Classical Me Classical Thee

Bekah Merkle has written a short book titled, “Classical Me Classical Thee.” She writes as the product of a C&C education to current students in C&C schools with the intention of helping them understand the “Why” behind C&C education. This is a short book, 99 pages, but should be read by students and parents alike. She does a great job of covering lots of bases in an easy-to-read, winsome book.

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I’m planning to post several excerpts to both whet your appetite and to communicate the gist of her message. Here’s the first from Chapter Two:

“So what is everyone trying to turn you into? This is pretty simple, actually. The various people involved with your education, from your parents to your principal to your teachers, are all trying to work together to turn you into a leader. They want you to become the kind of person who rises to the top like cream, the kind of person that others will instinctively follow, the kind of person who stands out from the crowd. They don’t want to work on transforming you into an unquestioning little cog in the machine, a drone for the hive, an unremarkable face in the crowd

But, believe it or not, we aren’t hoping that you will stand out because of your IQ or your SAT scores.

We want them to be surprised by the fact that you’re confident in your opinions, and you don’t mind defending them against all comers. We want them to see that you are a person whose opinions are actually all consistent with each other, that you defend your political opinions, for example, with the same reasoning that you use to defend your philosophical and artistic and historical and literary opinions. In fact, we want them to see you arguing for your political opinions based on your historical opinions. Or arguing for your artistic opinions based on your philosophical opinions. We want them to see you argue about history from literature, or about literature from art, and all without really changing the subject. We want them to see you evaluate all the new information you’ll be receiving, sift it, reject some of it, keep some of it, and fit what you keep into your already existing frame of knowledge. This is much more rare a skill than you may realize. And when someone possesses it, they immediately stand out from the crowd …

It’s not that classical schools teach the students more facts than the public schools do, although that’s frequently true. It’s not that classical schools teach different facts than public schools, although that’s often true too. The biggest and most fundamental difference between what you are receiving and what the rest of American teenagers are receiving is that you are being taught to look at life as if it makes sense, as if it all hangs together and is all part of the same picture. You’re being taught to think critically. You are not just being given lists of facts to memorize before the test on Friday after which point you can safely forget them. The most vital thing that you are being taught is not the facts themselves, it is the skill of being able to analyze them …

Your teachers are not making you memorize facts because someday when you’re thirty-four years old your boss might suddenly give you a pop quiz on the major dates of the Wars of the Roses. Instead, they’re making you paint the fence, and the skills that you learn will stick with you long after the facts themselves have gotten hazy”

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