Effective Classical and Christian Training

I believe that classical and Christian education is more about wisdom being embodied in the teacher than the right curriculum, program, or technique.

I also believe that teachers must understand the link between the philosophy and the practice of classical and Christian education to be effective.

I believe that classical and Christian teaching must be modeled in front of classical and Christian teachers.

And lastly, I believe that an “immersion” in the model of classical and Christian education through conversations in small groups in a contemplative setting is imperative in training.

Because I believe these things and because I wanted this type of training for my teachers, five years ago I started a conference for K-12 teachers, headmasters, and home-schoolers. It is called the Intellectus Conlectio, “a gathering for contemplative thinking”. A good friend of mine, Wes Callihan, recently honored me with these words about the conference:

“James Daniels’ Intellectus Conlectio, held at a beautiful retreat center in the woods outside Memphis each summer, is the ideal education conference because it’s so unlike an education conference. The seminars are conducted in Daniels’ laid-back Socratic style; the satisfying meals together are leisurely and conducive to sharing ideas; Daniels and other master teachers make themselves available around the clock for one-on-one practical counsel; and best of all the after-hours conversations, sometimes running late into the night on the comfortable screened porches, allow participants not only to imagine the concrete applications of the conference for their own teaching but also the much broader implications of a culture shaped by this sort of education. All of this is made possible by the deliberately small number of participants and by the fact that they are all together all week in the same vicinity – learning, eating, drinking, strolling the grounds, and contemplating together in a full-time community, not scattering at night and between talks. It’s a community, not just an audience listening to lecturers; its greatest virtue is that it models, by inviting the participants into the pattern of things like a very un-ascetic and relaxed monastic order, what the ideal educational community might be. The Intellectus Conlectio week was the most stimulating, fruitful, and delightful conference I’ve ever participated in.”

Please e-mail me at jamesdaniels3@bellsouth.net if you would like information on this conference. Let me know soon – each of the two summer conferences is limited to 25 people and vacancies are filling!

Do Education Schools Prepare Teachers to Teach?

Classical educators have long been concerned about whether teacher’s colleges have been producing teachers who are qualified to teach in a classical school. School leaders often state that it is easier to hire a teacher from another profession because “they have less to unlearn.”

The Pope Center for Higher Education Policy is concerned too, though not just for classical schools. They have produced a report for North Carolina called Univesity of North Carolina Education Schools: Helping or Hindering Potential Teachers?. Here’s a summary from their web site.

This paper looks at a major problem found in schools of education throughout the country, including the UNC system. That is the overemphasis on what is sometimes called “student-centered learning,” but is also known as “progressivism” and “constructivism.” As this report reveals, that approach to learning has major weaknesses when it comes to teaching potential teachers.

To learn more, click HERE to visit their website.

The NAS web site is also concerned about what our teacher’s colleges are producing. NCATE is the leading accreditor of education schools and they have just annointed a new president. Here’s what they say at NAS about NCATE and the ed schools they accredit:

Ask what’s wrong with American K-12 schooling, and a disproportionately large part of the answer comes down to schools of education that systematically mis-prepare would-be teachers for their careers. Ask why schools of education are so terrible, and NCATE looms as a significant part of the answer. NCATE is, with no real exaggeration, the enemy of those who hope to restore good, substantive teaching in America’s schools. By and large, it favors “process” over substance, trendy pedagogy over sound practice, psychological adjustment over cultivated self-control, and social messaging over objective knowledge. 

Sounds familiar. Read the rest of their article HERE.

Out of Africa

My good friend Andrew Pudewa has just returned from Africa, where he kept a blog of his adventures. Here’s a link for you to keep up with him (a little late).

Adler on covering ground

What is the point of covering ground, if the students’ feet never touch it, if they never learn through independent exercise to walk by themselves, with head erect and unafraid of all intellecutal opposition and difficulty…

I would feel happier about the graduates of Catholic colleges if they were really to understand a few truths well… rather than be able to recite… philosophical answers to problems they did not really understand or take seriously.

Reforming Education, chapter 13, The Order of Learning

Multum, non multa is a core principle of classical education: Much, not many. When Vittorino DeFeltre taught his charges in early Renaissance Florence, they started reading Homer around the time they turned 9, if my memory serves (maybe it was 6). In the original. Why?

Because he wanted them to learn to think deeply, which requires careful, precise, close readings of difficult works. No classical educator would believe that we take education seriously when a child can graduate high school without having ever read a text closely. They would laugh at our pre-occupation with “getting through the materials,” they would wonder at our obsession with learning trivia, they would cry when they saw that we don’t believe in truth or beauty. And I think they would scold us when they saw how we treated children, moving them from class to class, bell to bell, data to data, all so they can create the illusion of production so we can create the illusion of assessment.

I suppose I’m writing a bit harshly, but we need to think about these things. What we are doing to our children is inconsiderate.