A return to classical education

Essay by defacto301High School, 11th grade March 2006

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Paideia: the process of educating a young person, associated with a classical education. PY-DEE-A. It should be of little surprise that, as American society seems to be gradually shifting back to traditional patterns of thought in the fine arts and ethics, a small, but growing, group is emerging as proponents of classical education. Classical education consists of three stages that parallel the cognitive development of children: grammar, which is based heavily on memorization of facts of subjects; dialectic, which emphasizes asking "Why?" and the science of logic; rhetoric, which focuses on the science of communication, hypothetical possibilities, and abstract thought. Throughout these stages Greek, Latin, and classical texts are incorporated.

Some opponents of a classical education claim we need modern education and modern language class and modern culture. However, a classical education provides a "back-to-the-basics" approach that, over and above all else, teaches a person to think. Classical education breeds students who are able to persuade, formulate arguments, and interact with the world.

Studying ancient Greek and Latin allows the mind to better understand its native language and explore the ideas of magnificent thinkers in the native tongue, such as Cicero and Plato. Students must be allowed to explore the whole spectrum of thought within Western Civilization in order to understand topics ranging from philosophy and theology to trigonometry and astronomy.

Within the past fifty years, public education has taken a turn towards the current system, which stifles critical thinking and ignores the cognitive process of development in children. The way in which classes are taught in middle and high schools disassociate the subjects from themselves, leaving a jigsaw puzzle with a few too many pieces that do not fit together. The core subjects should connect within the mind of the child and create an understanding of the...