• About Farm School

    "There are obviously two educations. One should teach us how to make a living and the other how to live."
    James Adams, from his essay "To 'Be' or to 'Do': A Note on American Education", 1929

    We're a Canadian family of five, farming, home schooling, and building our own house. I'm nowhere near as regular a blogger as I used to be.

    The kids are 18/Grade 12, 16/Grade 11, and 14/Grade 10.

    Contact me at becky(dot)farmschool(at)gmail(dot)com

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The educational minimum

We have come so far down the trail of thinking that people go to school in order to become foot-soldiers in the economic battle, as if paid employment were the sole meaning of life, that we scarcely understand what Aristotle meant by saying “we educate ourselves so that we can make a noble use of our leisure”. In contrast to this remarkable view, today’s dull-witted, pedestrian, pragmatic view seems to be that the educational minimum must be whatever is enough in the way of literacy and numeracy to operate a check-out till. That was what a recent secretary of state for education and hammer of the classics, the alauricular (I bet he does not know what that means) Charles Clarke, publicly thought.

A.C. Grayling, quoted in The Guardian earlier this month, debating “Is the Renaissance scholar dead?”, with Adrian Monck. More on former UK education secretary Clarke here.

The debate, sponsored by the independent think tank Agora and The Guardian as part of their rethink series about education in the 21st century, had Prof. Adrian Monck & Simon Woodroffe answering in the affirmative, with Prof. Grayling & Stephen Bayley took the other (victorious) side. For those unable to be in London on April 8, a summary of the debate is here.

And the prior debate was “Should ‘elite’ remain a dirty word in education?”. Delicious stuff. More here and here (scroll down).

The last debate in the series, Religion is the greatest threat to scientific progress and rationality that we face today”, took place today. According to Agora’s website (scroll down), a video podcast of the event “will appear on our website. If you would like to be notified when it becomes available, please email us.”

Just a bit more of Prof. Grayling to close,

There are those – surely, in other countries and times only? – who would like most in the population to be drones, not too questioning or well-informed, not too apt to criticise, and easily persuadable about things, especially at election times when a few promises about tax cuts and the like can do away with the need to ask people to think (in this case, who to vote for). The reason why such a reductive and manipulative view is wrong is precisely the reason why a broad liberal education, an education for life and not just for work, matters.

3 Responses

  1. Four words:


  2. Tee

  3. I’ve just read the first of the links and am prompted to make a couple of comments. I agree with Grayling as you do. But it is important to remember that a liberal arts education of the sort an American would recognize is not available anywhere in the UK. Specilaism is rife and begins at age 16. Even bringing in “ancillary subjects” to a single honours degree, although common, is considered some sort of watering down. The idea that an English student (the notion of “major” is meaningless) might be required to take a science class is horrifying.

    Secondly, I think that Monk’s thoughts on the importance of mathematics and science/technology should not be dismissed to readily. A liberal arts education that does not provide some basic understanding of these subjects and their importance would be missing something, I think. And that book on mathematics that I’m reading right now convinces me that mathematics really is a humanities subject. (not that I took much convincing)

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