of us to the limits of our brain power, especially since our energies are and must be spread around to keep life humming along at home, too. Consider This is approachable, readable, yet she covers the same concepts and taps into the core of classical education and the heart of what Miss Mason was trying to accomplish.
He is motivated to act rightly because he has learned to care. Classical education involves the heart as much as it does the mind. –Karen Glass, Consider This
The core of classical education cannot fit on a modern transcript.
Classical and modern assumptions about what people are, what society is doing, and what education is are completely opposed. These differing principles, differing foundational assumptions, change what is done and how it is done. Classical education was for the free. Bureaucracy – like the paperwork of transcripts – is for control. Now, of course we will play the game of Get The Paperwork In Order, but we must guard ourselves against being tricked into aligning with modern goals by shaping what we do to fit the paperwork.
Let us be brave enough to prioritize true learning and real education, then jump through whatever hoops we must without losing sight of our aim.
Karen Glass writes:
We have looked at three things that will never appear on a transcript, and yet are vital to the classical tradition of education. First, the primary purpose of education is wisdom and virtue, and every part of the program should serve to teach learners how to think and act rightly. Second, humility is vital to the pursuit of virtue because it keeps us teachable. Third, our approach to knowledge should be relational, synthetic, so that we develop a foundational understanding of the unity of knowledge and our own place in the universe.
Karen says that these three characteristics are at the heart of classical education – not memorization, not grammar, not even Latin. No single subject is at the center of any education philosophy handed down in the Western cultural flow. Rather, the common thread that runs through education theory until the industrial revolution is that we want to form more human humans: more virtuous, more humble, more wise human beings.
The three vital pursuits of classical education throughout the historic stream are
- Virtue. Teaching people to act in accordance with what they know.
- Humility. We can only learn when we are teachable and open to correction.
- Wisdom or Understanding. This is much deeper than factual knowledge of data.
So to do classical education means to pursue meaningful, personal understanding with humility in order to grow in virtue.
These three function together to make a whole.
These three things – pursuit of virtue, humility, and synthetic thinking that motivates to right action – form a complete circle that is the essence, the heart of what motivated the classical educators. We might call it the “classical ideal.” It is a pivot, or the hub around which all classical educational methods revolve.
The classical ideal is so much more than a book list or a single subject. It is a mode.
We who share the goals of the classical tradition should insist that every method of education which would call itself “classical” be based upon this ideal, so that we do not fall into the error of mimicking what the classical educators did while ignoring the reasons why they were doing it.
Thank you, Karen, for spending so much time in researching and writing this gem of an educational treatise.
Whether you relate to Charlotte Mason or the classical movement more, Consider This will put you in touch with the history of educational thought without throwing you in the deep end.