Book Club

Poetic Knowledge, Chapter Six, Part I

This book is being a turning point in the way I see our homeschooling. I’m glad we are reading this together in a book club. For more difficult than the text is, and challenging, particularly the first 4 chapters, I’m gaining so much that I can’t even describe. Many in this book club have an ability to present posts with the main points and great synopsis of each reading, and your connections with your homeschooling and life are inspiring.

As I’m reading Ideas Have Consequences, this is what I found on pages 95 and 96:

Now Plato was disturbed by written discourse because it has “no reticences or proprieties toward different classes of persons” and because, if an individual goes to it with a question in his mind, it “always gives one unvarying answer.” And we find him making in the seventh Epistle the extraordinary statement that “no intelligent man will ever be so bold as to put into language those things which his reason has contemplated, especially not into a form that is unalterable, –which must be the case with what is expressed in written symbols.” Obviously, here is a paradox, and the present writer is aware of risking another in a book which calls attention to the sin of writing. The answer to the problem seems to be that written discourses is under a limitation and that whether we wish to accept that limitation to secure other advantages must be decided after due reference to purposes and circumstances.

In any case, for Plato, truth was a living thing, never wholly captured by men even in animated discourse and in its purest form, certainly, never brought to paper.

If the realization of truth is the product of a meeting of minds, we may be skeptical of the physical ability of the mechanism to propagate it as long as that propagation is limited to the printing and distribution of stories which give “one unvarying answer”.

Weaver is talking about this in relation to journalism, to criticize the claims of it as an agent that presents the truth, and to reveal it more as a propaganda and indoctrination tool, as he sees it accurately in my opinion. My thought though was to relate these ideas of Plato and Socrates with that the professors at IHP did when they had their discussions. They did not deal straight with books, or analyze them and presented them as abstractions such as they did in the other traditional college, but they discussed them and learned from then in literacy form, in animated discussions, in a poetic manner that students learned by imitation. It was important to see their gestures, to experience the conversations with all the senses, not just the intellect, such as when we read.

As grown ups learning about anything, we not always have the privilege to go straight to the source and see, listen, converse… thus we read books. But our children do not and should not start their education there. They need to, as Taylor said the professors at IHP did, be in touch with the real thing (such as gazing at the stars), or through an indirect experience (such as when they sing Twinkle Twinkle).

What did the students do at IHP. They sang hymns and popular songs, they learned Latin poetically (talking and listening to it), they recited and memorized poetry, learned to dance by dancing, they listened to discussions and CONVERSATIONS of the important Western books in a literacy form. They did precisely all that is not done anymore in schools or colleges, and they refrained from exactly all that is acclaimed in any prestigious educational institution (tests, analysis, impressive syllabus, taking notes, listen to lectures, dissect languages, poems and texts…)

And the professors at IHP were criticized for indoctrinating their students. They said that they were merely transmitting their believes and ideas in these discussions. They responded with a rotund NO. They let the third person (not them or the student, but the mind of the student), form their own opinions, make their own judgments, for it was never about what they thought, not even about what Plato or other authors themselves thought, but about finding the Truth. This idea is however far from the reach of modern men. Listen to Weaver in Ideas Have Consequences about what modern indoctrination consists on:

When the goal of life becomes self-realization, however, this vanishes. (He is referring to the the standards for value judgments). The politicians and businessmen are not interested in saving souls, but they are interested in preserving a minimum of organization, for upon that depend their posts and their incomes.

These leaders adopted the liberal’s solution to their problem. That was to let religion go but to replace it with education, which supposedly would exercise the same efficacy. The separation of education from religion, one of the proudest achievements of modernism, is but and extension of the separation of knowledge from metaphysics. And the education thus separated can provide their kind of indoctrination. We include here, of course, the education of the classroom, for all such institutionalized instruction proceeds on the assumptions of the state. But the education which best accomplishes their purpose is the systematic indoctrination from day to day of the whole citizenry through channels of information and entertainment.

