An Annotated Bibliography On Classical Education Organized Somewhat Chronologically (Ancient, Renaissance, and Modern; Eclectic, Arbitrary, and Incomplete)
By Wesley Callihan
1. Quintilian. Institutio Oratoria. Available in the Loeb Classics series (published by Harvard University Press). Written in the late first century A.D., this large work was a primary text for the education of orators throughout the Roman Emperial period and again in the Renaissance. Quintilian describes his philosophy of educational goals, methods, and matter from the earliest years of a child's life to the retirement years of the professional orator. The book is valuable not only for the precepts of rhetoric so well laid out, but for his discussion of teaching, books, students, psychology of children, proper use of time, and a host of other issues involved in education all through life. Available from Canon Press.
2. Plutarch. On the Education of Boys. Available in the Loeb Classics series (Harvard U. Press). Late 1st century, early 2nd century A.D. While considered spurious now (not written by Plutarch), it was widely influential in the Middle Ages and thus is important for the light it sheds on medieval attitudes toward educational philosophy and methodology.
3. Sidney, Sir Philip. An Apology for Poesy. Late sixteenth century. Sidney's essay is a classic of literary criticism and a defense of the value of imaginative literature in general (what he calls "poesy" or poetry), and is also extremely valuable for his philosophy of virtue and what studies promote it. It has clear implications for education. Available from Amazon Books.
4. Montaigne. "Of the Education of Children." From his essays. Late sixteenth century. A fascinating essay on Montaigne's own education and the principles he has drawn from his own education and his observations of that of others, and his consequent recommendations on education for those with the desire and freedom to education their children for aristocratic, political life.
5. Ascham, Roger. The Schoolmaster. About 1570. Ascham, educated at, and fellow of, St. John's College, Cambridge, was a tutor of Queen Elizabeth in the mid sixteenth century and an important writer of English Renaissance educational theory. Part of the second generation of great English Renaissance men of letters, he rejected the decadent humanism of Italy for the Christian humanism of England. His book is practical advice and hard-headed theory, a work designed to produce, through sound classical and Christian education, men sound in mind, religion, body, and citizenship in a young, powerful country.
6. Elyot, Sir Thomas. The Governor. 1531. Both Elyot and Ascham are concerned with the development of both body and mind toward moral ends, toward the making of a gentleman, within the framework of a classical discipline. Elyot was educated at home, worked in law, diplomacy for the King, and wrote fairly extensively.
7. Milton, John. "Of Education." Mid-seventeenth century. Milton's philosophy of education, especially for young men who will become leaders in a politically unstable climate such as his own. His expectations regarding the capacities of young people takes the modern breath away (young men who are studying Latin and Greek will naturally pick up Hebrew, Syriac, and Aramaic on their own in their free time, he says), but his assumptions, principles of methodology and chronology, and goals are surely well worth considering.
8. Gregory, John Milton. The Seven Laws of Teaching. Mid-nineteenth century. This small book is a classic on the basic principles of teaching and should be read by everyone who engages in any kind of teaching at all, formal or informal. His principles are simple, full of wisdom and worth a great deal of thought.
9. Bennett, Charles E. and George P. Bristol. The Teaching of Latin and Greek in the Secondary School. American Teachers Series. James E. Russell, ed. Longmans, Green, and Co.: London, 1906. Similar to The Teaching of Classics, but the value here is in the discussion of the nature and importance of classical languages and literatures in secondary schools at the point (the turn of the century) when the decline is beginning to set in and the value of those disciplines is coming under attack, and also in the predictions made which we know have come true. It is also immensely valuable for the light shed on the differences between turn-of-the-century and late-twentieth-century expectations and requirements for school children and assumptions about their capacities.
