I just read this article by Stanley Fish of the New York Times, and opinion piece titled "A Classical Education: Back to the Future." Fish talks about his education and where he thinks we are and need to go. Here's my favorite part:
I wore my high school ring for more than 40 years. It became black and misshapen and I finally took it off. But now I have a new one, courtesy of the organizing committee of my 55th high school reunion, which I attended over the Memorial Day weekend.
I wore the ring (and will wear it again) because although I have degrees from two Ivy league schools and have taught at U.C. Berkeley, Johns Hopkins, Columbia and Duke, Classical High School (in Providence, RI) is the best and most demanding educational institution I have ever been associated with. The name tells the story. When I attended, offerings and requirements included four years of Latin, three years of French, two years of German, physics, chemistry, biology, algebra, geometry, calculus, trigonometry, English, history, civics, in addition to extra-curricular activities, and clubs — French Club, Latin Club, German Club, Science Club, among many others. A student body made up of the children of immigrants or first generation Americans; many, like me, the first in their families to finish high school. Nearly a 100 percent college attendance rate. A yearbook that featured student translations from Virgil and original poems in Latin...
Here's a man that realized all the hard work paid off. He goes on to discuss three current books on Classical Education, but finishes with this:
In short, get knowledgeable and well-trained teachers, equip them with a carefully calibrated curriculum and a syllabus filled with challenging texts and materials, and put them in a room with students who are told where they are going and how they are going to get there.
Worked for me.
I like Stanley Fish. He's a professor of humanities and law at Florida International University in Miami and the dean emeritus of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He's taught at Berkeley, Johns Hopkins and Duke. I like him. He's in my camp.
But more importantly, he's on to something. I think some kids (like me) need to hear where they are going and how they are going to get there. No one ever explained to me WHY I needed humanities or Latin. In fact it is one of the reasons I went to technical college instead of a four year school. I did end up going later, but that's another story. Had someone told me then what I have had to learn the hard way now, I think my life would have been so different. I can fix that for my kids, though.
I ask my kids and the kids in my book clubs why we need to learn History, Latin, Music, Art, Math. You'd be surprised how many kids are like me. They don't know WHY. Tell your kids. They will gladly step on the bus. Okay, maybe not gladly, but they will thank you later. Like Stanley Fish.