Monday, August 15, 2011

The Great Conversation

It's a sad day when you realize how little you actually learned in high school.  It's a conversation I've had with quite a few other alumni.  Our school was/is one of the top in the country, yet we all feel like we only absorbed enough to pass the next test or get through the final exam.  When it comes to retention, there just wasn't enough time to really absorb the material, to explore it and internalize it.

This is one of the many reasons why I felt compelled to homeschool our children.  I want them to have the opportunity to really educate themselves.  I don't want them to be rushed through the school year or be limited by the constraints of the modern education system.

Another common conversation among homeschooling parents is about the excitement we feel at the opportunity to learn more ourselves.  I'm looking forward to the Latin and Greek, the sciences and maths, and, above all, the Great Books.

I purchased our Great Book set at an obscenely cheap price through a local library sale.  Henry was barely one year old; the librarians must have thought I was a little crazy when I said they were all for him.  They were placed in our bookshelves and there they have sat since then.  But why?  It seems like a waste for all that knowledge to just sit on a shelf.

So, last night I started in on them.  I'm reading the first volume, "The Great Conversation," which is an introduction to the set.  I'm about halfway done (it's a slim book) and have already found two thought-provoking passages.

The first:
No one can deny the value of getting together, of learning to get along with others, of coming to appreciate the methods of organization and the duties of membership in an organization any more than one can deny the importance of physical health and sportsmanship.  It seems on the face of it a trifle absurd, however, to go to the trouble of training and engaging teachers, of erecting laboratories and libraries, and of laying out a program of instruction and learning if, in effect, the curriculum is extra and the extra-curriculum is the heart of the matter.
This is the 1952 argument for homeschooling.  They may not have meant it as such, but there it is.  The "socialization" issue was already in dispute 60 years ago.

The second was a little disturbing:
Many claims can be made for the American people; but nobody would think of claiming that they can read, write, and figure.  Still less would it be maintained that they understand the tradition of the West, the tradition in which they live.  The products of American high schools are illiterate; and a degree from a famous college or university is no guarantee that the graduate is in any better case.  One of the most remarkable features of American society is that the difference between the "uneducated" and the "educated" is so slight.
Again, this was published in 1952.  The era that's held up as the Golden Age when kids actually learned things in school.  Dr. Adler must have been aghast at what "education" was by the time he passed on.  In fact, I'm sure he was, since he ultimately designed the classical liberal arts homeschool curriculum provided by Angelicum Academy today.

Edit:  I originally posted my goal to read the set three times over the next 9 years, but the recommendation at the end of The Great Conversation is to take 10 years to read the set once!  It has a list of readings from each volume for each year, so I'm going to take their recommendation and go with it.

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