In Defense of the Old: A Return to Classical Education
In contrast, today our modern education system is failing, and we must ask the question, “Why not fix something that is broken?”
By Cassie Moran
Date: Nov. 18, 2020
The question is often posed, “Why fix what isn’t broken?” as a justification for not updating some outdated way of doing something. Yet this is often perceived as an attitude of being stuck in the past and unwilling to embrace ingenuity. In contrast, today our modern education system is failing, and we must ask the question, “Why not fix something that is broken?” We ought not hesitate, especially when the solution to the problem presents itself so clearly: return to classical education.
A return to the old is not a new idea. In fact, the suggestion has been proposed for hundreds of years. Giambattista Vico, an Italian philosopher, wrote on the subject in the late 1600s and early 1700s. The Enlightenment is largely recognized as a time of heightened learning. However, Vico did not view it altogether positively. According to Vico, the Enlightenment was an undoing of the liberal arts, in which knowledge was compartmentalized. This fails to recognize humans as whole beings. With this type of education, one cannot see how everything comes together. Sure, knowledge exists, but the world lacks any imagination. Vico argues against this skeptical perspective, in which one can only prove something wrong, where nothing can be proved right, and connections cannot be formed. This manner of education results in applying one singular area of knowledge to all things which are not related. Rather, Vico advocates for an education where knowledge is decompartmentalized; when students study a subject, they pull it apart and then reintegrate it. The ultimate goal is to harmonize all subjects. Vico was not an enemy of the intellect just because he disagreed with elements of the Enlightenment. Alternatively, Vico embraced the education of the whole human being.
We ought not hesitate, especially when the solution to the problem presents itself so clearly: return to classical education.
Modern education has turned away from the classical liberal arts and the cultivation of the whole human. Many colleges may claim to be liberal arts schools, but requiring a math class and an English class is not what defines the liberal arts. Through the trivium of grammar, logic, and rhetoric, and the quadrivium of arithmetic, astronomy, music, and geometry, the classical liberal arts enriches the whole person. Homeschool options such as Classical Conversations and online options like Freedom Project Academy make a classical liberal arts education more accessible now than ever before. In a time when students are already largely forced out of school buildings, it is worth considering alternatives to the typical modern education.