Friday, December 30, 2011

Music for the Twelve Days of Christmas, Part 2: Heinrich Schütz ... and other thoughts to ponder over the New Year Holiday...

The Nativity, by Matthias Grunewald
Art is a conversation
Competent art is hard to come by these days. True, there are many who have been trained in the techniques of their particular artform, or who have practiced on their own, and have developed an impressive skill. But the execution of technical skill alone is not art. The most that such accomplishes is to showcase the skill of a work's creator, while reducing the measure of art’s usefulness to the act of gratifying consumers. True art has little to do with either the artist or his immediate consumers, but centers on a subject which is external to both. More than just centering on a subject matter, compelling art succeeds at drawing the viewer, reader or hearer of it into a conversation regarding the subject. And this is no small task for the artist! In a single work, he must initiate a conversation and say everything he intends in a way that holds his end of the conversation throughout the inquiries and developing thoughts of those who may engage in it. If the artist is to avoid babbling, this requires that he have such a thorough familiarity with his subject that he can anticipate questions or objections associated with his expression of it, and respond to them while also reinforcing areas of agreement. Sometimes, the subject is simple and the conversation is short. Other times the conversation is longer. Sometimes, the artist points toward or draws conclusions. Other times, he only questions. Sometimes he is speaking for himself. Other times, he represents the voice of others. Regardless of the type of conversation, enduring art is that to which its viewers, readers or hearers return again and again, to admire how the conversation is carried out by the artist, or even to renew it again for themselves. Thus, in addition to technical skill, true, compelling and enduring art requires an abundance of creativity.

Adoration of the Magi, by Albrecht DürerIn the case of Christian art, the creation of a compelling and enduring work is truly an amazing accomplishment. The subject matter of Christian art itself is generally despised by the World; and ambiguity, which is inherent to art and very often its most appreciated aspect, is at the same time a great enemy of Christian subject matter – fidelity to which requires clarity and closure. Thus, Christian art that remains beloved and acclaimed by all, over centuries and across cultures, which succeeds at engaging its viewers, hearers or readers in unambiguous conversation regarding the reality of Christ and the impact of His Gospel, represents skill and creativity towering over that which produces ambiguous works of profane subject matter for which people already have natural affinity. Why? Because it is an easy task to produce works of art having the World’s approval by appealing to fleshly desires and worldly sensibilities, relative to the task of producing generally acclaimed works which militate against what naturally appeals to man and which serves to lift up the offense of the Cross instead.

Creativity is refined through study and emulation of the Masters
Descent from the Cross, by Peter Paul RubensOne would think that such Christian artists have been endowed by God with a superabundance of creativity. And this is undoubtedly so. But is this as far as any explanation extends? No, it isn’t. For, excepting the rare savant, such artists also acquired training and education: training, that they might develop the technical skill required for their vocation; and education to cultivate the intellect and equip them with the Tools of Learning1, and prepare them for a lifetime of inquiry, study, thought and expression. But what of creativity? It is no accident that, in the West, we see an explosion of enduring creative expression in the realms of art and science beginning with the Renaissance2. It was this period of Western history which called for “a return to the sources” – ad fontes!, as we often hear in our own circles today, was the principle of Renaissance Humanism itself – and this call applied to all areas of inquiry. As a result, Renaissance era students and scholars found themselves “returning to the sources,” and in so doing, learning directly from the greatest and most creative minds that the West had produced; and to this greatness they added their own portion of creativity by using the “tools of learning” with which they had been equipped.

Christian artistic expression during the Renaissance, and its impact on the Baroque
Throughout the Renaissance, patronage of the arts was supplied mostly by powerful Italian families. In the abundance of extant art that they commissioned, it is often very clear that the inspiration behind it (and in many cases, even the subject matter) was derived directly from the pagan works of ancient Greece and Rome – such were “the sources” which one would consult. These sources were the novelty of the period, of course, since inspiration was also to be found and built upon in the works of previous “little Renaissance’s,” like that of Charlemagne (Carolingian Renaissance) or the Renaissance of the 12th Century which was essentially book-ended by the careers of St. Anselm and Thomas Aquinas. Nevertheless, non-Christian influences were not always negative. Of great positive influence on Western Art, for example, were the ideas of the ancient Ionians and of the Pythagorean Brotherhood, whose pre-Socratic philosophies dictated “Everything is Number” (or “integer”) and elevated wholeness and perfection in unity (or the number “1”), which, having constituent harmonies of integer ratios, served as the basis for the development of our Western system of music (a perfect octave comprised of twelve discrete whole- and semi-tones, perfect ratios of which create harmonic chords) and thus also the design of musical instruments, and also led to the study of perspective, proportion and combinations of color in visual art – “Mighty are numbers,” said the ancient Greek playwright Euripides, “joined with art, resistless.”

