Friday, March 15, 2024

About a classical education

An interesting piece by Emma Green in The New Yorker about a resurgence in what’s known as liberal arts and/or classical education. Whatever you want to call it, it stands in opposition to the modern mainstream of pedagogy, favouring the canonical Great Books (and implicitly Dead White Males), which makes it popular with right-wing politicians, although as Green makes clear, that’s by no means the whole story. And if I look at a Trump rally, I wonder how many present, including the main speaker, would understand this gag: 

And then there’s literature: one New York City public-high-school reading list includes graphic novels, Michelle Obama’s memoir, and a coming-of-age book about identity featuring characters named Aristotle and Dante. In classical schools, high-school students read Aristotle and Dante.

And before I’m accused of snobbery, I’m well aware that there are vast gaps in my own cultural knowledge; opera, for example is little more than a blur. That said, I do know that Richard Strauss wasn’t Johann’s son, unlike the poor sap writing on the ENO website... 

PS: And while we’re there, the Arts Council of England is condemning opera critics for, among other sins, “almost exclusively writing from a classical music perspective”.

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