The Greco-Roman Liberal Arts: When Students were more than just Numbers

Part 2 of Series: The Holy Spirit and the Liberal Arts: The Future of ‘Two Handed’ Higher Education

The liberal arts vision of flooding society with a steady stream of virtuous, truth-seeking leaders has fallen on hard times, but Plato and Aristotle would remind us that educating the mind without cultivating the heart is no education at all. 

by Gary David Stratton, Ph.D. • Senior Editor

Vb3vlyu5_r5aLgN6EBMUpcoWE-kldb91lfsU74207J4
Plato and Aristotle in Raphael’s “Philosophy” (c. 1510)

The goal of educating two-handed warriors—men and women committed to both the life of the mind and the life of the Spirit—is really nothing new. Much of the best of Western society is based upon a classical liberal arts approach to education that is far more “two-handed” than most colleges and universities today. Founded in the fifth-century BC, the liberal arts tradition grew out of the Greco-Roman ideal of developing the life of the mind in a soul-nurturing relational environment. In fact, a popular aphorism commonly attributed to Aristotle accurately captures the spirit of the liberal arts tradition: “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”

So how did they do it?

Liberating Minds for a Life of Leadership

Bruce M. Kimball (1986, 2002) discerns two distinct streams in the liberal arts traditions—the philosophical and the oratorical. 1) The Greek philosophical tradition was consumed with the pursuit of truth. It was birthed in the life and teachings of Socrates, as recorded by Plato (c. 427-347 BCE) and refined by Aristotle. In the philosophical tradition the liberal arts function as “liberating arts” in that they were designed to “free the mind from traditional beliefs accepted uncritically.” Their aim is to examine “our opinions and values to see whether or not they are really true and good” (Hoeckley, 2002b, p. 1).

2) The Roman oratorical tradition focused more on leadership development. It’s founder, Cicero (c. 106-43 BCE), never lost sight of his dream that education was about “training citizens to be leaders of society” (Taylor, 2001, p. 1).  In the oratorical tradition studying the “liberal arts” meant that students were “liberated” from the pragmatic concerns of merely learning a trade. They were learning to think, so that they could lead their culture toward the good, the beautiful, and the true.

The two streams developed in tension with one other and eventually converged in the Middle Ages with the establishment of a curriculum rooted in the Trivium—Grammar, Rhetoric, Dialectic, and the Quadrivium—Arithmetic, Music, Geometry, and Astronomy (Cobban, 1975, p. 10; Hoeckley, 2002a, p. 1).

A Deeply Relational Connection

The Seven Liberal Arts

More importantly for our discussion, both traditions fostered highly collegial learning environments that were “spiritual,” at least in a relational sense.

Education and what we would call “discipleship” were virtually synonymous. Michael J. Wilkins (1992) notes that the master-disciple relationship was the key to education in the Greco-Roman world. “We find an early relationship between the noun mathetes (disciple) and the verb ‘to learn’” (p. 72). Philosophers and orators alike attracted students and/or were hired by parents or city-states to train young men in apprenticeship-like relationships (p. 73).

Socrates specifically rejected the Sophists’ more distant and “academic” student-teacher relationships, branding them educational mercenaries with little or no concern for the souls of their students. The Socratic method of instruction necessitated intimate relationships in tight-knit learning community (p. 74). Socrates and his student, Plato, called their disciples “friends,” precisely because they “wanted a relationship that was characterized by shared community” (p. 75).

Aristotle’s experience with Socrates and Plato led him to assert that virtue and friendship are the inseparable foundations of education. He believed that it is impossible for a student to learn from a teacher who is not also his friend (Kraut, 2005). The relationship between virtue and discipleship was so critical that the “imitation of the conduct of a human master became a significant feature of a disciple of a great master… and involved a commitment that affected the follower’s entire life” (Wilkins, p. 77, 76).

The Liberal Arts Today

It really isn’t all that difficult to imagine what Socrates would make of the distant, academic, and often mercenary approach to education that dominates twenty-first-century colleges and universities. While numerous historical, economic, and pragmatic factors led to most twentieth-century American colleges gradually abandoning the liberal arts tradition of friendship and virtue (even in many liberal arts colleges), the impact has been devastating.

