Books about Teaching

The “big” list.
A[1] briefly annotated bibliography[2] by Steve Elliott[3]

Ableson, Paul. Seven Liberal Arts: a Study in Mediaeval Culture. Saw it on James Daniel’s list but have no idea about it beyond that.

Adler, Mortimer J. Reforming Education. Macmillan, 1977. In addition to this fine work, which is an anthology of his writings about education, you may find his classics, “How to Read a Book,” and “How to Speak, How to Listen,” very helpful as well. I like Adler for his love of the classics and his clarity of expression. It may not all be as simple as he makes it sound, but it sure is refreshing and challenging to contemplate his vision of learning.

Aquinas. (Various selected works from Summa Theologica, Quaestines Disputatae de Veritate, Commentary on the sentences, etc.). Aquinas was perhaps the last great champion of “old school” education. He should be read often and repeatedly. Lots of great resources for him online these days.

Aristotle. On Categories; On Rhetoric. How do you write a brief bibliography on someone of Aristotle’s stature? Read him and you will see why you should read him.

Ascham, Roger. The Schoolmaster. About 1570. Ascham, educated at, and fellow of, St. John’s College , Cambridge , was a tutor of Queen Elizabeth in the mid sixteenth century and an important writer of English Renaissance educational theory. Part of the second generation of great English Renaissance men of letters, he rejected the decadent humanism of Italy for the Christian humanism of England . His book is practical advice and hard-headed theory, a work designed to produce, through sound classical and Christian education, men sound in mind, religion, body, and citizenship in a young, powerful country.

Ashley, Benedict. The Arts of Learning and Communication. Recommended to me by trusted sources, but not yet read by me.

Auchincloss, Louis. The Rector of Justin. Avon Books, 1964. I love to read fiction, and often in education it is in biography and fiction that one can “envision” what great teaching looks like. I hope at some point to include my reviews of a number of great fictional and biographical works on teaching, but for now this is one of the best I have read. As David Hicks says, it asks all the right questions.

Augustine. On Dialectic; On Order. So much of what I read about education after St. Augustine quotes him that I feel you just have to be familiar with him to get what others are doing. In particular, a comparison of Augustine with Aquinas is very helpful in seeking primary sources of reference for educational thought.

Bennett, Charles E. and George P. Bristol. The Teaching of Latin and Greek in the Secondary School. American Teachers Series. James E. Russell, ed. Longmans, Green, and Co.: London , 1906. Similar to The Teaching of Classics, but the value here is in the discussion of the nature and importance of classical languages and literatures in secondary schools at the point (the turn of the century) when the decline is beginning to set in and the value of those disciplines is coming under attack, and also in the predictions made which we know have come true. It is also immensely valuable for the light shed on the differences between turn-of-the-century and late-twentieth-century expectations and requirements for school children and assumptions about their capacities.

Capella, Martianus. The Marriage of Philology and Mercury. Others have informed me that Capella’s allegorical Marriage of Philology and Mercury became one of the most highly regarded foundations for study of the seven liberal arts.

Cassiodorus. Institutes of Divine and Secular Learning. As a minister of the Ostrogothic regime in the time of Theoderic, Cassiodorus had as brilliant a political career as any Roman of the late empire. Around 538 he published a collection of his state letters under the title of “Variae,” and disappeared from the public record. Half a century later, dying at his country estate in Calabria, he left behind the exemplars for another world of texts: that of the Christian universe of Scripture, now encompassing the Seven Liberal Arts. The grand plan of this new dispensation is contained in the two books of his “Institutions of Divine and Secular Learning, a work which would be excerpted and copied in monasteries throughout the Latin Middle Ages.[4]

Cato. Distichs. I see this work cited a great deal, and thus it must be of worth, but I have not made it there yet.

Cicero. On Oratory; Topics. One of the great writers on the art of Rhetoric, these works contain a lot for us to think about regarding how to communicate truth to others.

Conway and Ashley. “The Liberal Arts in St. Thomas Acquinas.” fr. The Thomist.

Dawson, Christopher. The Crisis of Western Education. Franciscan University Press: Steubenville , 1989. Some chapters in the book: the history of liberal, humanist education; the modern decline; the place of Christian education in the modern world; western man and the technological order.

Donatus, Aelius. Minor Arts; Major Arts. Aelius Donatus (fl. 354 A.D.) was the most famous Latin grammarian of late antiquity and his works were widely used throughout the middle ages. His well-known status as a teacher of Jerome doubtless helped his reputation, but his grammatical treatises and his glosses on Vergil and Terence were well suited to classroom use.[5]

Elyot, Sir Thomas. The Governor. 1531. Both Elyot and Ascham are concerned with the development of both body and mind toward moral ends, toward the making of a gentleman, within the framework of a classical discipline. Elyot was educated at home, worked in law, diplomacy for the King, and wrote fairly extensively.

