Saturday, April 3, 2010

Year 9 -- integration and simplicity

I'm trying to do something that feels a bit uncomfortable. ... trying to pre-study books that I plan to use for my ninth grader next year. These are books I've read before, but I'd like to know them a little better so I can be a better guide. We'll see how it works!

First: I plan to integrate history, religion, language and literature as much as possible. I know history has fallen out of favor as an integrating subject in classical studies. Still, I think David Hicks is right when he says history "lends itself to normative inquiry". Let me try to state a thought on this, which is undeveloped right now. If true education is most properly speaking the pursuit of wisdom -- of seeing what is observable and seeing past it to the unseen -- then history (or more broadly, the literature of the past) is a way for younger students, not yet ready for systematic philosophy, to get perspective on their culture and its ideas. The Jesuits called it Humanitas.

History in this sense isn't packing sterile second-hand information about economic or political or social trends into a hapless juvenile mind -- nor is it politically correct propaganda -- it's an immersion into the democracy of the dead, as much as possible from the point of view of the time involved. Warren Carroll, in his Christendom series, says it is a story of how people, endowed with free will, changed the course of events through their thoughts and actions. He says that the Incarnation is the central point of history -- like a stone flung into a pool which ripples the water out in both directions.

There is such a thing as simplicity in education --and if Dietrich von Hildebrand is right that simplicity is not barren minimalism, but rather, a hierarchy of principles focused on one thing, then probably a true Catholic education is simple in that it is focused on the Unum Necessarium. Jesus Christ is said to be the Wisdom that is spoken of in the Old Testament (since Logos corresponds somewhat to "thought" or "reason") and if that is so, then education is focused ultimately on wisdom, though because our reason is imperfect (according to Aquinas) we need to come to universals and wisdom through our senses and through knowledge of what is around us. But to avoid chaotic, fragmented knowledge -- just as in Dietrich von Hildebrand's thinking we have to avoid chaotic, fragmented living through focusing beyond the things themselves -- our knowledge has to lead somewhere past itself. Or that is how I am thinking right now. This is not a simple matter of counting Rosaries rather than puppies in an early math book -- it's something more integral to the subject itself.

I was going to go on with this but dinner intervened and now I've lost my train of thought. Just as well, since I've been writing too many long posts recently!