One of the things I really like about The Liberal Arts Tradition is the open acknowledgement that they are seeking a broad, full understanding of what classical education is and all that it encompasses. (You remember that it isn’t easy to define.) Their perspective is unabashedly Christian. And they aren’t trying to make any connections to Charlotte Mason (they never mention her at all). But because they, like Charlotte Mason, are seeking universal truths they land in more or less the same place. Clark and Jain write:
This full-orbed education aims at cultivating fully integrated human beings, whose bodies, hearts, and minds are formed respectively by gymnastic, music, and the liberal arts; whose relationships with God, neighbor, community are marked by piety; whose knowledge of the world, man, and God fit harmoniously within a distinctly Christian philosophy; and whose lives are informed and governed by a theology forged from the revelation of God in Christ Jesus as it has been handed down in historic Christianity.
Is there anything in there you imagine Charlotte Mason would object to?
On the contrary, it recognizes the full nature of man, focuses on relationships, places knowledge in the same three categories she uses, and gives Christianity—specifically Jesus Christ— the governing position that informs everything else.
I really like the authors’ contention that education is “grounded in piety.” Their definition of piety is something I’ll discuss in another post, but this is a key understanding:
The foundational distinction between traditional education and modern education is that the ancients believed that education was fundamentally about shaping loves.
For many years, I have considered Charlotte Mason’s principle that “education is the science of relations” one of the key things that ties her philosophy to classical traditions, and this is why.
According to Clark and Jain, the education that is rooted in piety bears fruit in philosophy and theology. The liberal arts have a place in this paradigm, but they do not define it, and particularly, classical education is not fully defined by the seven liberal arts, let alone the trivium by itself.
It was only when I began to understand this fuller appreciation for the classical tradition that I saw how Charlotte Mason fitted into it. Clark and Jain speak of philosophy as “the unity of knowledge which covered all subjects.”
It reminds me of Charlotte Mason’s call to action:
Let us set ourselves to labour with purpose and passion to restore to the world, enriched by the additions of later knowledge, that great scheme of unity of life which produced great men and great work in the past. (School Education, p. 156)
I am really enjoying this book. I think it brings a much-needed perspective into the discussion of classical education, and I look forward to the rest.