Tag Archives: teacher

We’ll be right back!

Yup, there’s been a big interruption in blog posts. There’s been a lot going on. We sustained some heavy losses here at Western Civ World Headquarters: my beloved pets Lizzie and Gus passed on in the last few months (Lord help me, I’m still a mess). Also, I moved from Syracuse, NY back to my house in Franklin, PA and my dad lives with me here now. I’ve been busy making the place accessible for him. I apologize for the lapse. Life happens.

For the past year-and-a half I’d been able to take advantage of the almighty worldwide plague to post regularly. Much of the information had already been researched, so it was kind of easy to crank out paragraphs every weekday morning while we were all locked down.

In the end, though, it’s unhealthy to be glued to one’s desk, writing about stuff I already know.

While reorganizing my work-space I unearthed my library of books that had been in cardboard boxes for a long time. One of my interests is plagues. I own a handful of books about rats and lice and bacilli (I’m a nerd. You know this already). I mention it because these books tell me humankind has been through pandemics dozens of times. We always react the same way: like idiots.

Johns Hopkins released a study this past week that says the lockdown was unproductive and caused more harm than good. It shows that there was little discernible curtailing of COVID by keeping everyone in their homes. I’ll go further than that. The lockdown was a giant squashing of creativity.

There’s a big exciting world out there, but you and I were discouraged—prohibited—from experiencing it. That kept us from growing. How? Well, I used to be a graphic design instructor at Pittsburgh Technical Institute. PTI’s president, Jack McCartan, was fond of saying at faculty meetings that ‘the answers aren’t in here.’ He meant that there’s only so much a teacher can bring to the classroom. You need to go outside the school’s walls to find what you’re looking for. I took that message to heart and helped organize field trips to New York City and Chicago where we met some bigshots of the graphic design world (Seymour Chwast, you guys). Listening to successful designers and art directors, those students got more education in an afternoon than I could ever hope to give them in an entire quarter. To learn, to stretch yourself, you need to go outside.

Gang, get out there and live your lives. Wash your hands, keep your fingers away from your faces, don’t lick any doorknobs. We only get this one life and it’s a pretty short run. Make the most of it.

We’re coming up to the grand finale of The Western Civ User’s Guide to Reading & Writing. Posts will resume soon.

Back to the beginning of The Western Civ User’s Guide to Reading & Writing.

Don’t forget: I wrote another Western Civ User’s Guide! Back to the beginning of The Western Civ User’s Guide to Time & Space.

The mighty Alcuin

Alcuin with his students

Charlemagne was king of France at 20-something years old. He was remarkable simply for being able to make big, important decisions—a good general and executive. Charlemagne was also eager to learn new things.

Charlemagne’s dad and grand-dad had set up a school at the royal palace. It was meant to teach young princelings how to behave at court, how eventually to become a king. Charlemagne wanted to learn more than that. He wanted to know literature, art, math, science, music and to understand Christianity more deeply…so he gathered up scholars to teach him and his sons.

One scholar was Alcuin of York, in Northumbria, in the British Isles. The school at York was doing booming business—its students learned the liberal arts as well as Christian Ed, which was the new kind of curriculum Charlemagne was after. Alcuin had been an honor roll student and was encouraged by his mentor, the Venerable Bede, to stick around the York school to teach. Alcuin was headmaster by the time Charlemagne dragooned him to teach at his palace school. Alcuin not only taught at Charlemagne’s school, he ran it. He introduced the same curriculum that had been so successful at the York school. Alcuin used the classical framework of the trivium and quadrivium—“The trivium consists of grammar, logic, and rhetoric, while the quadrivium consists of arithmetic, astronomy, music, and geometry.” Alcuin taught the basics first: the rules of speaking & writing; how to think in an organized way; then how to persuade through speaking & writing. After that his students were ready for the more complicated subjects in the quadrivium.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcuin
https://jameswoodward.wordpress.com/2009/05/20/alcuin-of-york/
I quoted from this article: https://www.hillsdale.edu/hillsdale-blog/academics/understanding-trivium-quadrivium/

Back to the beginning of The Western Civ User’s Guide to Reading & Writing.

Help wanted

Charlemagne’s challenge was to consolidate communications across the Holy Roman Empire. There wasn’t much he could do about vernacular languages—the languages used by different tribes in different kingdoms. What he could do was standardize Latin as spoken and written in the Church and government. He wanted a letter or manuscript written by a monk in southern France to be legible and understandable to a monk in northern Germany. Charlemagne needed to find someone smart enough to understand the problem, solve it, and train the monks who did all the writing. He needed a teacher. Where would he find one?

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/consolidate

Back to the beginning of The Western Civ User’s Guide to Reading & Writing.