The liberal arts vision of flooding society with a steady stream of virtuous, truth-seeking leaders has fallen on hard times. Julie Reuben’s (1996) The Making of the Modern University traces the tragic decline of relationally-based moral education and the corresponding decline in morality in American society. It is a difficult thesis to refute.

Whereas Plato and Aristotle interacted with their students as friends, the depersonalized modern university student is often little more than a number. No relationship means no moral transformation, at least not for the good.

Perhaps its time to consider going back to the future. It seems highly unlikely that twenty-first-century educators will ever be to cultivate two-handed warriors without a radical reexamination of the student-teacher relationship. Whatever the twenty-first century higher education might look like, whether on residential campuses or online communities, we cannot assemble two-handed warriors in educational assembly lines. They need to be nurtured in tight-knit learning communities.

The Greco-Roman tradition provided an algorithm that has really never been improved upon—the deeper the student-teacher connection, the deeper the impact. Whether you are teaching students to pursue truth, and/or developing them as cultural leaders, relationship is key. Smaller is better. Apprenticeship is ideal. Mentoring is life or death.

After all, 2500 years of transformational education can’t be all wrong,

Next post in the series, click: Rabbinic Higher Education.

 

Notes
Cobban, Alan (1975). The medieval universities: their development and organization. London: Methuen.

Hoeckley, Christian (2002a). “Introduction to Bruce Kimball’s, Interpreting the liberal arts: four lectures on the history and historiography of the liberal arts.” The Gaede Institute for the Liberal Arts, Westmont College, Santa Barbara, CA.

Hoeckley, Christian (2002b). “The Liberal Arts Traditions and Christian Higher Education: A Brief Guide.” The Gaede Institute for the Liberal Arts, Westmont College, Santa Barbara, CA.

Kimball, Bruce A.  (1986). Orators and philosophers:  a history of the idea of liberal education.  New York:  Teachers College.

Kimball, Bruce A. (2002). Interpreting the liberal arts: four lectures on the history and historiography of the liberal arts. The Gaede Institute for the Liberal Arts, Westmont College, Santa Barbara, CA.

Kraut, Richard. “Aristotle’s Ethics.” The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy. Edward N. Zalta (ed.), http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2005/entries/aristotle-ethics/

Reuben, Julie (1996). The making of the modern university: intellectual transformation and the marginalization of morality. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Taylor, James E. (2002). “Christian Liberal Learning.” Summer 2002 Faculty Workshop, Westmont College, Santa Barbara, CA.

Wilkins, Michael J. (1992). Following the master: a biblical theology of discipleship. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992.

Scripture and Culture-Making: What Christian Colleges could Learn from Rabbinic Higher Education

Part 3 in series: The Holy Spirit and the Liberal Arts: The Future of ‘Two Handed’ Higher Education
“Today’s Christian teenagers know abundant details about the lives of favorite musicians and television stars or about what it takes to get into a good college, but most are not very clear on who Moses and Jesus were.”
-Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton

by Gary David Stratton, Ph.D. • Senior Editor

N.T. Wright concludes The Challenge of Jesus with a challenge of his own to 21st Century Christians:

“The gospel of Jesus points us and indeed urges us to be at the leading edge of the whole culture, articulating in story and music and art and philosophy and education and poetry and politics and theology and even–heaven help us–Biblical studies, a worldview that will mount the historically-rooted Christian challenge to both modernity and postmodernity, leading the way…with joy and humor and gentleness and good judgment and true wisdom. I believe if we face the question, ‘if not now, then when?’ if we are grasped by this vision we may also hear the question, ‘if not us, then who? And if the gospel of Jesus is not the key to this task, then what is?”

Wright’s challenge begs the question whether or not 21st Century Christian colleges hold the gospel of Jesus Christ in as high a regard as the Jewish educators of Jesus’ day held the Torah. Like Greco-Roman higher education, Rabbinic higher education was deeply devoted to the development of the life of the mind in close-knit learning communities.  However, the distinguishing characteristic of Rabbinic Higher Education was not so much its pedagogy as its remarkable devotion to its subject matter–Torah. Whereas Greco-Roman students were expected to master the ever-changing philosophies of their masters, students in Rabbinic higher education strove for mastery of the unchanging word of God. The “words of Torah were essentially divine.  God’s words were part and parcel of God’s essence” (Hirshman, 2009, p. 30).