On a second and shorter post, the application of the theory, or how this is changing our homeschooling.


6 thoughts on “Poetic Knowledge, Chapter Six, Part I”

  1. I am a simple person. Not a smart as you all; but I get this:
    “They sang hymns and popular songs, they learned Latin poetically (talking and listening to it), they recited and memorized poetry, learned to dance by dancing, they listened to discussions and CONVERSATIONS…”
    A CM concept! Yay! We, too are breaking out of the 'normal' also and working on this. One small example: learning latin by the kids bringing in a cool flower and we look it up and say it. Learning some Greek/Hebrew as they do copywork one day, then dig into it the next.Painting what they see in nature. Now if a bilingual friend would come visit, we could glean some real Spanish!
    I love that you are doing a knitting class with the girls. Wish our girls and I could join. How fun would that be!


  2. Pam, I'm not being condescending at all, but I have to say that no one who knows CM as you do can say she is not smart!

    Your ways of learning Latin, Hebrew and Greek are poetic.

    And even our knitting group is poetic, because it's not a 'formal class', it's a group and people, since they love knitting, they have mercy on those who have no clue, and patience, and they guide us into this wonderful activity. I loved seeing what they showed us they did knitting. It was the best show and tell. It's really nice to see people older than me, I truly have much to learn from those less impatient and who listen well. It's nice not to have anything to say about knitting because I know zero, ha ha ha.

    And Brandy, yes, we can't go wrong with Charlotte Mason.

    The irony is that with all these books and authors we come to a simple place of doing what is just plain common sense for many.


  3. I was reminded of a couple from my church while reading this chapter.
    She learned her latin from singing hyms while he went through four years of rigorous study. She remembers all the latin she learned while he forgot all his!


  4. “The irony is that with all these books and authors we come to a simple place of doing what is just plain common sense for many.” — It's so true!! 🙂


  5. :)But there is a value in this. It's the same as me reading about giving birth without drugs or nursing. George Dawson, the man of Life is so Good book, says he never read about parenting or diets, or money, he did great in all three because he had a poetic upbringing, and his poetic knowledge was amazing, and his parents knew intuitively these truths.

    But I don't know. My husband doesn't read much. I don't understand why, he is an intelligent and intuitive person. He reads the Bible, though, and he has an unbelievable knowledge of history and geography. Anyway, he tells me when I converse with him about these books, why it has taken me so long and so many books to find out about this! Sigh.


  6. Shari. That is so true. What we learn poetically seems to stay with us forever. I learned German four years formally, to the point I could write a short essay on a simple topic, ask and answer as if I was in a store, and our teacher was wonderful, she always spoke German in class, never Spanish, but don't ask me anything, I barely remember the numbers.
    On the other hand, as a young girl my father brought home a book with many of the Museo del Prado, in Madrid, paintings. And I used to look at those pictures, read about the painters, and I remember that very well, as well as the poems that I alone memorized myself just because they spoke so much to me and I wanted to know by heart. I never recited those in public.
    What drew me to CM is the fact that I did some of these things by myself. I believe my parents and grandma, who never read a book to me, did something very positive though. They truly let me be a child. I don't remember 'school' in the early years, but endless afternoons in the forest with other friends and moms practicing Masterly Inactivity by instinct, and knitting, and showing us if we wanted to learn.
    Also at the nuns, they'd have us play guitar since early, we drew a lot, we memorized and recited math, and we illustrated Bible stories, we sew, and we those with good penmanship would teach other children to write. I do not remember any of my nun teachers, they never lectured, I only remember other girls, and how rough the playground was because, again, they never 'controlled' us there. We used to go down the slide and stop there until the person at the bottom could not withhold the weight of the line of girls behind her.
    Some things weren't right, but all in all, I don't believe it was totally a modern education at all, and that must have helped some.


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