The Risen Christ at Emmaus, by RembandtAs these Italian families used the Church in their power struggles against one another, and even began to occupy the papacy, the Church became a patron of the arts as well. Ruinously so, in fact. As a result of the opulent artistic tastes and ceaseless spending of Pope Leo X, of the prominent Medici family, the Roman Church faced insolvency, resulting in corruption of various forms in attempt to replenish its treasury: sale of bishoprics, for instance, and most famously, the sale of indulgences. The infamous peddler of indulgences, Johann Tetzel, who raised the ire of Dr. Martin Luther and prompted him to post his 95 Thesis in 1517, worked under the direction of Leo X. While slowing Rome’s investment in artistic expression, the onset of the Reformation hardly ended it. In fact, the arts were vigorously employed by both the Roman Catholics and the Reformers, who, each seeking to be justified in their religious positions in the eyes of the other and looking ever more intently into Scripture and/or the teachings of the Church for inspiration, employed the arts as a means of engaging the discussion, with one another and with the masses, of unity under pure doctrine. And this is especially the case as the Catholic Counter Reformation began to exert pressure on the movement begun by the Reformers. The pressure of theological warfare, the vastly overriding value of ultimate truth, and the urgency of keeping that truth pure in the face of its enemies, propelled Renaissance and Baroque Christian artists to the heights of creative expression such as the world had never seen before, and rarely since. By the close of the 16th Century, the cemetaries of lower mid- and southern Europe were strewn with monuments to the masters such pressures, learning, and sources of inspiration produced – the Church’s own uniquely Christian masters, from whom successive generations of Christians could learn without having to draw their inspiration directly from pagan sources. This had radical influence on the Christian Baroque period of the 17th Century.

Heinrich Schütz: The greatest German composer before Bach
Renaissance Master of Antiphonal and Polyphinal Music - Giovanni GabrieliEnter Heinrich Schütz (1585-1672). Born in 1585, he was raised the gifted son of a prominent Hessian businessman. He became a talented student of law, but so strong was his giftedness for music that in 1609, the Landgrave of Hesse, insisting that he study music instead, procured for him a scholarship to study under the Renaissance Master of antiphonal and polychoral composition, Giovanni Gabrieli, at the St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice. At that time, St. Mark’s enjoyed a quasi-independence from Rome – while residing within its precincts, it was not a church of the Western Rite, but of the Alexandrian Rite (or Coptic rite). As a result, many of Europe’s most gifted students and composers flocked to Venice to study; yet, so remarkable was Heinrich Schütz’s performance as a student, that Master Gabrieli was compelled to assure the Landgrave that “In Schütz you will have a musician such as one will not find in many other places”3. Indeed, upon his death in 1612, Gabrieli willed his signet ring to Schütz. Thus the influence of Gabrieli was brought to Germany and upper Europe. Schütz was appointed Kapellmeister at the Royal Court in Dresden in 1615, and from there through the remainder of his career, he masterfully wedded the highest musical art of the Renaissance with the German language , the purest manifestation of which, for him, was Martin Luther's translation of the the Bible. Thus, it is impossible to substantively confront the compositions of Heinrich Schütz without also being confronted by the message of the Holy Scriptures.

Heinrich Schütz died in 1672. Having lived for 87 years, he was active composing from 1611 through the rest of his life. Of his compositions, over 500 remain extant, and they distinctly represent the nature of the changing times and the needs of Christians throughout his career. Interestingly, the first third of his life was enjoyed in the lucrative and relatively peaceful times following the Reformation, as Luther’s program of universal education began to have the civic benefit he was certain would result, and we see this in lavish and massive compositions like the Psalmen Davids (Book 1, 1619), and the rather avant-garde Cantiones Sacrae (1625).Heinrich Schütz, by Rembrandt Composed for the context of worship, these pieces appeal to the pocketbook, and the intellectual predispositions, of the wealthy and well-educated. Yet his Auferstehungshistorie (1623) of this same period (which was featured on Intrepid Lutherans on Easter 2011) was clearly a piece that would be edifying for all.

On the other hand, the second third of Heinrich Schütz’s life was scarred by the devastation of the Thirty Years’ War4, and in works of this period we see an ever increasing focus on Scripture texts preaching assurance in the promises of Christ in the face of what seems to be never-ending death and destruction, while his compositions simultaneously grow simpler and more modest over time to accommodate the increasing lack of highly skilled vocalists and instrumentalists, culminating in 1648 with a collection of music containing what are considered his greatest works: Geistliche Chormusik. Written for the context of worship, as all of these pieces were, also of prime consideration to Schütz in the composition of this collection was the significant decline in skill – no doubt wrought by the War – demonstrated by the younger composers of that time. He wrote Geistliche Chormusik to teach them the finer points of contrapuntal composition (counterpoint) and to encourage them to study the masterly techniques of previous generations and carry such expertise along with them in their own musical creativity:
    Geistliche Chormusik (Sacred Choral Music) was published in Dresden in 1648... It is dedicated to the Leipzig City Council and St. Thomas’ choir. The original title provides a clue to the performing practice which Schütz had in mind. It reads in full:

      “Sacred Choral Music for 5, 6 and 7 vocal or instrumental parts composed by Heinrich Schütz... and provided with a figured bass not out of necessity, but for reasons of expediency.”

