Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Liberal Arts Tradition Chapter 3

Gymnastics and Music

The authors think the readers will be surprised to hear that Plato and Aristotle would not start with the grammar stage as Dorothy Sayers does.  Instead they start with referencing gymnastics and music.  Gymnastics for the Greeks was not what we see every four years in the Olympics.  Instead it was learning to control the entire body to build up strength and coordination.  Music also was not limited to melodious sound but included all of the poetic arts.  Such an education is presented as a whole body, mind and soul experience.  The authors explain that the Greeks upheld these disciplines because they were the beginning points to acquiring moral and intellectual virtues.  This idea seems to do better than Christians because it recognizes the eternal value of an entire person.  Without realizing it modern educators, even in Classical Christian Schools have been influenced by Gnosticism (this thought is mine). 

The above leads to the point that gymnastics should be an essential part of a Classical Christian curriculum. 

A gymnastics curriculum should work to perfect human abilities.  It is also observed that there is a correlation between development disciplines of the body to better disciplines of the mind.  Temperance and fortitude are the two most obvious virtues that are strengthened by physical conditioning and they transfer well into the classroom. 

When it comes to music nothing speaks more readily and profoundly to the soul than the poetic arts.  Plato would say nothing forms the soul more than the poetic arts.  Aristotle went further to say it develops human intuition toward what is good or noble.  The author explains Lewis’ argument as being the same when in the Abolition of Man he explains how intuition and imagination work together in humans to form a conception of the good. 

To avoid frustration by the reader the authors don’t suggest imposing a new curriculum for music but to recognize the music they already use in other subjects.  Subjects in general could also be approached by recognizing the music that is within them such as the music of history with its poetic flow as well as the poetics that come out of history.

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