10. Highet, Gilbert. The Art of Teaching. Vintage Books: New York, 1954. An outstanding discussion of the nature, scope, and methods of teachers and teaching. Highet includes an analysis of many of the great teachers from the past and the methods and attitudes they employed. Highet is wonderfully engaging, clear, thoughtful, and sympathetic to students and teachers both. He uses a great many examples and the book itself is an example of the principles he espouses. He does reveal a number of assumptions that are questionable at best, especially in his defense of institutional schools over strict tutoring or home education, a particularly ironic position given the many examples he uses from history of outstanding education being conducted by fathers and mothers at home. More importantly, Highet is a humanist and reveals a belief in the moral power of education that must be rejected by biblical Christian world-view thinkers. Like Mortimer Adler, his humanism drives his discussion. However, again like Adler, the philosophy of teaching that he holds has been built out of the Christian West and ought to be considered carefully by Christians. The book is well worth several careful, thoughtful readings because there is a great deal of immmense value to be gained from it.
11. Highet Gilbert. The Classical Tradition. Oxford University Press: New York, 1949. Subtitled "Greek and Roman Influences on Western Literature," this book is another outstanding Highet contribution to the study of the classical world and the value of that study in education. The important parts of the book for the purposes of this bibliography are those sections, particularly pages 490-500 (sub-headed "education") in chapter 21 ("A Century of Scholarship") and all of chapter 24 ("Conclusion") which deal particularly with the declne of the importance of knowledge of the classical world, languages, and literature in modern education and the consequences of that decline on education. Throughout the book, however, there are discussions of education at various times in history which are revealing and germane to the issue of education now. Extremely perceptive and thought-provoking; again, though Highet is a humanistic classicist, he has borrowed heavily from the Protestant Western heritage of thought and is more worthwhile to read than many Christian authors who are not such good scholars or teachers.
12. The Teaching of Classics. Issued by the Incorporated Association of Assistant Masters in Secondary Schools. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 1954. A discussion of the place of classical languages and literatures taught in the original languages in secondary schools, prefaced by a defense of the continued teaching of the classics. Includes chapters on methods, appropriate levels, examinations, and aids. Particularly useful for the assumptions made about the value of Greek and Latin at the secondary level.
13. Sayers, Dorothy. "The Lost Tools of Learning." Given as an address at Oxford in the middle of this century, it is available as a reprint from National Review, from Logos School, 110 Baker St., Moscow, Idaho, 83843, in Douglas Wilson's Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning, available from Crossway Books or Canon Press or online. A classic essay on the possibility of adapting the late medieval and early Renaissance "trivium" to elementary and secondary pedagogy as a means of recovering the educational soundness that has been lost in the last hundred years in the Western world.
14. Tuve, Rosemond. "More Battle than Books," "AAUW Fellows and Their Survival," "The Race Not to the Swift." Essays by Rosemond Tuve: Spenser, Herbert, Milton. Thomas P. Roche, Jr., ed. Princeton University Press: Princeton, 1970. The book is a collection of essays on three Renaissance Christian poets by a renowned Renaissance scholar, but the three essays included at the beginning are more general and are appealing discussions of the nature of scholarship and higher education in the humanities, especially literature. Though there is little on the actual processes of education, there is a great deal of value in terms of the ideals of education, the necessity of liberal arts, and the importance of scholarship in the humanities; all of which has implications for earlier education and methodology. Tuve is eccentric and opinionated, occasionally more than a little abstruse, and a delight to read.
15. Dawson, Christopher. The Crisis of Western Education. Franciscan University Press: Steubenville, 1989. Some chapters in the book: the history of liberal, humanist education; the modern decline; the place of Christian education in the modern world; western man and the technological order.
16. Perks, Stephen. The Christian Philosophy of Education Explained. Avant Books: Whitby, 1992. By the look of the chapter titles, a sound exposition of the nature and necessity of education from a solid Reformed Christian perspective.
17. Wilson, Douglas. Recovering the Lost Tools of Learning. Crossway Books (available from Canon Press). This book, one of the most influential of recent books on the Classical Christian Education movement, is an exposition of the principles laid out in Dorothy Sayers' essay The Lost Tools of Learning, and a description of Logos School's pioneering attempt to put those principles into practice.
18. Wilson, Douglas; Douglas Jones, and Wesley Callihan. Classical Education and the Homeschool. Canon Press. A description of the Trivium, the elements of classical education, and how they may be applied in home schooling.