    Schütz was clearly concerned about the decline of polyphonic writing which the widespread adoption of the figured bass had brought in its wake, notable in Germany. The advent of the chordal style dispensing with linear but rich polyphonic textures made it possible for technically less accomplished composers to shine with concertante figured-bass music. According to Schütz, there were hardly any younger composers in Germany willing to deal with the more profound aspects of composition. So their tonal idiom was bound to become increasingly shallow and banal, for there was

      “no doubt among the well-trained musicians that only those who are sufficiently versed in the basso continuo style are capable of coping successfully with an exacting contrapuntal style in other types of composition.”

    As Schütz made abundantly clear, his aim was to

      “encourage budding German composers, before they would try their hand at the concertante style, to crack this tough nut (the right ‘kernel’ and foundation for good contrapuntal writing) and first demonstrate their skill in this area.”

    We can see here that Schütz was by no means looking backwards in artistic terms. He was not opposed to the new basso continuo style as a matter of principle, but merely insisted that it should be employed only by composers who made the most exacting demands on themselves and who were unwilling to jettison the masterly compositional techniques of the past, seeking instead to combine it in creative fashion with their own new insights and thus keep it alive.5
The Triumph of Christ over Sin and Death, by Peter Paul RubensNot only had the number and quality of musicians declined, so had the musical integrity of the compositions. Increasingly, new composers were unwilling to study the Masters and add to their accomplishments their own pittance of creativity, but seemed to prefer jettisoning those accomplishments for something of their own novel creation, something comparatively shallow and banal.

The final third of Schütz’s life saw the challenges of reconstruction after the War. Not only infrastructure, but commerce and community needed to be rebuilt everywhere. Most significantly, the Church in Germany had been thrashed in many places from Protestant to Catholic, as various territories exchanged hands during the War, or suffered manic reversal of religious sentiment as a result of political pressures and deal making. In many places the churches had been physically razed to the ground, and in many more had grown severely dilapidated from the ravages of war, misuse and neglect. The laity was utterly demoralized. He had by this time buried his wife and all of his children. Schütz continued to compose, although as he grew older his compositions seemed to grow more spartan, as if his intentions lay more with serving the Court by serving the needs of the laity. Thus, it is from this period of his that we receive his Passions (many of which were featured in the Music for Holy Week 2011 series on Intrepid Lutherans), and it is from this period of his life that our current selection comes: Weinachtshistorie (or the History of the Birth of Christ), composed in 1664. The recording below is a performance given by the very excellent MonteverdiChor. Available on YouTube in five parts, each part is automatically played in succession below:

Heinrich Schütz, Weinachtshistorie
performed by the MonteverdiChor
One recording of this piece we've enjoyed this Christmas Season can be found here

What kind of learning cultivates the intellect, nurtures creativity and passes along a society’s culture to successive generations?
'Praeceptor Germaniae' - Dr. Philip MelanchthonOver the centuries, the form of learning described above, which equips a person with the “tools of learning” and prepares him for a lifetime of learning and creative expression, had been termed within educational circles as “The Great Tradition;” and right away during the period of the Renaissance, it became the means of passing along Western culture to each successive generation, to which each generation added their own accomplishments and by which Western Society advanced. It was this form of education that was systematized by Melanchthon (along with the important contributions of Bugenhagen, Trotzendorf, and especially Sturm) at the request of Luther, advocated by him among the German princes and eventually adopted as the form of education provided to both boys and girls, not only in Germany, and eventually not only across the continent and in England, but was adopted early in America as our Founding Fathers realized the need for a universal education in our own country6. When the German Lutherans came to America in the mid-19th Century, it was Luther’s form of education that they adopted as a pedagogical framework for Lutheran Education in America7, and which equipped generations of Lutheran theologians, pastors, businessmen, artisans, and homemakers.

