climbing Parnassus

16846764I have started to read “Climbing Parnassus” by Tracy Lee Simmons as many people who are actively pursuing classical (not neoclassical) education were referring to it as a very helpful and eye opening book as well as a apologia for real classical method of teaching.

Just few quotes from the Introduction should get your mind start wandering:

We spell Progress with a capital. Here the new is always better, the old worse; the new is always rich and relevant, the old threadbare and obsolete. (…) Yet having crossed the threshold of a millennium, we feel a few spiritual tremors. Impetuosity does not reflect. The super-annuated, ever-changing mind cannot speak to the whole of life. It cannot contemplate; it cannot assign value. (…) It can build rockets to Mars and beyond, but it cannot tell us  whether is wise to go there. It cannot answer questions it long ago lost the wisdom to ask.  (…) We appeal to the freakish in witless arts and entertainment – to serve the boring or the board is not always clear -leading inexorably to the shocking that melts into monotonous vulgarity in the public square.

But we have stood Socrates on his head: Whereas the only thing that sage Athenian knew was that he knew nothing, the only thing we don’t know – and with far thinner credentials, it would seem – is that we know so very little.

What we don;t know can hurt us. (…) And why do our schools’ and collages’ graduates, so smart and promising in so many ways, not seem to know, really know, anything of substance? They’re heavy on proudly held opinions – opinions are always in abundant supply – but light on knowledge.

Classical education did not set itself to installing knowledge alone; it also sought to polish and refine.

We apply “classic” or ‘classical” to anything we believe to be excellent and universal. (…) And now legions of well-intending home schoolers rush to put dibs on the term and bask in the light of the glory they believe it to exude. To many home schoolers, “classical education” simply means the opposite of whatever is going on in those dreaded public schools.

The hard, precipitous path of classical education ideally led not to knowledge alone, but to the cultivation of mind and spirit. (…) The climb was meant to transform one’s intellectual and aesthetic nature as well.

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