sábado, 17 de junio de 2017

Once upon a time, there was a land in of pure and perfect proportion.

Teaching Truth-and Goodness and Beauty
by Lindsey Brigham

Once upon a time, there was a land in of pure and perfect proportion. Unlike our cities, in which highways and buildings and rivers and trees often tumble over one another in unsightly haphazardom, this land boasted hill folding into hill, building rising from building, and streets and rivers flowing in elegant curves, wherever the eye could see. But, strangely, this graceful land lacked any trace of color, sound, or scent; no music, no laughter, no gardens, no paintings, no feasts filled its symmetric architecture. Would such a land be habitable?

Classical curriculums, or perhaps the communities that use them, often emphasize classical education’s effectiveness in teaching truth. Logic programs are presented as apologetics courses or as intellectual armor against future erroneous professors; rhetoric programs become classical-styled Evangelism Explosion classes, designed to get the gospel truth out as efficiently as possible. Philosophy classes pit true and false worldviews against one another, and history curricula advertise their intent to tell thefull story, what really happened, unlike public school textbooks that water down, excerpt, or otherwise rewrite the record. As one popular textbook’s title affirms, classical education aims to give students the “total truth.”

But to teach truth alone is to usher students into a world of firm foundations, pure proportion, and stately symmetry with no color or sound or scent—the world of the fable above. This world lacks all that makes the truth homey and habitable, lovely and lovable; little wonder that students tire of it, poke fun at it, seek to move out of it. It cannot be home for their souls, for it lacks goodness and beauty.

Contrast this with the original “classical education” of the medieval university. For the medievals, the trivium and quadrivium of the curriculum reflected the order and harmony of the universe itself, with all its singing spheres, and this in turn reflected the order and harmony of the nature of God. Their writings exude a passionate conviction, not only of the truth of these ideas, but also of their beauty; and, paradoxically, it is the beauty that still captivates modern readers for whom the Ptolemaic system is not the best expression of truth. Think even of their gorgeously illuminated texts, and the witness they are to the conviction of truth's beauty.

By contrast, I have seen my students struggle to feel the conviction of beauty in their beliefs, especially over time. Though their initial encounter with worldview, logic, apologetics, and such studies often excites them tremendously, by junior and senior year, or later in college or life, this zeal often cools into a polite respect or even a slight embarrassment. I notice it occasionally in literature class when our discussion builds towards recognizing Christ and Christianity as the resolution of a dilemma—Trinitarian providence as the resolution to the problem of Oedipean fate, or Jesus’ resurrection as the resolution to all the incomplete “resurrections” in Tale of Two Cities. Not all the time, but sometimes, students feel sheepish about what they perceive as a true but trite “Sunday school answer” rather than as a true and beautiful fulfillment. They don’t question the truth that, as they’d say, “Jesus is the answer”; but they doubt the beauty of it. And I fear that, someday, that doubt will erode their belief in the truth, as well.

Thus, a great challenge and joy of classical pedagogy is the striving to orient our teaching around all three transcendentals—truth and goodness andbeauty—daily discovering the ways that they ground and enrich one another, while arousing and directing our desires.


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