Tag Archives: The Liberal Arts Tradition

Do you ever wonder?

I’ll eventually get to the part of the book actually written by Clark and Jain, no worries. But the preceding material is good, too. This statement jumped out at me from the “Publisher’s Note,” written by Christopher Perrin:

‘Wonder’ is a condition for all future study.

You could just ponder that for a week to good effect, I think. The idea of wonder has been under-appreciated in educational realms. Those who have taken hold of it and recognized its vital role in learning have found the key that will unlock many doors. Little children have a natural inclination to wonder, and school often destroys it. What educational practices contribute to that? What should we not be doing? And is there anything we can do to cultivate and preserve that sense of wonder? Those are the kinds of questions that could occupy us for a week!

This sentence caught my eye because I always focus on this word when I see it. I learned about wonder and its role in education in the first place from Charlotte Mason.

They must be let alone, left to themselves a great deal, to take in what they can of the beauty of earth and heavens; for of the evils of modern education few are worse than this—that the perpetual cackle of his elders leaves the poor child not a moment of time, nor an inch of space, wherein to wonder—and grow. (Home Education, p. 44)

…One of the secrets of the educator is to present nothing as stale knowledge, but to put himself in the position of the child, and wonder and admire with him; for every common miracle which the child sees with his own eyes makes of him for the moment another Newton. (Home Education, p. 54)

But she is not the only one who perceived this truth.

Philosophy and poetry have more in common than is usually thought: both begin in wonder. (Habits of the Mind by James Sire, p. 79)

Aristotle concludes this point clearly near the beginning of the Metaphysics when he recognizes that there is a poetic impulse to know in all men, an experience he calls “wonder,” that initiates all learning. (Poetic Knowledge by James Taylor, p. 24, emphasis added)

I could easily be wrong, but I think the reason that wonder is a condition for all future study, as Dr. Perrin says, is that it keeps us in that humble and hungry frame of mind that is uncritical.

A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood. If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantments of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strength. (The Sense of Wonder by Rachel Carson, p. 42-43)

Rachel Carson’s wish is my wish, too. I wish that sense of wonder could be preserved for my children, your children, all children. But I am jealous for the grown-up children, too, who have already suffered its loss. I think we can recover it. I know we can, because I did. Just wonder a bit about wonder this week, and that will be a very good start.

Next time, I’ll definitely get into the actual chapters of the book.

Copyright Karen Glass 2018


Link to all the posts in the Liberal Arts Tradition discussion.




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Blogging through The Liberal Arts Tradition

Have you read The Liberal Arts Tradition by Kevin Clark and Ravi Jain yet? If you are interested in classical education, this book is not to be missed, and if you are interested in Charlotte Mason, you will do yourself a disservice if you dismiss it without a thoughtful reading. (If you just don’t have time, I commiserate!)

As I write this, I have read 50% of the book—on my Kindle. I decided I had to have a physical copy, and so much time elapsed between that reading and now that I need to go back to the beginning. It’s been worth it!

I thought I might blog through it as I read—in a “this is what caught my attention” kind of way, and not systematically. If you’re reading now, or have read the book, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

The Foreword, by Peter Kreeft, explains that the book isn’t just about the seven historical liberal arts alone, but “It is an education of the whole person, not just the calculating intellect.” I hear echoes of Charlotte Mason, already.

Here’s a list of links to all the posts in the series:

1. Do you ever wonder?

2. Treasure for the Taking

3. Clark, Jain, Mason, and the science of relations

4.  What do I owe?

5. A Generous Curriculum

6. Seven Liberal Arts

7. Liberal Art #1—Grammar

8. Liberal Art #2—Dialectic

9. Liberal Art #3—Rhetoric

10. Liberal Art #4—Arithmetic

11. Liberal Art #5—Geometry

12. Liberal Art #6—Astronomy

13. Liberal Art # 7—Music

14. Seven liberal arts, One long tradition

15. Do you want to know the truth?

16. Natural Philosophy—ask why, not just how!

17. Moral Philosophy—what do you see in the mirror?

18. Divine Philosophy—questions are as important as answers

19. Theology—elevating education

20. Paideia in the principles