Thursday, February 12, 2009

Teaching the Love of Beauty

"But we, believing that the normal child has powers of mind which fit him to deal with all knowledge proper to him, give him a full and generous curriculum; taking care only that all knowledge offered him is vital, that is, that facts are not presented without their informing ideas." CM Principle #11

The words of Socrates noted earlier-- "the object of education is to teach us to love what is beautiful"-- are, of course, informing Aristotle's entire position here. The beauty of "right judgments," the "delight in good dispositions and noble actions," the "pleasure" of virtue itself, all form a portrait of ancient education that has unfairly been narrowed and isolated by modern audiences as solely rational. Yet, all character excellence and virtue are here prepared with the most thoughtful of sensory and emotional experiences, which represents a clear expression of knowledge in the poetic mode.

_Poetic Knowledge_. page 21-22

(Emphasis mine-- a little note of connection. What happens when the rigor of a classical education is divorced from its informing idea-- that the love of beauty is the object of education?)


Willa said...

Loved this quote. As for your question -- I think it's an excellent one. I don't think you can have a real classical education without reference to beauty. "Wisdom begins in wonder" -- there is something mystical and almost shocking in beauty, that makes one realize that Truth and Goodness are mystical and surprising too, in the same way.

Katie said...

Another connection-- I read in a book on adolescent neuroscience that the prefrontal cortex on teens is not fully functional. This is the seat of rational thought in the brain. How does this relate to poetic knowledge, or the lack of it, in education today?

Willa said...

I blogged on that adolescent neuroscience stuff once. What book are you reading?

You know, I wonder if what you are saying is at all related to what CM says about "The Way of the Reason". It is an idea of hers that has puzzled me forever. Do you think that poetic knowledge can instill a sense of judgment that a purely academic education cannot?

Katie said...

Yes, I do. One of the most important aspects of a CM education, imho, is teaching kids that reason is not infallible, that there is Something out there that is objective truth, objective beauty. When the poetic mode of knowledge is not a part of a child's education, that child will have a harder time forming sympathy for the noble and good, which I think is a great way to impair a person's judgment.

But, Willa, you know so much more than I do about all of this. I'd love to see the direction your thoughts are going on this subject.

I am reading _Why Do They Act That Way?_ by John Walsh, Ph.D. I don't agree with all of his recommendations, but his discussion of adolescent brain chemistry/activity is very easy to understand. I think if CM were alive today, she would be very excited about what they are discovering where kids' brains are concerned.