Faithfulness Before Innovation

This devotion to the word of God resulted in a corresponding commitment to faithfulness versus novelty in Jewish education. “No one was free to choose his own credo or ignore the sage’s mediation in approaching the divine… The way of life was learned, and the worldview the product of particular knowledge and distinctive modes of thinking about and analyzing that knowledge.”  The object of Jewish higher education was “full mastery of God’s word and full understanding of it…” resulting a intimacy with the words of Torah” written on the pages of the heart (Neusner, 1999, p. iii). Education, or more particularly, learning Torah, became “the Jewish religious pursuit par excellence…” (Hirshman, p. 3, 30). In short, they were true two handed warriors.

Jewish boys (and many girls) entered Beit Sefer (primary school) charged with mastering the Torah before the age of thirteen. This mastery often extended to the oral memorization of enormous portions of the Torah, as well as rudimentary reading and writing.  After their bar mitzvah, and the corresponding accountability for obedience to the law, the best students were allowed to go on to  Beit Midrash (secondary school, literally, “study house”), while they learned a trade. The Beit Midrash curriculum added the study of the Writings and the Prophets to that of Torah, and more importantly, Talmud, the art of Rabbinic interpretations comprised of both Midrash—inquiry into the sacred texts, and Mishna, the study of oral law independent of its scriptural basis.

Rabbinic Higher Education

Only the most remarkable secondary students were allowed to go on to the Jewish version of higher education, by obtaining permission to study as a talmid (disciple/student) of a great Rabbi.  Teaching Rabbis made up a “collegium of sages” responsible for applying the law of God in new situations and for passing on the tradition of scriptural interpretation to new students. “Each begins as a disciple of a master, then himself becomes a master to the next generation of disciples, in a long chain of learning” (Neusner, p. iv).

The goal of faithfulness to the word of God drove the master-student relationship and teaching style of the study house. Rabbinic education was consumed with recitation and discussion, not merely because of pedagogical considerations, but also for theological reasons. The Rabbis so reverenced the written words of Scripture, no other texts were considered worthy of study. Rabbinic higher education was an oral culture, perpetrated and preserved by an ongoing high-level discussion that eclipsed even Socratic dialogue in its relentless back and forth nature.

Rabbi Hillel and his Talmidim (Unattributed)

In order to facilitate this dialogue, Talmidim were expected to follow their master night-and-day as they taught their tight-knit band of brothers in the study house, over meals, and in the market place. “Study was a process of unending repetition and ubiquitous recitation that transpired in almost every possible venue” (Chilton, and Neusner, 2005, p. 131-132). A good disciple stuck so close to his teacher that by the end of the day he was literally covered with dust kicked up by his master’s feet (Vander Laan). Through it all, Talmidim strove to attain the prerequisite mastery of Torah, Midrash, and Mishnah necessary to become sages themselves so that they too could join the unbroken chain of faithfulness. (For an outstanding discussion of 1st Century BCE Rabbi Hillel and his application to 21st Century culture making, see, Joseph Telushkin’s, Hillel: If Not Now, When?)

From Studying Scripture to Making Culture

Most importantly for our discussion, the goal of this remarkable devotion to the word of God was not privatized faith, but culture making. Rabbinic education was birthed in the cultural crisis of the Babylonian captivity and is certainly the best human explanation of how Jewish culture survived the Diaspora. While Moses commanded the night and day impartation of Torah to the next generation, leading Torah historian, Wilhelm Bacher, notes that Nehemiah’s reading the Torah before the post-exilic community in Jerusalem was the actual “birthday of ancient Jewish education” (cited in Hirshman, p. 121.) Jewish leaders were painfully aware of their society’s need for leaders soaked in the culture-making power of the word of God. “According to the Rabbinic ideal, all of Israel would be teachers, and ultimately masters, of Torah” (Chilton, p. 46). Only then could Jewish society reflect Torah in justice, charitable acts, gifts of first fruits and sacrifices (Hirshman, p. 19).

