Teaching the Great Books: Course Introduction
Josh Gibbs introduces his course on teaching the Great Books by describing his background in education and relationship to classical education, along with some thoughts on how one ought to approach Great Books in the classical rather than progressive tradition.
Outline of Session
- When you approach a work as a student, what are some ways to still be a teacher?
- How can you encourage your students listen more than speak?
- To what extent does the method of teaching and learning proposed require humility?
Education via Humility
In Plato’s Apology, after the Oracle of Delphi declares that Socrates is the wisest man, Socrates decides to test this conclusion. He compares himself to others who are supposed to be wise, saying, “Well, although I do not suppose that either of us knows anything really beautiful or good, I am better off than he is–for he knows nothing, and thinks he knows; I neither know nor think I know. In this latter particular, then, I seem to have slightly the advantage of him.” What Socrates is saying here is that those who are wisest are the ones who know just how little they actually know. This is why the Socratic method is so valuable. If we must recognize our own ignorance in order to be wise, asking questions seems the best way to educate. When a teacher asks questions of a text instead of pontificating about it as a master, the teacher shows the students how to be wise. Josh Gibbs says that a teacher must approach a book with the mind-set of a student, not a master, and Socrates’s method of questioning seems to be just that.
Assignments and Action Steps
Is there a Great Book that you just cannot seem to love? Is there one that you are tempted to dismiss or ridicule from the start? Try to read it again with the mind-set of a humble student. Listen and ask questions with the hope of learning instead of approaching it as a master who has the right to criticize. Keep a “pedagogical diary” and record how this impacts your reading and gleaning from the text. Then, share the results with your colleagues, academic team, or another homeschooling parent. Consider having your academic team do this together and then share the results and discuss at a team meeting. If you are a homeschool parent, consider sharing with your spouse or a homeschooling friend with similar philosophy of education.