Master the Art of Conversation: An Excerpt from "the Read Aloud Family"

Books offer a unique entry into conversation because they contain the best ideas we can possibly encounter. They are, in fact, a gateway to big issues, and we can often enter into a comfortable, leisurely conversation about some of life’s hardest topics through the lens of a book. When we read with our kids and then open ourselves up for conversation, we have a unique opportunity to help them encounter great thoughts and ideas, think deeply about them, and allow those ideas and encounters to shape their lives.

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FeaturesSarah Mackenzie
There's Generative Power in Form

"Forma” is a Latin word with a range of meanings. Because it is Latin, it sounds good. Because it has a range of meanings, it makes for a good journal name. In our previous issue, David briefly explained some of the reasons we chose this name. I’d like to to use this opportunity to explain it a little more. 

Ideas are spiritual, the food that the soul feeds on, without which it starves, on which its health depends. We are fascinated by the complex relationship between the words “idea” and “form.” At CiRCE, we are concerned that the modern man undervalues ideas and forms because he does not see how they link the temporal and the eternal. 

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Columns, Quo VadisAndrew Kern
Four Tips for Cultivating Classroom Conversation

Within the Christian classical education renewal, Socratic conversations, seminars, and colloquies are an essential element. At the very least, schools and homeschools all speak of the Socratic approach as a distinctive of the classical approach. Everyone is doing it, everyone is advertising that they do it, and everyone wants to be doing it well. Many of us, then, are in search of tips to make that sort of classroom conversation a bit more, say, conversational. It can be supposed, with reasonable certainty, then, that this is why you are reading this article. Alternatively, you might be reading it in order to find out what foolish things I might say, so that you can kindly correct me. In either case, welcome. 

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How Translating the Great Books Is an Act of Love: A Conversation with Sarah Ruden & Emily Wilson

As the first women to produce published translations of the Aeneid and the Odyssey, Sarah Ruden and Emily Wilson are history-makers. And the plaudits for their imaginative, innovative, and poetic work have been decisively flattering. The New York Review of Books claimed that Ruden’s version of the Aeneid “soared over the bar” set impossibly high by Robert Fagles, maintaining both the “melancholy melodiousness” and the “tight aphoristic ring” of Virgil’s original. The Guardian called Wilson’s Odyssey “a new cultural landmark” that “will change the way the poem is read in English” forever. This is high praise indeed—and it’s well-earned. ¶ Yet for all that, as the following interview reveals, Ruden and Wilson seem less driven to create history and more interested in justly honoring the Great Books they’re translating, to offer them freshly to a new audience and a new age. They are motivated first by a love for the text, an affection for the inner-workings of language itself, and a desire to engage in the ongoing dialogue that is the tradition of Western culture. In that, they’re worthy models—and guides—for the literary pursuits of our schools and homes.  

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InterviewDavid Kern
The Flame of Memory for the Life of the World

The Aeneid has never been my favorite epic: I prefer my heroes more flawed and fierce, but a new reading has illuminated something flawed in me. I see myself and my fellow classical educators in the defeated Trojans, cast from a burning city, longing to return. Lonely, we feel exiled from a world that is rumored to have once delighted in truth for its own sake. We identify ourselves as keepers of the flame of memory in the wasteland. Like Aeneas, with his household gods, we shield the rich relics of the past from those who want to burn them to ashes. Yet what do we do with the cultural memory we carry? Two characters from the Aeneid embody divergent reactions to the ancient dilemma: Aeneas, duty-bound to build a kingdom, and Andromache, erecting a citadel for ghosts.

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Susan Wise Bauer’s "Rethinking Education: How to Take Charge of Your Child’s Education"

Susan Wise Bauer, a longtime champion of homeschooling, may also hold the title of most prolific writer in the realm of classical education. The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home (co-authored with her mother, Jessie Wise), is now in its fourth edition and its companion volume, The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had, has recently been expanded. Her publications also include curricular resources like the Writing with Ease series, the Writing with Skill series, the Grammar for the Well-Trained Mind series, the four-volume history curriculum The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child, and three expansive works in the History of the World series.

And now Bauer has recently released Rethinking School: How to Take Charge of Your Child’s Education (W.W. Norton & Company) which, like several of Bauer’s other works, attempts to arm parents with the information and understanding necessary to navigate some of the common hurdles in the K-12 school system.

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Is Classical Education Still Possible?

I’m now old enough to look back on over half a century in the world of education as either a student or a teacher.  It’s hard to make this backward glance without cynicism or to look ahead without despair. All this time the trend lines by almost any standard measure bent ever lower and lower, while the language of reform never failed to beat upon the ear. This world of education, and all the reformers in it, seem to divide themselves roughly into two groups: those who believe that in technology, brain research, mega-data, or some research-based breakthrough we will discover new tools and approaches that will revolutionize the way we learn and teach, and those who believe that recovering “the lost tools of learning” will spark another Renaissance and turn those trend lines around.  

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EssaysDavid Hicks
Permanence & Progress

If you are reading these words, you already have a great devotion to the past. After all, this is a publication devoted to supporting the concept of classical education, which focuses heavily on the way young people should absorb the cultural, spiritual, and intellectual heritage of human civilization. The classical education movement emerged in part because of the perception that many mainstream institutions had jettisoned too much of that heritage (and some of its best pedagogical principles). That act of detaching from the past was largely guided by the progressivist notion that the current generation is more advanced and enlightened than those who have come before us.


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Film as Metaphysical Coup

A friend who lived through the demise of the Soviet Union once described for me the profound appeal of Western films back in the 1980s. He said that an acquaintance sold his car to purchase a VCR and a few black market VHS tapes. “He put the VCR in the garage, where the car used to be,” he said, “and we watched movies all day. There were always many guys over to watch movies. We watched American movies.” While I already knew the answer, I asked anyway, “What kind of American movies?” He told me, “Science fiction. Alien. Star Wars. Always science fiction.” To imagine a garage full of Soviets rubbing their hands together for warmth while watching illegally recorded American films—this is unquestionably the truest experience of cinema. Even when cinema is not an actual violation of the law, it is yet something of a metaphysical coup d’état.

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