Paideia And Modern Educational Policy Essay

3957 words - 16 pages

Paideia and Modern Educational Policy

ABSTRACT: The lofty ideals of the classical notion of paideia, and the restatement of those principles in 1982 by Mortimer Adler and the 'paideia group' remain an unfulfilled promise in terms of the actualities of public education in the United States. The notion of an educational system for all students built upon a rigorous curriculum manifesting a framework of values to be acted out in the public and democratic forum continues to have great attraction for educators. Indeed, the notion of paideia continues to carry a sense of urgency as it should. However, the actual task of creating systems devoted to these ideals has run headlong into a ...view middle of the document...

The passion for testing (oftentimes observed as soundbites serving political ends ) runs counter to a farmboy's common knowledge that you don't put weight on a hog by weighing it. This paper will attempt a dialectic exploring the models generating this tension and suggesting an alternative view of a modern paideia.

That original tension is illustrated in the Greek paideia, which not only contemplated the process of development of the human subject toward the good, but also venerated the influence of the object of learning; i.e., first the poetry of Homer, then the literature of Greece, then the total fine arts of the Greek culture. "If we regard education as a process of shaping or forming, the object of learning plays the part of the mold by which the subject is shaped. The formative mold of early Greek paideia was Homer, and as time went on that role was expanded to Greek poetry at large. In the end, the word paideia meant Greek literature as a whole." (Jaeger 1961:91).

Early Christians, hellenized and conversant in the use and didactic angularities of the Greek marketplace of education and dialogue, adopted the definition and implementation of paideia. As with Plato, Gregory of Nyssa, a pivotal figure in the early church, adopted as given that all human will and effort by nature was directed to achieve "the good." Evil, therefore, was ignorance a priori. Literature was the formative essence of this evolution to the good—not only in the culture of Greece, but in the earliest texts of the Christian Church.

However, what Gregory and early Christian teachers adopted from Plato was not the singular veneration of the "object" (in the early church Christ himself, then in his absence the writings about Christ, or text). The paideia of the early Christian church was the morphosis of Christ and the study of the Bible. In the Book of Acts, the apostle Philip said, "I have come to Athens in order to reveal to you the paideia of Christ." Gregory writes, "...the prophet Isaiah educates us..." and "...the apostle educates us..." What this early force in the evolution of Greco-Christian thought illustrates is the formative function of the object—in this case what is written. This becomes the "...paideutic interpretation of the authority." (Jaeger 1961:93). The intent, I would venture, is the construct of the paedeic not as law, but as education in that the text has a formative and ultimately transformational function. What Gregory emphasizes is the formative nature of education, the gradual growth of the human personality and its spiritual nature. The emphasis of care, the concept of morphosis, speaks of a concept of education which recognizes it not as a development driven by law, or as spontaneous in nature, but rather a process characterized by embeddedness in tradition, language and ethics, and as a mediative process. There is a distinction between the crude, anthropomorphism of the depiction of God in the Old Testament and the concept of grace...

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