Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Weds. with Words: Gymnastics and Music

I broke down and bought a kindle version of The Liberal Arts Tradition by Kevin Clark and Ravi Jain.  I am already regretting not having a paper version because I find kindles hard to navigate - it was an impulse purchase.  I should be fighting these better than I am.

The first part of the work discusses philosophy but I have already bought into that so I skimmed it to move into the practical suggestions. The base of education for them is piety - showing honor where it is due. Then from there, in the younger grades, they talk about developing wonder especially through gymnastics and a musical education.  Both of these are defined in the classical sense - not the modern.  Thus gymnastics is about helping children use their body well and develop self control and music education is about music in the sense of the nine muses.  This focus reminds me of Beauty in the Word (if you don't have the book you can read some of his basic principles for elementary education here).

Clark and Jain quote extensively (in the footnotes or end notes - hard to tell on the kindle - they are great though and should be read) from the writings of the creators of the Integrated Humanities Project (IHP), which apparently they became acquainted with after they had written most of the book.  If you have read Poetic Knowledge then you know quite a bit about it.  In regards to gymnastic education Quinn (from IHP) says
This essential aspect of education (gymnastics), so important to the ancient Greeks, is sadly neglected today because of the exaggerated emphasis on competitive sports.
Even running has turned into a competition with many of my friends trying half marathons or more.  You can't just do something physical and good for you - it has to be a competition.  So, I have bought into this unbalanced view of a gymnastics education and need to rethink its importance.   Maybe this is why yoga appeals to people - you can't really do competitive yoga!

Musical education is not about instruments - rather it comes from the idea of the muses - poetry, history, literature and music.  One of the aims of the book is to help tie together some of the seeming disparate strains of Christian Classical Education.  Here is one of the ways they try to do this:
Imagine the possibilities of thinking of these areas of the curriculum as musical education rather than the "grammar of - ."  History would not be so many facts to memorize, however, creatively we do it, but an opportunity to use stories from the past to build up a child's moral imagination - a possibility that if followed instantly unlocks the significance of ancient historians.  Literature as musical education would resist the modern enroachment of critical reading in order to awaken the same imagination. 
This is not new, really, but it is necessary to repeat often because our modern approach so wants to analyze and dissect and claim that this is the only valid form of education.  I am now reading through the definition of liberal arts and this is one of the best explanations that I have seen.  I can see why people rave about this book.

See what others are reading at Ordo Amoris.


  1. I loved that little booklet. The idea of the first stage of the trivium as Music or Remembering is a vast improvement over the more recent ideas of the trivium.

    And I also need to do a better job of pressing buy on Kindle books by not pressing buy.

  2. This is very interesting. I especially enjoyed the quote about "musical education." I may have to add this book to my reading list.

  3. I think that both non-competitive gymnastics and music training is so good for young children. It literally works all muscles, both mentally and physically and results in sturdy and strong children that learn that most joy is accompanied by a certain amount of pain.
    It teaches them to strain toward mastery, and rewards them with joy of accomplishment over one's body.
    The human anatomy is one of the most wonderful and extraordinary of God's creations and music and gymnastics are something can almost immediately be enjoyed by children of all ages.

  4. I'm enjoying this book very much, although the chapter on the Quadrivium I am finding difficult and over my head.

    I, too, loved the ideas of piety, gymnasia, and music as a platform to build on.

    1. I agree about the Quadrivium. I understood their explanation better than Beauty for Truth's Sake. I read about 3 pages of that text and was over my head. One of the main things I took from the discussion was that really knowing math and science meant that you could justify how and why you were doing the discipline that way. They saw these disciplines not as utilitarian but as looking into the beauty of the universe. I will have to read through the endnotes (and maybe some of the texts they suggest) to really get a handle on this stage. Fortunately, I have a LONG time until we are there.