Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Climbing Parnassus

Climbing Parnussus: A New Apologia for Greek and Latin is by Tracy Lee Simmons, a journalist who hold a master's degree in classics from Oxford. Simmons laments the death of classical education in American schools. What does he mean by classical education? Simmons believes the study of Greek and Latin to the point of reading the great authors in these languages comprises the most important element of an education truly classical. It is the education that our founding fathers had. He would probably term the modern homeschooler's version "classical lite."

There have been many times I've wanted to post on this book and the many discoveries I've made in its pages. I haven't because I've felt intimidated. The book is not the kind that makes you feel particularly intelligent. I am not even sure I feel qualified to comment on this book! As I was telling Athena, the one who recommended it to me, I feel like all I can really do is post quotes and say, "I agree with this one. And this one is good too."

Reading this book has started a process for me. It is helping to define my ignorance. I've always had this vague, nagging feeling that I don't know enough or that I don't know the right things. I like to listen to people's opinions on politics, law, ethics, morality, history, etc. I listen to or read these opinions, and some I find ludicrous, while with some I find I might agree. But I'm not always sure why I agree or disagree--I'm always left feeling that I don't know enough to form an informed opinion. There are so few people I look to as really knowing what they're talking about. So very few opinions out there I truly respect. And I, myself, am not one of them! I am in some ways a product of our country's education system as described in A Nation at Risk: "If an unfriendly foreign power had attempted to impose on America the mediocre educational performance that exists today, we might have viewed it as an act of war. As it stands, we have allowed this to happen to ourselves...we have, in effect , been committing an act of unthinking, unliateral educationl disarmament."

I am not saying that this book had all the answers for me. It is merely the best book on education that I've read. It is the most thoughtful, logical, reasonable. It is superbly written. If the man who wrote this book is a product of classical education, then a classical education is what I want for myself and my children

This book is very rich. There were many parts I had to read over several times before I thought I was beginning to understand what was meant. Not because it is not clearly written, but because it is nuanced. My thoughts on this book will have to come in a series of posts. I don't have time to sit down and write one long post on it, and you wouldn't have time to read it.


Athena said...

Like you, my mediocre educational experience left me at the mercy of the printed word. It's true. It's as Sayers writes when commenting about students leaving the schools--I didn't know what words meant; didn't know how to ward them off or blunt their edge or fling them back; I was a prey to words in my emotions instead of being the master of them in my intellect. And that's dangerous.

Calandria said...

That is a great Sayers quote!