Gatto, John. A Different Kind of Teacher. Berkeley Hills, 2001. Gatto is a hoot. I find him quite irreverent toward the hand that has fed him so well. As a nationally recognized “Teacher of the Year” from the state of New York , he boldly casts dispersions at the public system, correctly identifying many of its problems. Not all his solutions are within the camp of classical education, but if nothing else, his “out of the box” thinking breeds the conversations that bring forth great thinking about the great issues.

Guorian, Vigen. Tending the Heart of Virtue. Having met Vigen, seen his heart out on his sleeve, and come away better for the experience, this book has moved way up my reading list. A better review should be in place very soon.

Gregory, John Milton. The Seven Laws of Teaching. 1886. This small book is being passed around alot in classical circles but is rife with modernist notions of pedagogy. It is worth reading, but I caution folks often that its basic assumption is to move teaching firmly into the world of technique and “science” and that for teaching to remain what it should be, it must always be viewed as an art.

Hicks, David. Norms & Nobility. University Press of America , 1991. Perhaps the best work I know on the subject of what a school should be and education in general. A must read. If we thought like this, we would save education from collapse. May God bless it many thoughtful readers.

Highet Gilbert. The Classical Tradition. Oxford University Press: New York , 1949. Subtitled “Greek and Roman Influences on Western Literature,” this book is another outstanding Highet contribution to the study of the classical world and the value of that study in education. The important parts of the book for the purposes of this bibliography are those sections, particularly pages 490-500 (sub-headed “education”) in chapter 21 (“A Century of Scholarship”) and all of chapter 24 (“Conclusion”) which deal particularly with the declne of the importance of knowledge of the classical world, languages, and literature in modern education and the consequences of that decline on education. Throughout the book, however, there are discussions of education at various times in history which are revealing and germane to the issue of education now. Extremely perceptive and thought-provoking; again, though Highet is a humanistic classicist, he has borrowed heavily from the Protestant Western heritage of thought and is more worthwhile to read than many Christian authors who are not such good scholars or teachers.

Highet, Gilbert. The Art of Teaching. Vintage Books: New York , 1954. An outstanding discussion of the nature, scope, and methods of teachers and teaching. Highet includes an analysis of many of the great teachers from the past and the methods and attitudes they employed. Highet is wonderfully engaging, clear, thoughtful, and sympathetic to students and teachers both. He uses a great many examples and the book itself is an example of the principles he espouses. He does reveal a number of assumptions that are questionable at best, especially in his defense of institutional schools over strict tutoring or home education, a particularly ironic position given the many examples he uses from history of outstanding education being conducted by fathers and mothers at home. More importantly, Highet is a humanist and reveals a belief in the moral power of education that must be rejected by biblical Christian world-view thinkers. Like Mortimer Adler, his humanism drives his discussion. However, again like Adler, the philosophy of teaching that he holds has been built out of the Christian West and ought to be considered carefully by Christians. The book is well worth several careful, thoughtful readings because there is a great deal of immmense value to be gained from it.

Isidore (of Seville). Etymologies. I see this work cited a great deal, and thus it must be of worth, but I have not made it there yet.

Jaeger, C. Stephen. The Envy of Angels: Cathedral Schools and Social Ideals of Medieval Europe (950-1200). Great historical and background material. I have not read it cover to cover, but interacted with it some.

Jaeger, Werner. Paideia: The Ideals of Greek Culture. This gets too much classical press to not be good. I need to get a copy and enjoy.

Joseph, Sister Miriam. The Trivium. Edited by Marguerite McGlinn. Paul Dry Books, 2002. I have found this immensely slow in reading, pleasantly and challengingly deep, and worth every penny of effort. But I warn you that I have found my peers regularly balk at its size and difficulty. If you persevere, you will reap a bounty of theory and practicality from this seasoned veteran of classical education.

Marrou, H.I. A History of Education in Antiquity. Wisconsin Univ. Press, 1956. Though for most, the size will be inhibitive due to time, I would highly recommend this as an “occasional read” one of those books you pick up and read a little from every once in a while. It is just full of great thought provoking insights into ancient education.

Milton, John. “Of Education.” Milton ‘s philosophy of education, especially for young men who will become leaders in a politically unstable climate such as his own. His expectations regarding the capacities of young people takes the modern breath away (young men who are studying Latin and Greek will naturally pick up Hebrew, Syriac, and Aramaic on their own in their free time, he says), but his assumptions, principles of methodology and chronology, and goals are surely well worth considering.

Montaigne. “Of the Education of Children.” From his essays. Late sixteenth century. A fascinating essay on Montaigne’s own education and the principles he has drawn from his own education and his observations of that of others, and his consequent recommendations on education for those with the desire and freedom to education their children for aristocratic, political life.

Newman, John Henry. The Idea of a University: Defined and Illustrated. Loyola University Press, 1927. Given as a series of lectures, the purpose of this text is to set forth the purpose of a university by defending the notion of a liberal education. Newman sets the standard high and clearly aims all proper education at its intended Christian goal.