The Great Tradition of education, terminated by John Dewey and utopian industrialists
An intellectually capable and creative citizenry militating against the utopian ideals of late 19th Century Western industrialists8, they determined that what they required was a labor pool which was merely trained to perform tasks well, and intellectually suited only to follow the orders of their superiors. So they plotted together, planning over time the overthrow of the “The Great Tradition” as the form of universal education in our Nation, because it equipped individuals with the tools of learning and prepared them for a life of creative independence as free men. Reserving this form of education only for the elite (for those who would lead others in business and government), industrialists of the late 19th Century desired that the “The Great Tradition” be replaced with something more pragmatic, more well-suited to the needs of industry, to prepare the masses in the arts of efficient labor rather than the arts of free men – to replace education with training. To this end they enlisted the assistance of the radical pedagogue, John Dewey (Dewey's connection to Rockefeller and other industrialists is well-documented...), and with him taking the lead, their educational coup d'état was accomplished early in the 20th Century. It is referred to as the “Educational Revolution” of John Dewey9, who, responding to the calls of the industrialists (who also financed him), systematized and aggressively advocated his educational philosophy of Progressivism – a pragmatic pedagogy focusing only on what is useful in immediately tangible terms, eliminating “idea” from the content of education as superfluous to the need for “doing”10. By the 1950’s, succumbing to the pressure of Naturalistic and Progressivistic pedagogics being pushed in secular academia, “The Great Tradition” had also disappeared from the LCMS11, and by the 1970’s, had disappeared from WELS ministerial education schools as well12. Dewey’s Progressivism served the pragmatic needs of the industrialist quite well, up until the 1980’s when America ceased to be a nation that produced tangible goods. A new learning theory was required which would serve the West as it exited the “production” era, and entered the “service” era: post-Modern Social Constructivism, which scoffed at shallow task oriented education as much as it scoffed at an education in which students imbibed the enduring ideas and accomplishments of the past as a foundation on which to build the future. On the contrary, according to Social Constructivism (a post-Modern "epistemological learning theory"), truth and value are discerned through common experience with one’s immediate social collective13. Hence, contemporary education strives to provide learners with ever broadening “experience” (which is really nothing more than “interface with phenomena in a social context”) that works to liberate them from the constraints of “underdeveloped schemata” (i.e., “shared narrative”). Emerging from twelve years of dependence upon one's social collective, individuals are (supposedly) fully equipped as socially relevant persons able to tap the collective knowledge and creativity of his milieu. Today “The Great Tradition” is conflated with Dewey's “Progressive Education,” both being referred to together, without distinction, as “Traditional Education,” and is referenced by post-Modern educators in conjunction with a scornful laugh, or even a dramatic spit upon the ground. Only, post-Modern Social Constructivism is no educational panacea, either. Even if the social nature of Social Constructivism advantageously positioned America for dominance in the Services Industry, today that industry has been shipped overseas, along with the production of tangible goods. Today, America’s single most lucrative export isn’t the production of tangible goods, nor is it services, nor is it science and research, nor is it even art: it’s Entertainment – movies, games, pop-music and all of the associated gadgetry that exploit mankind’s weakness for self-indulgence and sloth. Thus, America’s public educational institutions, and the private institutions which have followed them, are left destitute of genuine education when our Nation and our Christian Confession seem to need it most.

Bringing back “The Great Tradition”: A plea to consider Classical Lutheran Education
'The Great Reformer' - Dr. Martin LutherThose of us who see that in a free society the artes liberalis are to be valued by free men far above the artes servilis, and those of us Christians who are convinced that in order to effectively learn and hold on to pure doctrine and to express it eloquently and persuasively to one another and to the World there is no better educational model than the Trivium, and who therefore wish to see the return of “The Great Tradition,” work toward this objective referring to it by another name: Classical Education.14 To be sure, there are those in the secular world who yet value this form of education: St. John’s College and Nova Classical Academy are two such examples. Among Lutherans, Classical Education is making a comeback as well: the Evangelical Lutheran Synod had attempted to promote Classical Education among Lutherans with their Lutheran Schools of America initiative, and the Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education has made significant progress in advocating and effecting a return to Classical Education in the LCMS. To the shame of confessional Lutherans everywhere, however, credit for the return of Classical Education to American Christianity really belongs to the Reformed, who, influenced by the leadership of groups like the Association of Classical and Christian Schools, have about a two decade head-start on Lutherans in bringing Classical Education back to Christianity. Christian Home Educators are well-known for having adopted this model of education in great numbers early on. In fact, many of the underground Home Educators of the 1970’s were Roman Catholics who wanted their children brought up with Latin and the Classics, but found that both had swiftly disappeared after Vatican II mandated that the Mass be conducted in the vernacular. Yet it remained essentially Evangelical Reformed sources which, apparently being far more attuned to and suspicious of educational movements in secular academia, developed educational resources and supplied encouragement and assistance to Classical Home Educators. The trend proceeded a little more slowly among Christian day schools, but these days the number of Christian schools adopting Classical Education is nearly proliferate – even in the small northwest Wisconsin village of 1500 people where I live, a sound K-12 Classical Education can be had just a few miles down the road, near the Christian Reformed and OPC (Orthodox Presbyterian Church) congregations (although the school is run by Christian parents in the surrounding area, not the congregations). Even the subtitle of Veith & Kerns’ well-known work on the subject, Classical Education, was changed by their publisher in its recent second edition, from “Towards the Revival of American Schooling” to “The Movement Sweeping America” – and this is true, largely due to the efforts of the Reformed and of Home Educators.

