I collected some links to articles and posts that referenced the Pearson Integrated Humanities Program.
“Western tradition has divided the long itinerary of liberal education into three stages, each contributing something of its own to the three purposes of liberal education — to humanize, to acculturate, to make happy. These are the stages of poetry, liberal arts, and sciences. According to Plato, the first step in the long itinerary of liberal education is the elementary or poetic stage…. These descriptions of the poetic stage of development mention the powers within the young student — senses, memory and imagination. Poetic education begins to humanize by developing these powers.” Robert Carlson.OK, so children are born human, but still, somehow, as they grow we have a part in humanizing them. I suppose it is somewhat the same with all higher mammals. Even the squirrels we took care of last summer, who were more Lower Mammals -- even though they were pre-scripted with many natural instincts, according to the research we did they still are partly cared for by their mother until they are several months old. She teaches them how to find food, and she and their siblings and relatives socialize them. So they don't come out fully squirrels; still less do we come out fully ourselves. We are persons, yes, but we are born persons into a particular time and place, and so education plays a crucial role in every society.
For a human, nature is important, but not sufficient. Our senses, memory and imagination don't just encompass our next meal or how to survive and reproduce. We can abstract the universal from the particular. Even the simplest cultures have a culture, a legacy and skills to hand on.
When the IHP was founded, it was recognized by the founders that in a way their program was remedial. They were dealing with the students who had been educated in a pragmatic yet incoherent way. Many hadn't had the poetic immersion, the direct participation in real things, that would be ideal for the goals of the program.
“Given the fact that their physical childhood had passed and the students were in various stages of middle and late adolescence, direct early experience of reality in games, sports, and crafts was not possible. …. all the professors of the IHP believed or soon came to believe that what they were doing on the college level, in spite of the obvious success, was needed much sooner, beginning at the elementary level
Summing up the effect and one of the primary goals of the program, Taylor wrote of the students:
The rediscovery of their childhood, which for many of them had been unfulfilled, was of great importance in the two year program. The professors knew that a materialist society, with all its utilitarian goals that suffocate the poetic nature of the human being, had rushed many of the students through childhood, that time of leisure in which the wonders of reality are encountered simply as wonders. As this entire study has demonstrated, there can be no real advancement in knowledge unless it first begin in leisure and wonder, where the controlling motive throughout remains to be delight and love.
I suppose this is a kind of challenge. If we have been convinced by what James Taylor has said so far, that this poetic mode comes first and is crucial in a proper education, then how does that look in our homes? Do we already have some poetic things going on? Could we reprioritize so that the more lasting things come first and the other things are done differently, more poetically, perhaps?
I know these are questions on my mind as I decide what to do next year. To me, it seems that Charlotte Mason is the closest thing to a formal curriculum that is in this mode. Some classical curricula are in the zone too, in my opinion, but classical education as it exists in homeschooling in the USA seems to have been heavily influenced by Cartesian methods and goals. It seems to be moving away from that nowadays, for which I am glad. Still, a lot of people using classical still seem to envision "elite" children and this is not a Poetic Knowledge type goal. Also, classical homeschooling has lagged behind on the skilled crafts and nature study, though there has been definite progress. Charlotte Mason's declaration that every child, "dullard" or advanced, needed a solid broad and liberal education suited to his abilities is very much in the mode of the point Taylor and Senior and Quinn were trying to make. Their vision is of a lively, vibrant, rich Christian culture that influences everyone in its range and is not selective of one type of vocation or person in preference to another.
A few things that strike me in the first part of the chapter that I would like to ponder in relation to my homeschool.
Conversation rather than lecture and analysis. Not that we are big on lecture and analysis around here. But I am glad to know that conversation -- making connections across books, relating stories to everyday life, taking ideas seriously and not trying to "pull" a theme or symbol out of the story if it doesn't want to come readily -- is what the IHP proposed as a better grounding for future intellectual distinction than a bunch of worksheets on plot, characterization and setting.
There is quite a bit in the chapter about conversation and how to listen and ponder as well as how the teachers conversed. It was really interesting.
Laughter of this kind is also poetic in that it comes to us as a surprise of suddenly seeing the connection between two dissimilar things. One of the recurring themes of the IHP was that while life was not “fun,” it certainly was often funny.
On the Idea of Receptiveness
“To receive is not to do nothing; a baseball catcher does a great deal, but he is still the receiver of the activity of the pitcher. Furthermore, they explained to the students that every conversation requires an attentive listener, alert and symapthetic; otherwise, the occasion deteriorates into mere discussion, a kind of noise, really, losing the meditative silence within which what is being said can be pondered. Listening then, it was explained, in this way is a poetic thing.
On Conversation and Listening as Gymnastic
Conversation, a word whose etymology was revealed by the professors to show how it meant to turn together around some subject, was s sign of friendship and an activity that invovles the alertness of the whole person, not just the mind but the eyes and ears, noticing gestures and tone of voice that indicate meaning and nuance within the give and take of such dialogue.On the modes of conversation — making connections across books or drawing from stories and real life.
