Listers, modern education has abandoned the pursuit of wisdom and taken up the production of economic and functional training. The classical education models - centered on the true liberal arts - were designed to instruct students in wisdom according to the innate order and hierarchy of knowledge. Tracy Lee Simmon’s work Climbing Parnassus is a call to understand and return to the sapiential foundations of classical education. The book reviews reads:
In Climbing Parnassus, winner of the 2005 Paideia Prize, Tracy Lee Simmons presents a defense and vindication of the formative power of Greek and Latin. His persuasive witness to the unique, now all-but-forgotten advantages of study in and of the classical languages constitutes a bracing reminder of the genuine aims of a truly liberal education.
The Washington Post’s review reads: “Simmons’s fascinating tour through the pedagogical history of the classics may be his chief contribution to the debate.” The following quotes are a sampling of the main principles within Simmon’s highly recommended work.
Stating the Truth, Without Being Able to Teach It
As with most gospels, we are in such a hurry to save souls that we would begin proclaiming the new salvation to the nation before pausing to find out what education is. Unable to explain what education is or is for, we have created state departments of education out of a desperate hope that what we have not had the wisdom and intellectual fortitude to determine in the light of day might emerge miraculously from a flurry of committee reports, public opinion polls, and bureaucratic fiat.
“Way of Living”
Education is simply philosophy at work. It is the search for the ‘good life.’ Education is itself a way of living. Citing Robert Hutchins
Auxiliary of Philosophy
Education is, in the end, an auxiliary of philosophy – an embodiment of aims and ideals.
Quality of Quantity
Instead of doing a few things well, we have tried to do many things and have done them badly.
We have abandoned those ideals once animating our civilization, refusing to learn them anew with each generation. We have assumed their transfer to be automatic.
The hard, precipitous path of classical education ideally led not to knowledge alone, but to the cultivation of mind and spirit. Knowledge did not in and of itself, justify the sweat. The climb was meant to transform one’s intellectual and aesthetic nature as well.
Without a finely tuned and oft-nourished sense of the past, both near and distant, we have no culture.
Discipline Precedes Freedom
At the heart of liberal education stands the conviction that the well-touted freedom of mind comes only by submission to standards external to oneself, that the discipline precedes the freedom, and that this kind of freedom can only be earned as a reward, not conferred as a right.
What is Liberal Education?
Liberal education is “simply the cultivation of the intellect, as such, and its object is nothing more or less than intellectual excellence.”
Schools and their curricula have always reflected the values of the society they serve.
Liberal Arts & Leisure
“Liberal arts” derives directly from artes liberales and designates those activities promoting freedom and leisure, but we must add that, for Greeks and Romans, leisure carried none of our overtones of idleness. “Leisure” referred to those “arts” reckoned conducive to the contemplative or reflective life, to an expansive freedom of mind.
Further Reading: For a basic introduction to the proper order of knowledge: 5 Questions on the Difference Between Wisdom & Knowledge For an examination of the intimate connection between education and economy: 7 Concerns About Democracy & Its Modern Existence For more on education: All SPL Lists Concerning Education