What shall be the lot of us Lutherans? Right now, the real brain-trust in Lutheran Education seems to be congregating among the scholars, pastors and laity of the Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education. I know for a fact that over the years they have made several overtures to the WELS, officially contacting our ministerial education college (Martin Luther College), and Wisconsin Lutheran College (which is independent of the WELS political structure but is still 'affiliated' with WELS), and others within WELS leadership; yet, as reported in their 2009 business meeting following their Ninth Annual Conference, their overtures have been met with utter silence. It was reported, with no small amount of frustration, that there has been no return communication. In 2010, after another year of attempting to stir some interest among WELS leadership, WELS was mentioned at the business meeting with a resounding “humph,” and written off. I know for a fact, that all they want is an audience with receptive listeners, to whom they can make their case for Classical Education – perhaps a struggling high-school or elementary school having little left to lose by giving Classical Education a try. Many confessional Lutheran schools have made the switch under similar circumstances, with surprising results – both in terms of student appreciation, academic achievement, teacher satisfaction and enrollment growth. Is there any interest in sound Classical Lutheran Education in WELS?

Something to Ponder in the New Year,

Mr. Douglas Lindee

P.S.: Don't forget to read the footnotes!

  1. Sayers, Dorothy. (1947). The Lost Tools of Learning. (First delivered at Oxford in 1947, by Dorothy L. Sayers, this little essay stands at the foundation of today’s strong movement to return to Classical Christian Education. The “Tools of Learning,” which had been lost by the time of Miss Sayers’ essay in 1947, are the Trivium and Quadrivium. The Trivium is the structure of all learning: Grammar, Dialectic, and Rhetoric – every area of study having its own knowledge structure (Grammar), its own process of deciphering meaning (Dialectic), and means of expressing it (Rhetoric). And the Grammar of Learning itself is the medium in which human thought is expressed: Language. That the Grammar of Learning is learned through study of either Latin or Classical Greek is due precisely to the facts that both (a) are complete grammars, and (b) are dead, or unspoken, languages and therefore must be learned through deductive epistemological processes. The Quadrivium is the four Classical areas of study to which the tools of learning are applied: Arithmetic, Music, Geometry, Astronomy. The Grammar of the Quadrivium is Arithmetic. Simply described, Arithmetic is the study of numbers, Music is the study of numbers in time, Geometry is the study of numbers in space, and Astronomy is the study of numbers in space and time15.)

  2. Kopff, E. Christian. (2008). Greek to Us: The Death of Classical Education and Its Consequences. (An address delivered by Dr. Kopff at the H.L. Mencken Club’s Annual Meeting; November 21-23, 2008)

  3. Quoted from the liner notes of Heinrich Schütz: Cantiones Sacrae (Manfred Cordes, Rogers Covey-Crump; Weser-Resiassance)

  4. Lindee, Douglas. (2011). Law and Gospel: What do they teach? – Part 3.2, What Happened to the Events of the Gospel? (The Church Responds to the Enlightenment: Pietism). This essay includes a section summarizing the impact of the Thirty Years’ War on Lutheranism.

    See also: Thirty Years’ War

  5. Quoted from the liner notes of Heinrich Schütz: Geistliche Chormusik (Rudolf Mauersberger; Dresdner Kreuzchor)

  6. Kopff, E. Christian. (2011). How Classical Christian Education Created the Modern World. Classical Lutheran Education Journal, 5(1). pp 12-17.

  7. Korcok, Thomas. (2011). Lutheran Education: From Wittenberg to the Future. St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House. pp. 163-236.

  8. Hein, Steven. (2011). A Politically Incorrect Review of American Progressive Education: What was it intended to be and do? Classical Lutheran Education Journal, 5(1). pp 1-12.

    see also this work by former New York State & New York City Teacher of the Year, John Taylor Gatto:

    Gatto, John. (2006). The Underground History of American Education: an Intimate Investigation into the Prison of Modern Schooling. Oxford, NY: Oxford Village Press.

  9. Nock, Albert. (1931). The Theory of Education in the United States. (From the 1931 Page-Barbour Lectures at the University of Virginia.)

  10. Kern, Andrew. (2009). Classical Education: Theory & Praxis. The Plenary Lecture delivered at the Ninth Conference of the Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education in 2009.

  11. Hein, Steven. (2009). Classical Lutheran Education: What is it and Why is it Good?. Lecture delivered at the Ninth Conference of the Consortium for Classical and Lutheran Education in 2009. He did also state that the precise reasons for this disappearance remain uninvestigated.

