No Royal Road

We remain convinced that The Lyceum and the many (growing and increasing!) new small Catholic independent schools across the nation are, indeed, part of the solution to the ongoing crisis in education. It is ironic that the solution these little schools offer is nothing more than what has been offered for centuries and even millennia– to wit the “lost tools of learning”— the liberal arts.

Every five or ten years, it seems, “new initiatives” in education are advanced, “new proposals” are made, “new programs” are funded. But for anyone with a memory, it becomes  clear none of them are new. They have all been tried before- although admittedly the packaging has changed.

All the while the simple fact remains that human nature is unchanging and the same for all. The method by which the human mind is formed is the same now as it has been for two thousand years, and will be until the end of time.

What is this method?

Reading “great” books and discussing them. Studying Latin and Greek. Memorizing poetry. Writing argumentative essays. Demonstrating Euclidean theorems. Learning Grammar, Rhetoric, and Logic!

These are the various roads by which the human mind is formed and made ready for further wisdom. There is no mystery to education.

“There is no royal road to Geometry” as Euclid said to King Ptolemy I, and similarly there is no royal road to authentic education. That is to say, memorizing a Shakespearean sonnet and demonstrating a proposition from Euclid’s Elements is no easier for a king than it is for a peasant.  With regard to the mind itself, fancy robes and gold plated chalkboards do not make understanding truth any easier.

I suppose a gold plated “Apple MacBook Pro” might help!

Neither do fancy facilities, athletic buildings, theaters, expensive equipment and laboratories, million-volume libraries and exorbitant tuitions!

As alluring as these things are, they will never replace the substance of real education. These externals will never replace the essential internal things necessary for education.

There is no royal road to the formation of the mind.

Great minds are made through the reading of relatively inexpensive books. From Aristotle to  Abraham Lincoln to John Henry Cardinal Newman – from philosophers to statesmen to Saints!- we see that the formation of the mind is largely due to things that are accessible to all– and accessible by the same road!

A student has only to take advantage of these simple things, these books, and whatever wisdom he can find in his teachers and peers.

For education, these things are sufficient.

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About marklangley

Academic Dean at The Lyceum (a school he founded in 2003, see theLyceum.org) Mark loves sacred music and Gregorian Chant and singing with his lovely wife, Stephanie, and their twelve children.
This entry was posted in classical education, Latin, Liberal Arts and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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