Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Habitual Vision of Greatness

"Moral education is impossible apart from the habitual vision of greatness. If we are not great, it does not matter what we do or what is the issue." - Alfred North Whitehead

I loved this point, too in Whitehead's The Aims of Education. As some educational theorists have begun to toy with the idea that brain scans may some day replace human experience as a guide for how best to educate the next generation, we mustn't forget the importance of inspiration as a motivating force for growth and development.

I have been thinking about this a great deal because our kids are pretty contentious (it runs in the family). For instance, recent reading material has included It Seemed Like a Good Idea - Great Historical Fiascoes and How to Lose a Battle: Foolish Plans and Great Military Blunders.

Whitehead suggested a special importance for classical history, and we've found this to be true with our latest forays into ancient history. Whitehead: "The merit of this study in the education of youth is its concreteness, its inspiration to action and the uniform greatness of persons, in their characters and their staging. Their aims were great, their virtues were great, and their vices were great." We recently were riveted by accounts of the bold but moral worm Miltiades - Hero of the Battle of Marathon, but downright vile in day-to-day particulars (e.g. Check out Miltiades at the Baldwin Project's Boy's Book of Battles). We are also thoroughly enjoying Paul Davis' 100 Decisive Battles: From Ancient Times to the Present, which seemed like an important counterpoint to the military blunders book.

It is invigorating reading about the epic and heroic, and we have some of those stories to thank for some very penetrating discussions with our children. Greek and Roman history (if at all) should not only consist of mythology... that's certainly I got in school growing up...fortunately, it doesn't seem too late to take up.

ENL Blog: Generation Whatever: From Pessimism to Pragmatic Optimism
ENL Blog: Generation Me vs. Others
ENL Blog: Tweens, Teens, and Satire
The Baldwin Online Children's Literature Project

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  1. Anonymous4:03 AM

    Dr. Rufus Fears has a FANTASTIC Famous Greeks/Famous Romans lecture series available through The Teaching Company. He brings different characters from the past to life and describes battles so well that I'm actually on the edge of my seat! It may fit well with your current curriculum. - Kathy

  2. Thanks Kathy, this sounds perfect for what we're doing now! Did you listen on CDs or do the DVD?

    It looks like our library just has the audio...