Dr Gamble’s The Great Tradition is still influencing my reading. This year I read Great Pedagogical Essays by FVN Painter which is the anthology that inspired Dr. Gamble to his work. It was surprising to me how much overlap there was between the two; the first half (or so) was largely the same writers, starting with the Greeks and working up through the Romans and Early Church. Often the selections are even the same. There are slight deviations, but the ideas tend to be consistent. Until we hit Montaigne.
Montaigne is the left turn. Even a slight turn at that time – just prior to the Enlightenment – could skew the whole trajectory, and, so it does. Montaigne, obviously brilliant, has little use for tradition and what has gone before and thinks he can come up with a better way. Yet he doesn’t recognize how his brilliance was fostered and strengthened by the education he received, especially in Latin.
And because he pushed back on that, that slight turn, has led down a path of utilitarianism and materialism.
I hate to blame one man, it isn’t all Montaigne, although he was certainly a part of it.
This is why the question “why do we have to learn algebra we’ll never use it?” is so hard to answer. If it isn’t immediately and universally useful it must be thrown in the dustbin of history.
I think about this a lot … yet Algebra is about more than utility (for some of us – my husband is a software developer and Algebra is useful) But, it can also be about thinking patterns and beauty.
While my 30 year old Spanish is non existent at best, the ways of thinking about words and grammar have stuck and the ideas about people from other cultures and seeing in different ways – matters. (And the lady who occasionally comes to church that I can greet with an Hola! and an occasional thought dug out of the mists of time … that matters to both of us, too)
So – yes my children – you need Algebra and Geometry and as much math as we can make it through. And a modern foreign language; and as much Latin as we can take; and Literature.
Because it’s not always about the content, it’s about the relationships and personhood. It’s your inheritance.
Those who want to take (or have taken!) my inheritance are thieves and it riles me up. Thou shalt not steal.