The example of these professors, teaching by way of their personal conversation, speaking as naturally as if around a table where a leisurely lunch was taking place, making quick connections with the similar and contrary ideas contained in the other books of the program, from daily life, or meandering, wandering around and around the topic, digressing to personal experiences relevant to the subject — all taught the students, indirectly at least, the joy of the memory and a healthy independence from books and notes and all the gimmicks so often used to keep this generation’s attention.On conversation's ability to continue on past the college halls and into student life
“Continuing conversations that took place after class between the students and the teachers that often continued throughout the week in the teachers’ offices with smaller groups.”
Careers considered as vocations.
The IHP faculty encouraged the students to think of being a sailor, a soldier, a mother or father, or a worker on the land. Many of them actually went on to become scholars of law or philosophy. But the point is that they were far from being "elitist" in their thinking. They wanted the students to be excellent human beings who could have dignified, worthwhile lives and stay close to the real things.
No matter what my children end up being, I should probably be way more active in encouraging them to be able to use their hands and backs to work for others and for the common good. Even if someone ends up as a philosophy professor, it's good if he can garden or construct a building, too.
Things contemplated as objects of delight and wonder.
This was primary. Whenever the IHP had to make a choice, they made a choice away from "knowledge as power" or for a utilitarian purpose, and towards delight and wonder, which were the beginnings of wisdom. They moved towards the thing as a whole, rather than towards dissecting it into parts or abstracting concepts from it.
The Great Books were read in this spirit.
The atmosphere was intended to be meditative, not disputatious. ...The conversations replaced the modern sense of lecture and were closer to the medieval idea of lectio where the teachers spontaneously delivered a commentary on some text. ..The students were physically passive, not taking notes or speaking, so they could be emotionally and intellectually receptive as listeners.
Other things were taught in the poetic, participatory mode too.
Oral transmission of poetry.
During the week…. smaller groups of student met to memorize poetry, truly by memory, since no text was used, but conducted by another student who had himself the poems of the program in his memory. In this way, the professors spoke of doing poetry, rather than studying or analyzing it. It was in the order of music and gymnastic at the same time, since in the first place most of the poems memorized were lyrical and, in the second place, by withdrawing all books or handouts of poetry, nothing came between the student and the poem, not een his eyes.
The students followed a simple literary approach — from Aesop’s fables and Grimm’s tales — to introduce them to reasoning by noticing the perfect arrangement of beginning, middle, and end, a logic of thought, and cause and effect. …. The IHP faculty knew that the students were also remotely reliing parts of their childhood in these delightful, timeless stories.
the students, by listening carefully and repeating what they heard, learned to speak very simple Latin from their memories much like children begin to learn their native language without any study of grammar, without any books. This was gymnastic in that it allowed for direct wrestling with the Latin; it was musical in that it brought forth much delight and laughter in the challenge and mistakes of trying to conduct an entire lesson without using any English, pointing, gesturing, acting out the words and meaning instead.
Other things that were included:
- Star-gazing -- learning about the constellations and their stories.
- Dances -- not the high school kind where you are either jumping around or swaying together, but elegant waltzes.
- Calligraphy -- the traditional art of beautiful writin
- Traditional folk songs -- often some older students would sing them before class and over the course of the term all the students made them part of their interior furniture.
This quickly produced a sense of delight in the students, not only in the simple refrains but in the fact that now these poems and songs were placed within them and were part of who they were. This is what the professors meant by doing poetry, or song, as opposed to studying them
So a few things come out of this:
One is a kind of optimism. It is never really too late. Though the founders of the program realized that the students came to them with lacks in formation, they also believed that even a late start could bear much fruit. And it did, from what I understand.
Another is that it doesn't really take sophisticated professors with a campus at their disposal to make some of these things happen. Many of the activities were the kinds of things that homes and villages used to do as part of daily life. You can start from where you are.
I really liked the emphasis on delight and wonder and love. I am sure every second can't be filled with poetry and music in the typical family homeschool, but there is a kind of basic goodness in the ordinary things of life that I probably don't recognize enough. If Thomas Howard said anything to me in Splendor of the Ordinary, it is that the great things happen in the hurry and nitty-gritty of the very ordinary. A baby is born, but you are running for hot water and towels and reaching to catch the little fellow and bundle him up. All very quotidian actions, undertaken in the service of a magnificently significant event. This was the world of quotidian mystery that our God chose to be part of. I think I can see in what Taylor is saying that this participation is deeply important. If we skip the engagement, we skip the deep mystery. It's too easy for us to reduce and simplify by abstraction and analysis, in order to avoid dealing with the wonder and incomprehensibility. But then we lose something.
I'm thinking: I probably shy away from informal nature walks and conversation and open time and teaching my children everyday skills because it quite honestly wears me out fast. And part of that is that I like things to be somewhat predictable. But I lose something by going for a "system" as Charlotte Mason says, all tidy with the richness gone. In the Dawn Treader movie, Eustace Scrubb mutters something about how he wishes he could pin his cousins on a board or trap them in jars as he did with his insect collections. I think that's the modern rationalist complaint about the poetic mode of living, and since I was educated that way it's easy for me to want to hand the kids a worksheet rather than go out exploring with them, where their perceptions are no doubt at least as acute as mine. The latter is humbling. But you probably learn more and teach better that way.