Are you excited? Today we’re going to go into Part II of The Opening of the American Mind, called Learning and Legitimacy. Don’t worry! I’m not going to go crazy and write two-thousand words here. I do highly recommend this book though. It was fascinating and not at all a complicated read that I had to slog through. I loved every page!
“Throughout the colonial period, American colleges were characterized by a homogeneous model; they were, as one student of education has called them, “copies of copies”: the American rendition of the English adaptation of the Renaissance revision of the medieval curriculum.”
Sounds…enlightening, doesn’t it? The curriculum “consisted of Latin, Greek, sometime Hebrew, mathematics, natural philosophy, moral philosophy, and logic.” That’s it. No other languages, including English.
Ugg…I’m having a terrible time with this. I think I need to go back and learn how to study better and write an essay. My sons would be so ashamed of this. I’ll just summarize in my own words.
University before the early 20th century was based on this “Classical Education” model. Study the ancients and you’ll get the basis that modern progress is based on. Why study that which came after? I’m talking Shakespeare here, you guys. French, German, Spanish…useless. And they all fought about how crazy it was that people were trying to change that all through the 1800’s, just like they fought about the adding common people’s voices all through the 1900’s, and now we’re doing it again.
The author summed it up best this way:
“The debate over the canon is now, and has always been, a debate over the culture and over the course that culture should take.
…this debate (is not) an aberrant product of a debased society; it is the current chapter of a much older and continuing discussion about values, meanings, perspectives, and ways of comprehending ourselves and those around us.”
Once again, I learn that the sky is not falling, we are not in the end times, and life is actually just continuing on as it always has. Only now we have the glorious ability to see and hear each other all over the world, instantly and constantly.
And then there is this:
“The debate over the nature of the curriculum and the canon was paralleled by a debate that raged throughout the whole of American history over the nature of America itself and of American identity.”
Who are we? What makes us a nation? What is university for? Why do we send our “kids” there? And why is so hotly debated? Those answers are discussed in the third and final part of this book, The Search for American Identity. We’ll talk about that tomorrow!