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More than the mind

June 3rd, 2004 · 2 Comments

A friend of mine recommended the homeschooling book Teaching the Trivium by Harvey and Laurie Bluedorn. I think what she appreciated the most was the authors’ emphasis on later learning – an idea that originated with Raymond and Dorothy Moore whom I read last year.

The Bluedorns believe in Classical Education based on the Trivium of Grammar, Logic and Rhetoric. As they describe the three…Grammar is Knowledge, “the input”, “the foundation”, information and facts. Logic is Understanding, “the processing”, “the structure”, “comprehending the relationship between facts”. Rhetoric is Wisdom, “the output”, “the practical use”, creating expressions from ” what we know and understand”.

These parents believe in teaching children Greek, Latin and Hebrew, and studying many of the classics of ancient history. I didn’t know the philosophy of classical education and I read their book looking for what I could learn and add to my teaching. I agree that languages are helpful and I wish I could teach my children a few during their early years – although I’d probably choose as my primary ones Cantonese, Mandarin and Spanish, if I could, along with Latin (those seem more useful and relevant for our family heritage). I also agreed with the authors’ opinion on government and schools, although I had not seen it as strongly as they did.

But as I read, I realized many places where I found fault with their arguments. This quote was one of the first that flashed red lights to me.

Children may be programmed with lazy logic to “say no to drugs” for many reasons – physical and psychological health, etc. But because their motivation for not taking drugs is not based upon clear reasoning from moral absolutes, they are actually being prepared to “say yes to drugs” under the right mixture of circumstances. By training a child to “say no to drugs” for wrong and inadequate reasons we are actually laying a faulty and weak foundation. page 96

If the authors believe that increased and intensified intellectual development will change the choices children make, I believe they are wrong. Certainly I approve of grammar, logic and rhetoric. I think that people should build the principles of their lives and actions based on facts. Being able to defend one’s choices based on moral absolutes using vigorous intellectual debate is necessary, virtuous and honorable. Flimsy logic, such as just say no will fail when put in the fire.

However, I suspect that any college campus will prove the principle in this paragraph false. Go to a university, especially in the fall, during the first week of the year, and observe how first year students behave, given their new freedoms. Many of these students – particularly at a selective school – would be able to argue and debate the reasons why they should not engage in such behaviors. They have received intellectual training. But there is something missing. Something more. Something inside these students that entices them into previously prohibited activities, convinces them to break their own beliefs or push against their own principles while the mind protests – or gets put on vacation.

I was one of these students. And sometimes – many times?! – I still pursue what I know I shouldn’t do, despite multiple reasons and logic to the contrary.

danah boyd in a recent post provided another example

And i saw a movie! I saw Super Size Me. I have to admit that i ended up craving McDs afterwards which made me feel *super* guilty. This is why i want brand allergies. I understand intellectually how badly i treat my body, but i really am a sucker for the blazing colors, fake smells and immediate feedback of cravings appeased. Ah yes, my weaknesses…

We all have weaknesses. We are more than minds. I want my children to be intellectually sound and sharp. Yet I also know that education must be much more than mental.

updated to correct grammar

Tags: homeschool

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Doc T // Jun 5, 2004 at 8:58 pm

    I just happen to see this entry on the computer and must respond! Yes, I am grateful to the Spirit within you that catches the weakness in a mind centered view of the human soul. I believe there is a misguided belief that if you just train the mind that you will live in such a fashion that reflects God, not true, it is what captures your heart that will inform your mind to make certain choices (i.e. will). The heart sits at the seat of the soul, that is why we want to eat Super Size me, because that is the desire of our hearts, at times, even though our mind KNOWS that it is bad for us. God knows that is the way he made us and therefore the Great Commandment wants us to love him (heart language) not think about living for him or make choices about living for him, for when our heart is his our minds and lives will be his as well. I take great delight in your extremely perceptive heart! Amen!

  • 2 Julie // Jun 6, 2004 at 12:44 am

    Thank you, Doc T!