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Commentary and reviews by classical Lutheran education commentators.

The Grammar of Our Civility

PearcyThe Grammar of Our Civility: Classical Education in America by Lee T. Pearcy

"Why do we have to learn this stuff?" Pearcy offers a much-needed apologetic for classical education. Teachers and administrators of classical  schools may find this book especially helpful in defending a liberal arts education whether it be to plaintive students, critical parents, or a skeptical  public.

While noting that the case against a liberal arts education has been heard for over a century (e.g. Charles Darwin, "Nothing could have been worse for the development of my mind."), Pearcy also comes to grips with those who present a utilitarian argument and those who merely want to perpetuate tradition.

"The natives of university departments of Classics have failed to notice the disappearance of the language whose grammar was their practice. The culture of the governing class that classical education once served has disappeared. The fact of a governing class, of course, has not, but the executives, bureacrats, managers, and legislators of modern America share no single, coherent, humane culture," (p. 5).

Pearcy lays the blame not entirely on culture, but upon those who teach the Classics: "The professors have also forgotten why Classics was once important. In ignorance of their new circumstances, they have created a false grammar . . . In creating their false grammar, the professors have had to create false paradigms," which leads him to the work presented in this book: "Now let us rehearse the true paradigms. Then let us examine those quaint people, the professors of Classics, and the false paradigms they have created to make sense of their new world and their new masters." (pp. 5-7)

The true paradigms for Pearcy are a liberal arts education an Altertumwissenschaft which together formed the grammar of classical education: "One way of thinking emphasizes things, the objective, scholarly study of what survives from classical antiquity. For that mode of thinking about classical education I shall use a German term Altertumwissenschaft. . . . The second way of thinking about classical education emphasizes not things but processes. It is concerned less with the remains of antiquity in themselves than with their effect on those in the present who are exposed to them. This second way of thinking about classical education had, from its origins, a familiar name: liberal arts education." (pp. 6-7)

From a secular perspective, Pearcy's contribution will be valued by those desiring a stong footing and clear perspective when commending classical education to others. To this, confessional Lutherans will bring the ultimate motive and energy for serving one's neighbor in love in the Gospel which the Lord graciously gives as we look to Him in faith.

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