  12. Lange, Lyle. (2006). A publicly offered comment by Professor Lyle Lange (Martin Luther College) in response to a direct question asked by Rev. Dr. Edward Bryant (ELS) during Q&A following his lecture, Truth and Uncertainty: Assumptions, Message and Method in American Education at the last Confessional Christian Worldview Seminar in 2006, who asked whether Classical Education was being promoted or discussed in the WELS ministerial education program (and I quote from memory): “I’ve been at DMLC since the 1970’s, and in that time I don’t ever recall this being discussed as a part of our curriculum, much less emphasized or promoted”.

  13. Lindee, Douglas. (2011). Post-Modernism, Pop-culture, Transcendence, and the Church Militant. Summarized from paragraph 7.

    I will add the following, however, in this footnote: The post-Modern epistemological learning theory, Social Constructivism, has several tangible and observable consequences on the roles of “teacher and student,” the goals of education and the manner of assessment. For example, since according to Social Constructivism, “teacher and students” are merely co-learners, there is no “master/learner” relationship between the two. Rather, their relationship is principally a social arrangement in which the elder learner becomes a sort of social peer to the younger learners, rather than the outmoded professional separation between teacher/student or adult/child (especially at the high school level). Thus, the “teacher” disappears from Social Constructivist educational settings. Having more experience as a learner, therefore, the “elder learner” instead becomes the “learning facilitator” or “mentor” of the collective (or “cadre” as they are being called now). This has the deliberate effect of diminishing authority structure, resulting in a “shared authority” across co-learners. This “shared authority” collaboratively determines not only the rules of social order, but most significantly, the “meaning” to be found in the object of the cadre's collective interface with new phenomena. That is, in a Social Constructivist learning environment, “meaning” is generally not something predetermined and lectured upon by a “teacher,” but is precisely what is "negotiated" among the co-learners in a given cadre through various social experiences contrived by the learning facilitator for this purpose – like group projects, group investigation, group discussion, open ended questioning and other mechanisms of arriving at group consensus through "negotiated meaning." In addition to disappearing “teachers,” the “classroom” also disappears from Social Constructivist education settings, instead becoming a “learning laboratory” in which co-learners experience phenomena and negotiate its meaning together, and in this way construct their collective knowledge schemata (or “shared narrative”) – all of which requires considerably more space (two-thirds again the space, approximately... at least that was the rule of thumb back in the 1990’s – even then we knew that Social Constructivism would result in sharply higher property taxes and educational costs, though none of the research showed any kind of improvement in academic achievement). From here, assessment devolves considerably. Rather than individual assessment where there is “right or wrong” answers – a procedure which is “deeply disrespectful of the students’ point of view” – assessment is preferably administered to the group all at once for the purpose of determining whether the negotiated conclusion of the collective is consistent with its own schemata, and if not, whether their schemata has been altered to accommodate it; if it is administered individually, the purpose is to test whether the learner was a genuine participant with the collective by determining if his answers are consistent with those of his cadre and the schemata of the collective. That is to say, and this is emphasized among post-Modern Social Constructivists, individual learners are not expected to be owners of their own knowledge. Instead, the collective owns knowledge and determines meaning. Of course, this sort of assessment doesn't very often get to the point of praxis these days, as “No Child Left Behind” mandates require that “students” measurably achieve at certain quantifiable academic standards – in other words, the Federal Government says that public school students have to answer right or wrong. This is why most post-Modern educators in America agree that government should get out of education...

  14. The following web resources are eminently useful introductory resources for understanding this term:

  15. Veith, Gene. (2010). The mathematical part of classical education.


Unknown said...

Thanks Doug for giving us something to chew on. I am already following some of the links on classical Christian education. I am not new to the idea, but have little to no experience with it practically.

Joe Krohn said...

Thank you for posting this...the sad reality is that we have lost half of our generation if not more and most of the present. How do we pass on this tradition? Possibly the answer to that question is in Schutz's approach to the laity...minimalism...

Happy New Year, Intrepids!


Mr. Douglas Lindee said...


I’ll respond briefly to you both in a single (a series of) comment(s), since your question/point is related. Perry, you state, “I am not new to the idea [of Classical Education], but have little to no experience with it practically;” and Joe, you ask (perhaps rhetorically), “How do we pass on this tradition?”.