When the cultural chips were down, Rabbis had the courage to contrast the culture-making power of the Jewish study house, not with the Greco-Roman education, but with the theatre and circus, “pitting the two against one another on the level of popular culture” (Hirshman, p. 121). In most Roman cities the circus/theater and beit Midrash were within blocks of one another. However, unlike the Romans, Jewish commitment to the word of God led to a stronger emphasis upon education than entertainment. Romans flocked to bread and circus, while Jews gathered to study. The Rabbis were confident that, in the end, their deep culture would triumph over Rome’s shallow culture. The beit Midrash had helped them endure the cultural onslaught of Babylon and Persia. Rome would be no match for them. And while the process took much longer than they could have ever imagined, it was a strategy that stood the test of time.

 

From Deuteronomy to the SAT

Moses with the Ten Commandments (Philippe de Champaigne, 1648, Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia)
Moses with the Ten Commandments (Philippe de Champaigne, 1648, Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia)

It doesn’t take any stretch of the imagination to envision how this principle might apply to twenty-first century educators seeking to develop two-handed warriors fluent in both faith building and culture making. Entrance into Rabbinical higher education required an oral recitation of the entire Torah. Entrance to most Christian colleges today requires little more than an SAT score of 1500.  Entrance to early American liberal arts colleges required a comprehensive grasp of the English Bible. Graduation from most Christian colleges today requires little more than a rudimentary understanding of Scripture. Is it any wonder that pop culture is shaping our students more than their faith?

Whether one is referring to Catholics or Protestants, today’s ‘Christian culture’ is a mile wide and an inch deep. Education is losing out to entertainment at every level. As much as I value the culture-making force of the entertainment industry, the arts nearly always follow the intellectual currents of the day (Hunter, 2010, p. 87-88), and the only intellectual current flowing in pop culture today is a narcissistic, consumer-driven, individualism.

Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton’s research into America youth culture discovered that, “Many teenagers know abundant details about the lives of favorite musicians and television stars or about what it takes to get into a good college, but most are not very clear on who Moses and Jesus were.” As a result, “a strong, visible, salient, or intentional faith is not operating in the foreground of most teenager’s lives.” Their worldview is little more than “moralistic, therapeutic, deism,” or more specifically, “whatever.”

For Protestant and Catholic colleges and universities to be of any value in helping our faith communities resist this pop culture onslaught and grow into vibrant culture-making institutions ourselves we need to return to the wisdom of the Rabbi’s—a rigorous devotion to the word of God. Like Chaim Potok, the sages of the Rabbinic school might dare ask the leaders of today’s Christian colleges, “Do you have faith in the word of God?” Sometimes I’m not so sure. Our curriculum and campus culture certainly don’t appear to reflect that kind of faith. At least not in comparison to the Rabbinic schools.

Yet I suspect that our best hope for prevailing in the struggle for the souls of our colleges and universities may be engaging in a Rabbinic commitment to the mastery of the worldview-forming, character-shaping narratives of Scripture. I am not talking about a lightweight devotional band-aid, but an intellectually challenging and spiritually enriching student-teacher dialogue that dominates our campus culture and captures the hearts minds our students. Anything less may result in a cultural exile from which we will never return.

Chaim Potok gave voice to a more modern expression of this sentiment in his novel, In the Beginning: “If the Torah cannot go out into your world of scholarship and return stronger, then we are all fools and charlatans. I have faith in the Torah. I am not afraid of truth.”

As N.T. Wright challenges us: “If the gospel of Jesus is not the key to this task, then what is?  If not us, then who? If not now, then when?”

 

Next post in the series: With Prayer in the School of Christ: The Liberal Arts and the Knowledge of God.

.

To read series from the beginning go to:

The Holy Spirit and the Liberal Arts: Two Handed Higher Education.

.

Notes

Wilhelm Bacher, Tradition und Tradenten in den Schulen Palästinas und Babyloniens: Studien und Materialien zur Entstehungsgeschichte des Talmud. (Berlin: W. de Gruyter, 1966).

Bruce Chilton, and Jacob Neusner, “Paul and Gamaliel.” In, Alan J. Avery-Peck, ed. Review of Rabbinic Judaism. (Leiden: Brill, 2005).

Marc G. Hirshman, The stabilization of rabbinic culture, 100 C.E.-350 C.E.: texts on education and their late antique context (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009).

