PR Article on Greek in Modern Education- Conclusion

Charlotte Mason was inspired by this fresco of the Seven Liberal Arts

I am posting articles from Volume II of the Parents’ Review, and since they are long and I cannot scan them in as text I am doing it in small, bite-sized chunks comfortable enough for me to type in a short sitting. Therefore, I ended the last section somewhat arbitrarily. Oscar Browning has been talking about the benefits of a study for both character development and scholarly learning, and he says “I know of no study which produces such results as history, if only the history be properly taught,’ and that is where I quite typing. He continues,

“Even in the lower classes the frivolous boy is turned by it into a thoughtful man. The reason for this is not far to seek. It is essentially a manly study. The schoolboy coming to the University if he takes to classics has merely to repeat the exercises of this childhood; if he takes to history he is plunged at once into those studies and those considerations on which the most mature men are accustomed to exercise their minds. History may, of course, by bad teaching be turned into a mere exercise of the memory. But if the political side is kept clearly in view and the student is made to trace events to their cause, to explain the present by the past, to distinguish in the records of ancient times what is permanent from what is temporary, what is essential from what is accidental, he must acquire a robustness of intellect which few other studies can give. It also calls out what I before described as the highest organon of thought- the power of balancing probabilities. In history there is no certainty either or prediction or of judgment, or even of the relation of facts. “Do not read history to me,” said Bolingbroke; “I know that must be false.” False it is , tried by the test of science; true in the highest sense if measured by that standard of probability which is the only criterion within the grasp of weak and fallible man.

This modern literary training, based on the highest use of language, culminating sometimes in history and sometimes in philosophy, will , I believe, be the training of the future, if in the future the highest intellectual training is to exist at all. Let us therefore begin it it as well as we can. Science is claiming every day a larger scope; she is spreading her influence far and wide over the land, extinguishing fancy, imagination, and belief, hardening the mind against those eternal voices which can only be heard in whispers. If we would protect mankind from a mental leprosy whose influence may last for centuries, we must call to our aid all the assistance which literature in its widest sense can give us. It will be obvious from what I have said that while I believe most strongly that Greek should continue to be an essential part of classical education wherever that is pursued, yet I think that literary education, of which classical education is a branch, cannot hold its own against the advancing tide of science unless it call to its aid the literature and the literary thought of the modern world, and this can be done by establishing a new kind of literary education in which not only Greek, but perhaps also Latin, has no place. I should therefore, wish to see some substitute for Greek admitted at our Universities, but such a substitute as would ensure that it was given up not out of mere indolence or indifference to culture, but from the desire to pursue some other worthy object of study with effective industry. The substitute for it should be either a competent knowledge of French and German taken together, or of mathematics and sciences. I trust that what I have said, if it does not command assent, will at least suggest ample topics for discussion.*”

And the editor, Charlotte Mason, attaches this comment to the conclusion of the article, “Discussion is invited.- Ed.

I’ll be adding the links to all the sections of this article later, so those who want to peruse it as a single document can do that, and also to make it easier to put it together and get it up online at AO’s repository of PR articles.

Also: Keep in mind that one of the very interesting things about Oscar Browning’s arguments is that he didn’t really know he was refuting any erroneous ideas about what classical education was- he was just stating what everybody knew about it in 1891 (he was the headmaster of a classical school as well as the graduated student of another, and I believe that in the years he wasn’t a headmaster, he had been a teacher in other classical schools).

Dorothy Sayers would not write her new version into the record until something like fifty years later.

(for some reason, the following shortlinks sometimes only take readers to the front page of the main blog. If this happens to you, copy and paste into your browser the longer links I added below each hyperlink).

Part one

Greek in the Public Schools In England in 1891

Part two

The Seven Liberal Arts and a Classical Education- a Parents’ Review article cont.

Part three

Parents’ Review Article on Greek cont.

Part four

Greek in Modern Education, PR Article cont.

Part five

Greek in Modern Education, PR Article cont.

Part six, Conclusion

PR Article on Greek in Modern Education- Conclusion

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