Both of you address the question of praxis. In our era, the practice of Classical Education is simply a lost art that is being rediscovered. The educational ideology certainly exists in the works of the master pedagogues of past centuries (like Johann Sturm), and so is practical advice, but learning from a current living “master” of the art, who has learned it directly from his predecessors, is virtually impossible since there are so very few of such individuals left in America. In other words, we’re starting over. Teachers in Lutheran schools which have adopted Classical Education, have found themselves mostly committed to the ideology but with no practical idea how to implement it – so different is the ideology, objectives and content of Classical Education that, for the most part, Progressive and Constructivist techniques simply don’t apply, and those teachers who have been “trained” in techniques descending from Progressivistic or Constructivist educational philosophies (in other words, all of today’s trained and certified teachers), find themselves starting almost completely over. It’s almost easier for people who have never been “trained” as teachers to become Classical Educators. In both cases, practitioners find themselves learning the art in real time, not only learning and growing in the Classical content but figuring out how to deliver it “Classically” as they go. And they are mostly doing it on their own; that is, they teach themselves and one another since there are no colleges to “go back to” that can “train them” (Colleges of Education can’t really get accredited, and can’t provide state licensure to graduates, and thus can’t effectively compete for students by advertising accreditation and licensure, unless they are providing teacher preparation that meets the standards of the government – which are Progressivistic and increasingly Constructivist).

How does a teacher do it? The answer is, “Just start.” Failingly, at first, but improving over time as you, the teacher, learn more about what you’re doing, understand your new educational ideology more deeply, and become more committed to it. If a teacher or parent expects to equip his students or children with the “tools of learning,” he must have learned them himself. If teacher or parent expects his students or children to use these tools of learning as lifelong learners, then he must value that objective enough to be a lifelong learner, too – and there is no better way to demonstrate commitment to lifelong learning than to engage the difficult learning tasks of acquiring the “tools of learning,” by becoming a Classicist himself and of endeavoring to provide a Classical Education to others. Most of today’s classical teachers remain “Classicists in the making,” still learning and passing along the “tools of learning” in hopes that the next generation will improve upon it. There are competent resources, however. The CiRCE Institute provides consulting services for educators, and holds an annual conference. The CCLE provides an annual conference as well – one that is distinctly Lutheran. I have found it to be very helpful. In addition, the CCLE has also developed accreditation standards for Classical Lutheran schools, which may be helpful guidelines for schools looking to adopt Classical Education.

Continued in Next comment...

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

...Continued from previous comment.

On the other hand, Joe’s question can be applied to Christian Art itself (and perhaps that was his intention). My first response remains as above: all students must be equipped with the “tools of learning,” if they are going to be sufficiently equipped to engage in eloquent, compelling and creative expression. If you followed the first footnote, and read Dorothy Sayers’ essay, “The Lost Tools of Learning,” you will have learned that the Rhetoric Stage of learning, or the stage of learning how to express oneself, is the highest stage of learning, to be entered upon only after relative mastery of its supporting stages, the Grammar and Dialectic Stages. As discussed in the body of this post, the composition of competent Art, whether it is expressed in the mediums of music, drama or literature, or visually in paintings, drawings or sculpture, is a conversation carried on by the artist, and thus a product of this highest stage of learning: Rhetoric.

Holding artists to this high standard depends on the patrons as much as it does the artists, requiring in them both an inculcation not only of the rhetorical forms associated with it, but especially the grammatical and dialectical, we well. This requires more than merely “exposing” children to fine art, but demonstrably valuing it with them the way that it is meant to be valued, the way that we would value a conversation in spoken word: by engaging ourselves in the conversation art is supposed to be having with us; by “listening,” considering, and responding to it. For example, if art is a conversation, then the purpose of purchasing a fine work of art ought to be more than merely beautifying a room. Throwaway artwork of this type is comparable to the din of a crowded room, and regarding fine art in this way is to dismiss the art or artist as one would a fellow conversant by ignoring what he says as he is speaking with you – the noise they make is all in the background, the hearer is neither listening to it, nor considering it, much less responding to it, other than to actively shut it out of his perception. Rather, the purpose for purchasing such art ought to be consistent with the purpose of art itself – to speak to the entire room, drawing viewers into its idiom and into contemplation of it. Just as importantly, children ought to frequent with their parents and/or teachers places where fine art is on display, not just to view it, but to engage it with their parents or teachers as they explain what the artist is doing and how he is communicating, and as they compare various works to show the different ways such communication takes place. Evaluation of the art only follows from understanding its idiom, and is impossible without frequent practice of engaging great works of art.

Continued in Next comment...

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

...Continued from previous comment.