James Davidson Hunter, To change the world: the irony, tragedy, and possibility of Christianity in the late modern world. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010).

Jacob Neusner, The four stages of rabbinic Judaism (London: Routledge, 1999).

Chaim Potok, In the beginning. (New York: Knopf, 1975).

Christian Smith, and Melinda Lundquist Denton. Soul searching: the religious and spiritual lives of American teenagers. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005).

Richard Valantasis, Douglas K. Bleyle, and Dennis C. Haugh, The Gospels and Christian life in history and practice (Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2009).

Ray Vander Laan, Stephen Sorenson, and Amanda Sorenson. In the dust of the rabbi: 5 faith lessons. (Grand Rapids, Mich: Zondervan, 2006). See also, Ray Vander Laan’s excellent website, Followtherabbi.com.

N.T. Wright. The Challenge of Jesus: rediscovering who Jesus was and is. (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 1999.)

The Bible and Women in Church Leadership: A Young Actress’s Perspective, Part 3

Part 3: Christianity’s Radically Counter-Cultural View of Gentiles, Slaves, and Women (Read Part 1 here.)

Could the logic of Paul’s argument eventually lead to a day when women with ministry gifts can finally take their Spirit-intended place of leadership in the body of Christ?

By Esther Junia [1]

One of the “signs” of the radical transformation of the age of the Spirit is the inclusion of women in anointed leadership. (‘Pentecost,’ Jean Restout)

Just because there are weaknesses in the case against women in ministry doesn’t automatically imply that every church in the world should suddenly promote women into teaching and leadership roles. However, it does point to at least the possibility of an alternative biblical perspective. Here is my rather feeble attempt to articulate one.

Rather than starting with Paul’s rules for two specific (and problematic) settings, perhaps it is more helpful to start with some of the more universal principles expressed throughout Scripture, including Paul’s own writings.

First, despite the male dominated leadership structures in the ancient world, the Old Testament prophets foretold the dawning of a day marked by a radically counter-cultural view of women in ministry. In Joel 2:298-29, the prophet predicts that the new age of the Holy Spirit would be bring anointing to all God’s people (not just a few prophets, kings, and judges). One of the “signs” of the radical transformation of the age of the Spirit is that anointed leadership will extend not only to men, but to women as well. In fact, Joel mentions women twice!

Second, Peter chooses this particular prophecy as the text for the first sermon ever preached in the newborn church (Acts 2:16-17).  His primary reasoning for choosing this particular Old Testament reference is certainly that Joel’s prophecy explains the coming of the Holy Spirit. Yet he could have chosen a number of other verses to make that point. What he needed was a verse that explained an element of Pentecost that was truly remarkable from a cultural perspective: women were part of the post-resurrection community upon whom the Holy Spirit had been poured out (Acts 1:14).

Third, this radically countercultural view of women was inaugurated by Jesus himself.  Our savior brought a dignity to every woman he encountered that was virtually unheard of in the ancient world. Whether or not all Pharisees regularly prayed, ““I thank Thee, God, that I am a Jew, not a Gentile; a man, not a woman; and a freeman, and not a slave” is a matter of scholarly debate, but it certainly fits Jewish men’s general attitude toward women in the first-century. And Roman men were much worse. With the exception of (rich) noble women, wives were little more than property: valued only for their ability to bear children. Unmarried women were worse off than slaves and valued primarily for sex. The suicide rate of Roman women was astronomical.[2]

Jesus brought an unprecedented dignity to every woman he met.  (‘Christ appears to Mary Magdalen,’ Giulio Romano.)

Jesus and the writers of the gospels turn this cruelty inside out. Matthew opens the New Testament with an account of the lineage of the Messiah that includes two gentile women and a female adulterer (Matthew 1:1-16). Luke celebrates Mary, Elizabeth, and Anna as the first hero’s of faith. The Syrophoenician woman (Mark 7:25-30), the widow of Nain (Luke 7:11-17), the woman with an issue of blood (Matthew 9:20-22), the Samaritan woman (John 4), the woman caught in adultery (John 8:3-10) each receive honor and comfort unknown in the ancient world. Susanna, Joanna, and a number of other women are invited to be Jesus’ traveling companions and become his primary benefactors (Luke 8:3).  Women who follow Jesus are commended for their faith more often than his twelve ‘disciples’. Mary (sister of Lazarus), and Mary Magdalene enjoy personal relationships with Jesus that surpass any of the twelve disciples, except perhaps Peter and John.

