Wednesday, November 02, 2005

interview with Tracy Lee Simmons

Here is an interview with Tracy Lee Simmons, author of Climbing Parnassus. Here is Tracy's response to the question, "What is a classical education?"

This was the Humanist's education, in the sense in which Erasmus and Thomas
More were Humanists. A classical education used to mean simply a curriculum
based upon Greek and Latin. Of course, that curriculum also included math,
history, and literature, but they were secondary; the two ancient languages were
primary. Greek and Latin were what made the curriculum classical, nothing else.
Unfortunately, as I say in the book, a classical education can mean lots of
things these days, practically everything from Shakespeare to phonics. But, on
the upper end, most definitions seem to have in common a fairly demanding
curriculum and a serious reconnection to the history of the Western world — but
often without the languages themselves. I think this is deadly, because it
excludes the rigor. Over time it gives us the illusion of knowing things we
don't. So I've tried to reemphasize Greek and Latin as being vital, in fact
central, to a classical education. It's not really my definition, mind you. It's
what everyone from T. S. Eliot on back for hundreds of years would have
recognized. A classical education forms the mind by classical models of thought
and language and gives us a past.

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