Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Beauty for Truth's Sake

Beauty for Truth's Sake: On the Re-Enchantment of Education, by Stratford Caldecott

A fellow classical homeschooler recommended this to me a little while ago.  It's a bit difficult to summarize, honestly, especially because I think I didn't really wrap my head around the first few chapters.  I'm going to have to go back and re-read at least the first half, or just the whole thing.   In essence, Caldecott is laying out his vision for what true education looks like and an argument for the liberal arts.  Caldecott is Catholic, and so this book is as well.

Caldecott gives a rundown of the seven liberal arts, the trivium and quadrivium, and chooses to focus most on the quadrivium: arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, and music.  Really, he is concentrating his attention on mathematics and its applications in cosmology.  Most of this book is about the truth and beauty of math, and the importance of math in theology:
Music, achitecture, astronomy, and physics--the physical arts and their applications--demonstrate the fundamental intuition bedind the Liberal Arts tradition of education, which is that the world is an ordered whole, a "cosmos," whose beauty becomes more apparent the more carefully and deeply we study it.  By preparing ourselves in this way to contemplate the higher mysteries of philosophy and theology, we become more alive, more fully human.  This beautiful order can be studied at every level and in every context, from the patterns made by cloud formation or river erosion to that of the leaves around the stem of the most obnoxious weed, from the shape of the human face as it catches the light, or the way keys are ordered in a concerto by Bach, to the collision of stellar nebulae and particles in an atomic furnace....cosmology leads only to the threshold of theology.  (p. 117, 119)

I'm planning to re-read this book and then to read Caldecott's followup, Beauty in the Word: Rethinking the Foundations of Education. 

I suppose this makes me a hopeless nerd, but I love books like this.  I'm hoping to read quite a bit this summer and get all inspired for the fall.  I'm also hoping to launch a small website about classical education along with several friends; it would be about how we do classical at the practical level.  I'm hoping it works out!


Emily Coleman said...

I would be very interested in such a website! I don't have kids yet but I'm planning on homeschooling. I hope you'll share it if it all works out.

Jean said...

Oh cool! Well, if you ever want to be inundated with information about classical homeschooling, drop me a line. I'll let you know if/when we get going. We've been wanting to do this for a long time, but when you're a bunch of moms whose idea of fun is to overload on commitments, it can be hard to get a big project going...

Faith said...

I am reading Beauty in the Word right now. It is slow reading even though a slim volume because everything he says has such depth to it.

I too am interested in a website on classical education. I can't get enough of that kind of thing!