Monday, May 03, 2010

A Month with Charlotte Mason, #29: Fragmentation, trivialization, and redemption

"Our four children came home from their private boarding school in Rhodesia for the last time. They were well-dressed, well-shod, well-fed, prosperous-looking children. Only when one listened to their vapid chatter, limited by both vocabulary and knowledge, did one glimpse the distressing poverty of their minds."--Joyce McGechan, "To Prosper in Good Life and Good Literature," Parents Review, 1967
I've been struggling to write the last two posts in this series, trying to decide on an ending. I think I just had this one handed to me in one of Grandpa Squirrel's Toronto weekend papers. Click over to Saturday's Globe and Mail and read Margaret Wente's interview with Camille Paglia. [LINK FIXED] (Warning: several of the comments afterward contain language that is just not nice.)

I do not agree with her viewpoint on other important issues, but she has gotten the problems of education absolutely correct. Just--wow.
"When I went into graduate school at Yale, the professors of poetry were the leading lights on campus. Can you imagine anything comparable today?"
"Art history survey courses are in the verge of extinction. Teachers have no sense that they are supposed to inculcate a sense of appreciation and respect and awe at the greatness of what these artists have done in the past. The entire purpose of higher education is broadening. But since then we've witnessed the fragmentation and trivialization of the curriculum."
"The long view of history is absolutely crucial....I believe in chronology and I believe it's our obligation to teach it. I've met fundamentalist Protestants who've just come out of high school and read the Bible. They have a longer view of history than most students who come out of Harvard."
"Educators need to analyze the culture and figure out what’s missing in the culture and then supply it. Students find books onerous. But I still believe that the great compendium of knowledge is contained in books."
"At the primary level, what kids need is facts. They need geography, chronology, geology. I'm a huge believer in geology – it's all about engagement in physical materials and the history of the world. But instead of that, the kids get ideology. They're taught that global warming has been caused by factories. They have no idea there’s been climate change throughout history. And they're scared into thinking that tsunamis are coming to drown New York."
How can we stay out of this "landscape of death" and create an oasis of hope? According to Camille Paglia, the answer is not in teaching critical thinking, ideology, or hysteria over drowning polar bears. It's in poetry, geology, the long view of history, physical books, geography, art appreciation. It's the struggle against fragmentation and trivialization. Question is, will anyone listen?
"Our shabby little crew, with few material advantages, have a good life. They work hard at lessons and on the farm. Then duties done, they run free on the veld, catching butterflies, collecting stones, watching birds, gathering wild flowers. Evenings for them are all too short. Specimens must be identified, labelled, catalogued. There are still unread books on the bookshelves, as well as old friends to be re-read. Daddy must hear someone's latest effort at poetry composition, or told the anecdote about George IV's false teeth.

"Thanks to Charlotte Mason and the PNEU school these children of ours are, in fact, rich."--Joyce McGechan


Jamie {See Jamie blog} said...

Thanks for your contribution to the CM blog carnival!

Richele said...

I believe I've wandered around your treehouse for an hour now - and enjoyed all I've read.

I'll have to clear the calendar to read through your entire month of CM posts. The Camille Paglia interview was a great link. I didn't read the comments though as I'd like to sleep tonight.