The Critical Texts Series
Each of these talks begins with a critical text from the tradition of the classical education movement, unpacks its key principles, then provides experienced practical wisdom in applying these principles to the art of education.
Talks can be adapted to any level and would be equally suitable for parents, faculty, or an outside audience.
Mortimer Adler, The Paideia Proposal and The Paideia Program
"Too many facts are often as much of an obstacle to understanding as too few. There is a sense in which we moderns are inundated with facts to the detriment of understanding."
Mortimer Adler was an American philosopher, author, and educator most notable for his famous How to Read a Book and his work at the University of Chicago. His Padeia projects had a significant impact on the classical education movement, especially in the area of pedagogy.
Luigi Giussani, The Risk of Education
"Our personality grows hand in hand with the deepened exercise of free choice and free judgment. In order to judge and to choose, though, we need a yardstick, standard, and if it isn’t an affirmation of the original reality in which nature forms us, the adolescent will fool himself into creating his own standard."
This book by an Italian educator of the '50s and '60s, Fr. Luigi Giussani, treats the important topics of tradition and role of tradition and the educator as the representative of a tradition in the context of the freedom and critical judgment of the student.
Russel Kirk, "The Moral Imagination"
"The moral imagination aspires to the apprehending of right order in the soul and right order in the commonwealth. This moral imagination was the gift and the obsession of Plato and Vergil and Dante. Drawn from centuries of human consciousness, these concepts of the moral imagination—so powerfully if briefly put by Burke—are expressed afresh from age to age ... It is the moral imagination which informs us concerning the dignity of human nature, which instructs us that we are more than naked apes."
Considered one of the preeminent men of letters in the 20th century, Russel Kirk was a sharp critic of modern factory-style education and had a considerable impact upon the intellectual culture that gave birth to the modern classical education movement. His understanding of the moral imagination is an important piece in understanding "humane letters" and the place of letters in the transmission of culture.
C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man
"For every one pupil who needs to be guarded against a weak excess of sensibility there are three who need to be awakened from the slumber of cold vulgarity. The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles but to irrigate deserts. The right defence against false sentiments is to inculcate just sentiments. By starving the sensibility of our pupils we only make them easier prey to the propagandist when he comes. For famished nature will be avenged and a hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head."
One of the greatest popular Christian thinkers of the 20th century, C.S. Lewis argues in this classic short work for the development of proper affections as one of the important aims of education.
Josef Pieper, Leisure: The Basis of Culture
"Leisure is an attitude of the mind and a condition of the soul that fosters a capacity to perceive the reality of the world."
The German philosopher Josef Pieper's understanding of the relationship between leisure, culture, and learning is an essential element in the proper understanding of classical education.
The Wisdom of Socrates
"Wonder is the only beginning of philosophy."
The figure of Socrates is a towering one in the classical education movement. His influence is felt in everything from his powerful defense of the life of a philosopher in the Apology to his demonstration of our natural capacity for learning in the Meno to the famous allegory of the cave in the Republic.
Michael Polanyi, Personal Knowledge
"By watching the master and emulating his efforts in the presence of his example, the apprentice unconsciously picks up the rules of the art, including those which are not explicitly known to the master himself. These hidden rules can be assimilated only by a person who surrenders himself to that extent uncritically to the imitation of another. A society which wants to preserve a fund of personal knowledge must submit to tradition."
The classical education movement has sometimes been rightly criticized for being strong in the humanities but weak in mathematics and sciences. A part of the solution to this problem is the development of a proper and humane understanding of science and scientific education. The Hungarian-British polymath Michael Polanyi provides just such a framework in Personal Knowledge and his philosophy of critical realism.
Alfred North Whitehead, The Aims of Education
"In training a child to activity of thought, above all things we must beware of what I call 'inert ideas' — that is to say, ideas that are merely received into the mind without being utilized, or tested, or thrown into fresh combinations.”
Best known as a philosopher and preeminent mathematician, Alfred North Whitehead was also a brilliant educational thinker who emphasized the essential roles of intuition, reasoning, and what he called a "habitual vision of greatness."