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Classical Education in a Modern World

A buddy of mine from Twitter / the language learning blogosphere had posted a link to this article quite a while back, but I’m finally able to write the post I had been thinking about regarding one part of it. The point that really stuck to me from that article, though the post is still well worth checking out in its entirety, is (emphasis added):

The irony of this new discovery is that for hundreds of years educators did seem to sense that children’s brains had to be built up through exercises of increasing difficulty that strengthened brain functions. Up through the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries a classical education often included rote memorization of long poems in foreign languages, which strengthened the auditory memory (hence thinking in language) and an almost fanatical attention to handwriting, … Then in the 1960s educators dropped such traditional exercises from the curriculum.

So what does this mean for me?

Well, I’m going to try an experiment in my free time to Chrono Trigger my way into traditional learning styles.

I am going to go through books that have classical poetry(陶淵明、四書、唐詩)in them, which have the bopomofo pronunciation guide along the edges (again, a reason I prefer bopomofo is the way it just fits with the text, rather than trying to shove pinyin along the edges or on top):

Such as 陶淵明 here (the poem is on the far right, my favorite of his, too by the way)

Now, while this book provides interpretations and notes, my focus is less on understanding it that way and more on “rote memorization” of these poems. While that may sound boring, it’s going to be great practice for reading out loud, reading out loud quickly (necessary for some of my courses), and getting a good feel for these works. Now, while I’m not a literature student, nor am I focusing on Classical Chinese, it is still something that I do need to get some practice with, and since I am still an early beginner I’m excited to see how this will improve, aid, or even inhibit my progress.

When going through this I will make sure to: 1) read it out loud, making sure my tones are accurate when doing so. I will, if time allows and if I’m in the mood 2) write it while reading it. From what I understand it was the combination of all three that were classically used, but sometimes I’m just not that good of a student. 😉

Ideally, I will try to do this everyday, but this is very much based on my own reading and work that must be completed for my classes. But, hey, it’s a fun experience none-the-less!

Of course these methods are dated, old, and silly by many standards but as a history student I find trying to employ these classical methods fascinating.

4 thoughts on “Classical Education in a Modern World”

  1. I’ll be interested to hear how you get on with this. I’ve been thinking occasionally as well of adding some passage memorization to my routine. Memorization of a passage requires one to pay attention to all the details like little else does. “Was that particle a に or a で” – if you’re just reading, even in an SRS sentence, you might barely notice, but if you have to have it memorized it’s a different story. So I suppose I should get to this sooner rather than later, now where to fit it in …

    1. I’m interested too! Since writing this I haven’t even had the chance to start, though I’ll let you know how the process is going. You’re absolutely right on the SRS–sometimes there’s things that I just completely gloss over without realizing it when I do my reps. I need to be more focused!!

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