Nickel, James. Mathematics: Is God Silent? Several friends and colleagues have found this very helpful in the sciences.

Palmer, Parker. The Courage to Teach. Jossey-Bass, 1998. I have not read this yet, but so many have suggested it to me that I put it out here as a recommendation on the weight of those who have suggested it. I will revise once I read it.

Pearcy and Thaxton. The Soul of Science: Christian Faith and Natural Philosophy. Couple of trusted sources have it on my reading list, but I don’t have a good review of it, yet.
Perks, Stephen. The Christian Philosophy of Education Explained. Avant Books: Whitby , 1992. By the look of the chapter titles, a sound exposition of the nature and necessity of education from a solid Reformed Christian perspective.

Plato. The Republic. The well known work by this early and key philosopher includes many sections given over to what the education of a just society must include. Guaranteed to enjoin some hot discussion among teachers and a must read for all those seeking to teach classically. I would recommend the Grube text revised by Reeve.

Priscian. Grammar. The best known of all the Latin grammarians, this work in particular had a profound influence on the teaching of Latin and indeed of grammar generally in Europe.
Quintilian. Institutio Oratoria. This large work was a primary text for the education of orators throughout the Roman Emperial period and again in the Renaissance. Quintilian describes his philosophy of educational goals, methods, and matter from the earliest years of a child’s life to the retirement years of the professional orator. The book is valuable not only for the precepts of rhetoric so well laid out, but for his discussion of teaching, books, students, psychology of children, proper use of time, and a host of other issues involved in education all through life.

Sayers, Dorothy. “The Lost Tools of Learning.” Given as an address at Oxford in the middle of this century, it is available as a reprint from National Review, Canon Press, or online. A classic essay on the possibility of adapting the late medieval and early Renaissance “trivium” to elementary and secondary pedagogy as a means of recovering the educational soundness that has been lost in the last hundred years in the Western world.

Sidney, Sir Philip. An Apology for Poesy. Why all the literature in a classical education? Here is a great answer, as well as helpful work on the inculcation of virtue in the student.
Simmons, Tracy Lee. Climbing Parnassus. Perhaps the best defense for the study of ancient languages I have on my shelf. Never get caught fumbling for a defense of the study again.

Taylor, James. Poetic Knowledge: the Recovery of Education. SUNY, 1998. This book examines the levels of knowledge by which a student learns, and gives ample reason to seek to recover the mode of poetic knowledge, that knowledge we gain through intuition, experience, and inner passion. This is a great work for a faculty to talk through together. This book should launch a thousand conversations.

The Teaching of Classics. Issued by the Incorporated Association of Assistant Masters in Secondary Schools. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge , 1954. A discussion of the place of classical languages and literatures taught in the original languages in secondary schools, prefaced by a defense of the continued teaching of the classics. Includes chapters on methods, appropriate levels, examinations, and aids. Particularly useful for the assumptions made about the value of Greek and Latin at the secondary level.

Veith, Gene E. & Andrew Kern, Classical Education: The Movement Sweeping America. Capitol Research Center , 2001. A great overview of the various “new” forms of classical education in American experience today. This helps everyone get a sense of balance in this fairly new movement by seeking out that which best addresses their passions and concerns. Andrew is director of Circe Ministries, which is at the forefront of the classical school consulting business and has a wonderful conference every year.

Wagner, David, ed. The Seven Liberal Arts in the Middle Ages. Great resource for essays and background on CCE.

Wilson, Douglas. Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning. Crossway Books, 1991. (Revised and reissued as The Case for Classical Education, 2003, Crossway). This book, one of the most influential of recent books on the Classical Christian Education movement, is an exposition of the principles laid out in Dorothy Sayers’ essay The Lost Tools of Learning, and a description of Logos School’s pioneering attempt to put those principles into practice.

[1] I actually have this list in two forms: this is the full or larger version, I have also boiled it down to a smaller “essential books” list as well.
[2] No, I have not read all the books in this list yet! But I long to be able to remove this endnote J
[3] My sources for this list are numerous, but at least the following must be acknowledged:
Callihan, Wes. An Annotated Bibliography On Classical Education Organized Somewhat Chronologically (Ancient, Renaissance, and Modern; Eclectic, Arbitrary, and Incomplete) , off the internet. Some of his descriptions have been used above.
Daniels, James. “Understanding Classical Education: Selected Curriculum Resources,” Westminster Academy, Memphis TN.
Hicks, David. Norms and Nobility. Not only did this book make it into my list, but its bibliography and notes spawned a huge amount of reading on my part, many of which are above.
Kern, Andrew. Circe Institutes various publications almost always list great books for the rest of us to read. I know several of the above come from there.
I also enjoy having three endnotes on one title!
[4] This description is from a Yahoo Shopping note
[5] This description is from website about Donatus


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