In the combox, I wrote a list of ideas which seemed to me to overlap between the two, and I am reposting it here since this blog actually started with the thesis that Catholic classical thinking on learning coincided more than one would think with some of the ideals of unschooling.
So here goes:
- –”All men by nature desire to know”. Aristotle. It’s a strong desire that’s inherent in people.
- –Education (however defined) is more than equipment for the intellect — it ought to involve the whole person.
- –The learner is the primary agent in learning, NOT the teacher, who is secondary.
- – Education is not a matter of degrees pasted on the wall, but rather something that forms the individual, something that he or she acquires internally.
- –Informal methods are more effective than formal — discovery leads to a higher quality of knowledge than instruction.
- – Knowledge is interconnected and one of the highest goals of knowledge is to see the connections between different areas.
- – Traditional education (meaning educational practices since pragmatic, utilitarian turn to standard public education in the early 1900’s) is often misguided in its aims (to create good servants of the economy) and correspondingly in its methods.
- –Education (learning) is a lifelong process. You don’t stop — it becomes a habit of mind, a way of life.
- – Wisdom begins in wonder, as Socrates said. Learning ought to be valued for its sheer intrinsic worth, not for where it gets you.
- Classical education encourages looking at the principles behind the rules, and so does radical unschooling.
- And one final one that came up which overlaps with the one just above -- classical types and unschoolers both tend to think of authority as something to be complied with only when it is right. In other words, neither values obedience (say to the State) as more important than virtue. Obedience, properly understood, is focused towards compliance with the good.
Now, surely there are many points of divergence too but that is for a different post.
Notes on the list:
One commenter said she would change education in #4 to "learning" since education unfortunately has become a loaded word, meaning something like "standard-based outcomes". That does seem to be true. I like the word but I probably would not if I had only heard it from the mouths of politicians and the NEA.
Drew Campbell thought that #1 and #5 were true only partly and in some circumstances, not true at all times absolutely. I am paraphrasing his comment below but you can find it in entirety in Kathy Jo's combox.
With #1, he agreed that we are "neurologically wired" to learn and make sense of our world but did not think it followed that we will all learn what is best to learn. People's reason can be misled by their appetite or spirit (to use Aristotle's terminology in Nichomachean Ethics) . Aquinas says that studiousness, the desire to learn and know, can be pulled off course by curiosity (interest in what is dangerous, trivial, or unsuitable in some other way) or by sloth (indifference, laziness, disinclination to put out the work necessary). Article here. There is also probably a difficulty with ignorance (I think Drew pointed this out somewhere else). You need to find out what is valuable to learn before you can learn what is valuable.
With #5, he thought that it would be correct to say broadly that students should "own" their knowledge, but he did not agree that to a classical educator informal methods are always better than formal, or that discovery necessarily leads to a higher quality of knowledge. This article that he wrote gives more detail. To quote:
So freedom, yes, but within limits. We may legitimately use methods of discovery, both empirical and Socratic, to educate our children where those methods are proper to the field of endeavor. We must use didactic methods in disciplines where they are appropriate. But we must never substitute the child's nature, his free will, for a wise teacher. We cannot abandon our responsibility to bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord, including the natural orders of knowledge and authority that God has ordained.I suppose the terms I used, "discovery", "formal", "informal" were not really carefully defined in my listed item. I got the "informal/formal" terminology from Kolbe Academy's Implementation of Ignatian Education in the Home and you can find it stated in this pdf "Synopsis of Ignatian Education". The exact words are:
The informal agencies are more effective than the formal.But if you asked me, I find I would have to make up my own definition of the meaning of this. It could be that it would differ from what Kolbe means by the sentence. I took it to mean that most of the formal agencies have to rest on the foundation of the informal. So yeah, it would definitely not be the same thing as saying "therefore only informal agencies should be used".
The discovery/instruction terminology is from Aquinas's De Magistro. I quoted the relevant part before on the blog. I'll just pull out a small part:
Now if someone proposes to another certain ideas that are not self-evident or if he does not manifest how they follow from self-evident principles, then he does not cause knowledge in that person, but rather opinion or belief. For those ideas that follow necessarily from the first self evident principles have to be true, and those that are contrary to them have to be false. But to all other ideas he can give his assent or not.It is by no means a bad thing to have belief in something you are told on others' authority, particularly if you have reason to trust that authority, but it is not the same thing as knowledge.
There is more here on the distinction between knowledge and belief according to Aquinas. A couple of quotes:
Knowledge begins in sense and is completed in the intellect...
There are two different types of knowledge: sense knowledge and intellectual knowledge. Sense experience is the beginning for all of man's natural knowledge. It begins in the senses, and is completed in the intellect (Bourke, 1960, p. 12). There is a dual operation to the intellect. One operation is the understanding of indivisibility, where the intellect grasps the reality of each item in itself; the other operation relates to combining and distinguishing (Bourke, 1960, p. 14).
The second type of knowledge, intellectual knowledge, is abstract and general....The general ability to understand covers simple apprehension, judgment, and reasoning. Simple apprehension is when the mind accepts an object without affirming or denying it. The issue of judgment is the reality that two objects are in agreement or disagreement. Reasoning is the production of new judgment by means of two others.
From reading Drew's article I am thinking that he is saying that formal agencies are useful in teaching the second type of knowledge (depending upon how the word "formal" is understood). Aquinas says of how to guide in matters of reason:
Now in those things that come about by nature and art, art works in the same way and uses the same sorts of tools as nature.... in the acquisition of knowledge, the teacher leads the student to the knowledge of things the student previously did not know in the same way that someone leads himself to discover what he previously did not know.If you define this process of instruction by the teacher as "formal" then probably yes, formal agencies are valuable and effective in guiding a student to knowledge. I just read something about that recently; I can't remember where it was but if I find it I'll add it to the blog.
The process of discovery begins with applying common self-evident principles to particular subject matters, and then proceeding to some particular conclusions, and then from these moving on to other conclusions. In light of this, one is said to teach another, when he makes clear through certain signs the path (discursum) of reasoning he himself took. Thus the teacher's presentations are like tools that the natural reason of the student uses to come to an understanding of things previously unknown to him.
If you are a classical educator or unschooler who has a problem with any of the things I put on the list, or can think of another to add, I would really really like to know.