Magazine | February 29, 2016, Issue

Letters

Timeless Classics

Samuel Goldman writes well about the value of “traditional” education (read: classical education) and studying beautiful things (“Reclaiming Traditional Education,” December 31, 2015). He aptly takes on Marco Rubio’s pandering remarks about welders and philosophers, and attacks the line of reasoning that leads people to think that time spent studying Aristotle is time wasted.

I would like to suggest that where Professor Goldman misses the mark a bit is when he suggests that traditional education changed for the better by incorporating modern literature.

I recommend William F. Buckley’s conversations with Mortimer Adler on this subject. The “great books” are sidestepped for modern literature at our peril. I know Professor Goldman is not prescribing a modern-lit class at the expense of the great books, but I would go so far as to suggest that modern literature be scrupulously avoided while in school until one has had a grounding in the classics. The well-trained mind of the curious reader will lead her to seek out the best in modern literature on her own.

Also, it seems as though Governor Christie caught the line about building fewer rock-climbing walls and incorporated it into his stump speeches. Good.

Caleb Johnson

Washington, D.C.

Samuel Goldman responds: There is much to be said for an orderly procession from the original sources of Western civilization to more recent works. Unfortunately, the structure of the modern education does not often allow this. At most universities, it is nearly impossible for a student who arrives on campus with a long list of distribution requirements and no exposure to ancient languages to start with Homer and move slowly toward Joyce — even if she wants to. In practice, students and professors have to work in “zigzag” fashion, oscillating between modern and ancient.

The results of this strategy are perhaps less satisfying than those of a more coherent curriculum. But I don’t think they’re necessarily terrible. In any case, that’s how I learned what I know of the Greek and Latin classics.

But great books did not cease to be written in the first, or fifth, or 13th century of our millennium. In addition to Aristotle, Augustine, and Alighieri, students should read Balzac, Conrad, and Dostoevsky (to mention only a few authors). I am less confident than Mr. Johnson that well-educated readers will seek out these writers on their own. If they aren’t taught, they will be forgotten. Conservatives should do everything we can to prevent that from happening.

Members of the National Review editorial and operational teams are included under the umbrella “NR Staff.”

In This Issue

Articles

Politics & Policy

Our Last Emperor

Our system of government does little to prevent a strongman or a crank from winning the presidency. As long as Electoral College members adhere faithfully to the election results in ...

Features

Politics & Policy

Seeing North Korea

North Korea is embarked on a steady, methodical, and relentless journey whose intended endpoint is a credible capability to hit New York and Washington with nuclear weapons. Pyongyang’s nuclear test ...

Books, Arts & Manners

Politics & Policy

Love and Order

In 2000, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D., N.Y.) was asked to identify the biggest change he had seen in his 40-year political career. Moynihan, a man of unusual wisdom, experience, ...
Politics & Policy

Explorations of Love

Early in this book, material for which originated in a highly successful Notre Dame course now available on iTunesU, philosopher and classicist David O’Connor puts the point of the investigation ...
Politics & Policy

Faith in Hollywood

The last time I wrote about the Coen brothers’ world-picture in these pages, reviewing their Job-in-Minnesota movie, A Serious Man, I suggested that the elusive auteurs were “proudly mysterian” — ...

Sections

Politics & Policy

Letters

Timeless Classics Samuel Goldman writes well about the value of “traditional” education (read: classical education) and studying beautiful things (“Reclaiming Traditional Education,” December 31, 2015). He aptly takes on Marco Rubio’s ...
Politics & Policy

The Week

‐ Who knew the Democrats were that picky about which kind of socialist they prefer? ‐ Hillary Clinton’s speaking fees — $225,000 a pop — from Goldman Sachs and other big-deal ...
Politics & Policy

Poetry

YOUR MOVE “No modern poem was ever as obscure as Miss Sullivan’s naming water water for Helen Keller.” – Walker Percy When a bear hears ice crack he doesn’t listen, He moves.  He doesn’t think ...

Most Popular

White House

Another Warning Sign

The Mueller report is of course about Russian interference in the 2016 election and about the White House's interference in the resulting investigation. But I couldn’t help also reading the report as a window into the manner of administration that characterizes the Trump era, and therefore as another warning ... Read More
Film & TV

Jesus Is Not the Joker

Actors love to think they can play anything, but the job of any half-decent filmmaker is to tell them when they’re not right for a part. If the Rock wants to play Kurt Cobain, try to talk him out of it. Adam Sandler as King Lear is not a great match. And then there’s Joaquin Phoenix. He’s playing Jesus ... Read More
U.S.

Supreme Court Mulls Citizenship Question for Census

Washington -- The oral arguments the Supreme Court will hear on Tuesday will be more decorous than the gusts of judicial testiness that blew the case up to the nation’s highest tribunal. The case, which raises arcane questions of administrative law but could have widely radiating political and policy ... Read More
World

What’s So Great about Western Civilization

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays. Dear Reader (Redacted: Harm to Ongoing Matter), One of the things I tell new parents is something that was told to me when my daughter still had that ... Read More
White House

The Mueller Report Should Shock Our Conscience

I've finished reading the entire Mueller report, and I must confess that even as a longtime, quite open critic of Donald Trump, I was surprised at the sheer scope, scale, and brazenness of the lies, falsehoods, and misdirections detailed by the Special Counsel's Office. We've become accustomed to Trump making up ... Read More