Classical education is about wisdom-loving, not knowledge-gathering
As I’ve written before, the goal of education is virtue, and Karen’s first chapter jumps right into the heart of it. She proves that virtue – right acting – needs to be the end we are pursuing when we educate children (and also ourselves), and demonstrates this is the classical notion about what education is for.
I would go farther to say that if that’s not why you’re educating, then you aren’t educating classically, no matter how many chants you do or how much Latin you know. And if you’re educating for that reason, but doing it without Latin or memorization, you still have more in common with the stream of classical education than the latter.
It’s a huge part of the point in Norms and Nobility, and Karen deftly shows that Plato & Aristotle held that education is leading a child into virtue, that Christianity expanded on that goal, and that Charlotte Mason was holding onto that long-held aim at the time when Modernity was gaining the cultural upper-hand.
All areas of life were brought into service for this single goal – to teach children to think and act rightly.
I love this succinct statement of the historic perspective on education’s aim.
Yes, we pursue knowledge, but not simply for its own sake. Our aim when we are learning and loving knowledge needs to be acting in accordance with the truth we have discovered – wisdom being knowledge, rightly applied.
When our knowledge is transformed into action, it becomes virtue, and virtue was the goal of education.
Or, as James puts it,
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
Whereas Plato and Aristotle held up philosophy as the highest and best source of knowledge for wisdom and virtue, Christendom took philosophy all the way to its end: religion and the embodiment of wisdom and virtue, Christ Himself.
She also quotes from Erasmus, who stated four goals of education:
- implanting seeds of piety
- cultivating a love for and knowledge of the liberal arts
- instructing in duties of life
- training in good manners
This is a full-orbed education. It is so much more than the 3-Rs.
It is nothing less than a full life, well lived – not compartmentalized and neutralized. Really, nothing is outside its scope. This is paideia – a one-piece life lived to enculturate and saturate our children (and ourselves!) with truth, goodness, and beauty.