Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Beauty in the Word: Introduction

I was thrilled to see the invitation to read through Beauty in the Word by Stratford Caldecott with Cindy Rollins over at Ordo Amoris.  It is not quite a book study but more of a blog through.  In other words she won't be adding links but the conversation will occur in the comments.  Please join us!

Here are some key ideas that help set the parameters for the discussion to follow.
The liberal arts are a golden thread that comes from the Greeks, from Pythagoras and his successors both Islamic and Christian, especially St. Augustine; a thread that weaves its way through the history of our civilization.  These arts were intended for the cultivation of freedom and the raising of our humanity to its highest possible level.  
I appreciate that Stratford realizes that at one point this was an education for the elite, but with changes in societal structure this should be an education accessible to all.

This book focuses on the grammar stages,  his earlier work Beauty for Truth's Sake focuses on the quadrivium.  He uses this definition of the parts of the grammar stage:
According to Hugh of Saint Victor, summarizing this tradition in the High Middle Ages, 'Grammar is the knowledge of how to speak without error; dialectic is clear sighted argument which separates the true from the false; rhetoric is the discipline of persuading to every suitable thing. 

Honestly, the way he re-labels these concepts is one reason I love this book:
That is the reason you will find the chapter on Grammar headed 'Remembering,' the one on Dialectic headed 'Thinking,' and the one on Rhetoric headed 'Speaking.' 
He also reminds us that
The seven liberal arts were in any case never intended to constitute the whole of education. They were embedded in a broader tradition of paideia or human formation, which included 'gymnastics' for the education of the body and 'music' for the education of the soul (terms that have changed and narrowed in meaning over the centuries).  
(If you want more on these other concepts you might want to check out The Liberal Arts Tradition by Clark and Jain.)

Here is the key question I wrestle with - he states it so clearly
But what kind of education would enable a child to progress in the rational understanding of the world without losing his poetic and artistic appreciation of it? 
Later he explains that he believes
It must be possible to use this intrinsic connection between reason and imagination to overcome the alienation between the humanities and the sciences. 
In the end, the crux of the current problems with education are that
Too often we have been not been education our humanity.  We have been educating ourselves for doing rather than for being.  
In order to Be we must remember our origin and our end, the grammar of our existence.  This is the beginning of all communication - communication from God, who loves us before we love him.  We come from the Father.  
He also sums up the stages as
Be! (Grammar)     Think! (Dialectic)   Speak!  (Rhetoric)
There is more about the mission of a Catholic school in particular which essentially discusses the need for transparency so that the life of Christ can show through our lives - which I think should apply to any Christian setting.  In the future I will comment more on his thoughts but here I think it is appropriate to start by allowing him to define his topic and scope.

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