Arts and Sciences

I mentioned in my post on Assessment that one of the major issues we face in reforming education is unraveling the severe confusion over the arts and sciences.  I have said this before but it bears repeating.  Until we first form the Liberal Arts in our students and then lead them into the four sciences, all four of them, education will be misdirected and confused in our land.

In short, the Arts are seven:  three for dealing with words (Grammar, Logic, and Rhetoric) and four for dealing with number or matter (arithmetic, music, geometry, and astronomy [harmony]).  These encompass acts that one must perform with words and numbers.  They cannot be confused with the Sciences, which are the ideas and facts pertaining to the spheres of life.  The four sciences include, in ascending order, The Natural Sciences (that which is accessible to our senses), The Ethical Sciences, The Philosophic Sciences, and Theology.  There are all kinds of observations to be made about these lists, but the recovery of their reality, importance, hierarchical structure, and order is needed before education can really be understood.

And as we live in culture that is or already has actively sought to overthrow Theology (God is Dead), Philosophy (Truth is relative), and Ethics (Morals are man-made) is left with only one science, and has made that the entirety of authoritative truth (Natural Science).

One more thing I think adds to this reflection.  I have been reading in Richard Weaver and he is developing the idea that Form can become dangerous when it is worshiped.  His point is that whenever man finds a form that provides some delight or meets some desire, he runs the risk of idolizing that Form and thus devolving the delight into slavery or mindless slavery that in turn becomes a destroyer of the men who worship it.

I think this is the point I am finding in Salman Kahn’s book on his efforts at reforming education.  After examining the history of our modern classroom system (which he correctly attributes to the Prussian system of the later 19th century) he then asks if we have held onto this form past its time.  I am not sure the form ever was “right” or sound, but it rose to become the form of our system, and now may very well be the main barrier to real education occurring our day.  How I would love to gather a group of educators and discuss the form at length.  I think far too much has been set forth as educational reform that seeks to change dresses on the corpse.  We should be looking at the form more and the then once we have the right form, seeking to fill it correctly.

Is this not one of the joys of the small scale of home schooling?  Why do many try to structure their home school in the same patterns (forms) as that of the Prussian model?  Just think Weaver is on to something here.

arts and sciences


Memory and Culture According to Weaver

“Again the need appears to speak up against the uncritical adulation of youth. It is anomalous that a civilization of long history and great complexity should defer to youth rather than to age.  The virtues of youth are the virtues of freshness and vitality, but these are not the virtues that fit one to be the custodians of the culture that society has produced.  Deferring to youth is another way of weakening continuity. Mark almost any young person, and you notice that he does not see very much, in the sense of understanding what is present to his vision. He perceives, but he does not interpret, and this is because he is too lacking in those memory traces which lead to ideas and concepts. The memoryless part of mankind cannot be the teachers of culture; they are, however, ready learners of it if the real teachers show faith in the value of what they have.”

Richard M. Weaver. Visions of Order, ISI, 2006. Originally published, 1964. p. 53-54