“Classical education is not, preeminently, of a specific time or place. It stands instead for a spirit of inquiry and a form of instruction concerned with the development of style through language and of conscience through myth.” –David Hicks, Norms & Nobility, page 18
We have talked about a spirit of inquiry and the form of instruction and now we turn our attention to the development of style and conscious through language and myth.
Steve Elliot, a classical educator and thinker, wrote this about Hick’s statement in his blog-post ‘Inquiry, Language, and Myth’
“The “development of style through language” comes through our reflection of our writing, storytelling God.”
We reflect the multifaceted image of God. Part of that image is a language loving, creating through words, storytelling God. Therefore, there is something that exists in us innately which reflects this aspect of our God. I do not think it far reaching to say that if our purpose in life is to become like Christ, all the gifts God has given us should be used to that end. The amazing gift of words, from the smallest article to the longest most eloquent collection of words contained in a book, are infused with living and active qualities. The classical teacher and student respect this reality and make it a goal to engage in a rigorous and thorough study of language, from the details of grammar to the contemplation of the best literature in our world. The classical teacher realizes the purpose of doing this is eternal. On top of that, as Hicks asserts, it develops style. This is exactly what it sounds like, we are training the student to have good taste and be enchanted by what is good for him. It can be easy to begin to crave and desire things that are not good for us. By raising the standard and setting good, true, and beautiful words, sentences, literature, and language study before our children we are training their loves. I believe by doing this, our kids will not be content with the empty shallow things of our world. Once you have tasted the good, the true, and the beautiful it is difficult to forget.
So what does that look like in the homeschool? It looks like a classical study of grammar, language (Latin/Greek), writing, and literature. You can learn more about the aspects of a classical language program in my post about the language arts. In addition, my favorite resource about this is the DVD, ‘The Two Andrews’. In this resource Andrew Kern discusses the paths to great writing and Andrew Pudewa discusses the 4 language arts. These two talks, more than anything else, have informed my homeschool’s language arts curriculum.
This goes right along with the idea of developing conscience through myth. On this, Elliot says
“The development of conscience through myth” involves our predisposition to learn through narrative, and reflects our involvement with the Scriptures and their “uber-stories”- Messiah, the Good Shepherd, the Seed of the Woman, a house for the LORD, etc.”
There is something very special about a story, also known as a myth, fable, or fairytale. The myth has the unique ability to carry the truth and deliver it to the listener in a non-intrusive way. The result is an enchanted listener who wants to be the hero and reject the villain. There is something transcendent involved in this, and for good reason. The truth is transcendent, meaning the truth extends beyond human knowledge or understanding it also speaks to the universal nature of truth. This is why archetypes exist. The whole premise of an archetype is that there is some transcendent truth that touches the soul of all humans. All of humanity responds to the truth in their inner most being whether they admit it or not. However, if one finds the listener is cynical and not enchanted; I would suspect a handicapped imagination is to blame. There are many writers discussing the cultivation of the imagination and the moral imagination. If you have not read anything about it I would recommend that you do. I will include some links for further study below. It is the transcendent and powerful nature of truth combined with the ability of the myth to hold and carry it that allows the conscious to be developed through the story. If wisdom and virtue is our goal, then this might be the most important part of the curriculum. So what does this look like in the homeschool? Reading stories, allowing them to soak into our souls, and discussing them normatively. The most basic normative question being, “Should (he) have done (that)?”