Likewise in the case of music. If patrons truly value art, and if music is regarded as a genuine artform, then it is not only inconsistent but debasing to treat music as merely ambiance, or background noise. For example, if one is not going to actually listen to music, then respect for true art ought to compel him to turn the darned radio OFF. The habit of leaving music on continuously in the background has done nothing to create a greater acquaintance with or appreciation of music as fine art, but has only reduced music to a form of therapy for minds unable to cope in silence with their own thoughts, and has bred a widespread psychological dependence on tuneful noise – and in most cases, it seems, really anything that breaks the silence will do. If music is to be engaged as true art, then it ought to be so engaged as the conversation it is meant to be: the listener, out of respect for his fellow conversant, ought to deliberately listen to what he hears, consider it thoughtfully, and respond in a way that inquires more deeply into the message a given composition is conveying. Children ought to be encouraged to regard music in such a way, first, by making the hearing of music an occasion of actually listening to it. When music is played in the home, the parents ought to do so in a way that demonstrates listening in the same way one would listen to a fellow conversant, with full attention being given to their expression, thoughtful consideration applied to it, and a response offered. As with visual arts, in my honest opinion, children ought to frequent with their parents and/or teachers places where the finest music is performed live, not just to hear it, but to engage it with their parents or teachers as they explain what the orchestra and/or choir is doing and how the composer is communicating through his work. With such practice behind them, they’ll have at least some basis for evaluating music as artistic expression, and recognizing in it the difference between compelling conversation and gibberish. Without a grounding in the Grammar and Dialectic of the art of music, it's all the same anyway – it's gibberish – and one's interpretation of it devolves into an entirely subjective evaluation of how it "make's one feel."

Because the communication of Ultimate Truth having Eternal Consequences is the nature of the Christian Message, it is all the more important that those forms of Rhetoric employed to communicate that Message maintain fidelity to it by avoiding subjectivity. To this end, accountability to the high standard of Christian Art is the responsibility of both artists and patrons. Christian artists that succeed in communicating gibberish, or who are guilty of decending into the banal manipulation of feelings rather than the uplifting and challenging task of engaging thought, need to be criticized rather than praised. And Joe is right, we've lost not only the previous generation, but the current generation as well. They don't have anywhere near a full education. It is our task to begin the hard work of correcting the deficiencies in American and Lutheran education, as well as we can, within our spheres of influence, beginning with our own.

My Opinion,

Douglas Lindee

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

Just sitting down here before heading off to bed, read the following January 1, 2012 post from Cranach: The Blog of Veith:

"I think barrenness is a profound metaphor for our contemporary condition in the West. I would extend that to artistic barrenness; that is, a general lack of creativity in our art, literature, and music. There is still interesting stuff going on, of course, but even the most radical-seeming is tired, as if we have seen it all before, and it doesn’t lead anywhere. (The opposite of barrenness would be bringing forth new life. One can “create” -- making something new -- without it being alive.)

"For example, Hollywood has 3D and spectacular special effects technology. But the movie industry keeps looking backwards -- remaking old movies, re-releasing old movies, filming old comic books, rehashing old conventions. There are few new stories to go along with the new technology. So movie attendance has hit a 16-year low. Barrenness."

Quoted from We have become barren

Guess I'm not the only one noticing this. Barrenness is definitely the word for it. Entertainment may be our most lucrative export today, but not for long... The playwrights of Hollywood don't have the education to write creative scripts, that's obvious -- they certainly don't have the education to get Christianity correct when they attempt to represent it; last year at this time, after years of watching geriatric performers being led on stage by their personal attendants, they finally wrote the obituary of Rock-n-Roll -- "everything's been done," that is, there is no more creativity; and the visual arts seem to have been reduced to glorified arts and crafts. Who posesses genuine creativy anymore? I've not seen much of it for a long time... Once the Entertainment Industry is gone, what's going to replace it? I have no idea whatsoever.

IMHO, all Christians, and confessional Lutherans especially, really do need to make a clean break with the World, abandon its wisdom and goals regarding the proper education of children, and return to the guidance left us by the master pedagogues of the Church since the time of the Reformation, taking care of the current generation as best we can while preparing the next generation with a superior and proven foundation for lifelong learning and truly creative and beneficial service in their vocations.

Daniel Baker said...

Mr. Lindee,

The idea of Classical Education is quite intriguing. Specifically, it makes the academic disciplines seem much more "relevant" than do the attempts of so-called modernist educators - which is ironic, since the latter sort purport to deliver the utmost relevancy. I can still remember numerous teachers in grade/high school who began a course of study with "you'll never use this in real life..." Extremely relevant, no!? This was particularly the case in mathematics courses. However, recognizing the intricate relationship between the seven liberal arts and four sciences, as the CiRCE institute describes them, helps one to understand the importance of arithmetic and all mathematics on a fundamental level. In fact, the education and teaching methods described by the classical sources promoted in this and other posts on IL have made more sense to me than the years of so-called Lutheran schooling to which I have been subjected. I, for one, have always hated school, and I do mean *hate*. In this light, I have been resolved for quite some time to "do things differently" with my own children. The idea of classical education certainly provides a number of interesting resources to that end. In any case, I strongly encourage the continued posting of these ideas here on Intrepid Lutherans. I think it goes hand-in-hand with the desire for Confessional unity in our Synod and beyond. For as long as I have been truly Lutheran, I have believed that poor education and nearly non-existent catechesis are the primary causes of Confessional atrophy in our midst. This undoubtedly began with a shift in education philosophy.

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