Fourth, Paul himself takes this radically counter-cultural view of women, and connects it to the other universally accepted “equalities” of redeemed humanity. In Galatians Paul declares: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (3:28).  In Colossians Paul connects this universal “leveling” principle to God’s plan to restore redeemed humanity into the full image of God in Christ.  This is “a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all” (Colossians 3:9-10).  This seems to be a universal principle intended for all times and cultures and not a “rule” designed to solve a particular problem in a local congregation.

A Tentative Conclusion

I have come to believe that it is against this dynamically counter-cultural view of women that all true Christian understandings of ministry leadership must be judged.  If the cross obliterated all cultural (and even OT) divisions between Jews and Greeks, the racial divisions of Barbarians and Scythians, as well as the cultural distinctions and practice of slavery, then why do women with ministry gifts still have to sit at the back of the bus? While the realities of the profoundly male-dominated and hierarchical ancient cultures prevented full-scale implementation of an early church where women could fully express their ministry gifts, that does not mean that scripture does not point us in this direction.

Christianity exalted Gentiles to their rightful place of equality in value, status, and, yes, leadership in the body of Christ within the church’s first century. In same way, Christianity’s fairness and even kindness towards slaves eventually led to the church leading the charge for the abolition of slavery, despite tremendous cultural forces preventing it (including interpretations of New Testament passages that seem to condone it.) Isn’t it just as likely that the logic of Paul’s argument coupled with the incredible value Christianity places on women will eventually lead to a day when women with ministry gifts can finally take their Spirit-intended place of leadership in the body of Christ?  

In fact, I believe that unshackling the full potential of over half of the members of the body of Christ worldwide might overcome one of the last great obstacles to the gospel being preached in every nation and the church becoming the unified bride of Christ that causes the world to know that Jesus is our savior (John 17). [There I go being dramatic again.]

A Costly Journey

For such a time as this. (‘Esther Goes before Xerxes Unbidden,’ Paolo Veronese.)

No one is saying this journey will be easy. Exalting Gentiles to equal standing with Jews in the first century came at the cost of tremendous cultural conflict and demanded remarkable  courage and conviction from Jewish Christian leaders (Acts 15) . The abolition of slavery in the 19th-century required no less cost against no less cultural pressure. While I harbor no animosity toward men, women and churches who feel constrained by their interpretation of Paul’s two problematic statements, my conscience is captive to what I believe to be the word of God.

Is that being too dramatic? I don’t think so.  I want to stand on the side of history I believe Jesus (and Paul) inaugurated and join a church that fully supports the gifted women of my generation in their quest to fulfill the call of God upon their lives. I want to emulate Esther’s courage by asking the men in charge of the kingdom to protect our sisters from the Haman’s who would seek to prevent them from fulfilling their God-given callings. I believe my generation was born for such a time as this and is willing to pay the price to help our gifted sisters in Christ bless the church with all that He has entrusted to them.

And if we perish, we perish.

 


[1] Due to the complexities of a Hollywood career, “Esther” decided to write under an alias.

[2] S. Ruden, Paul Among the People, 11-20, 72-96.

 

The Greco-Roman Liberal Arts: Education with Friendship and Heart, by Gary David Stratton, PhD

Part 2 of Series: The Holy Spirit and the Liberal Arts: The Future of ‘Two Handed’ Higher Education

The Greco-Roman tradition provided an algorithm that has really never been improved upon—the deeper the student-teacher connection, the deeper the impact.

by Gary David Stratton, PhD • Senior Editor

garydavidstratton
Is it possible for a student to truly learn from a teacher who is not also his friend? Aristotle didn’t think so.

The goal of educating two handed warriors—men and women committed to both the life of the mind and the life of the Spirit—is really nothing new. Much of the best of Western society is based upon a classical liberal arts approach to education that is far more “two-handed” than most colleges and universities today. Founded in the fifth-century BC, the liberal arts tradition grew out of the Greco-Roman ideal of developing the life of the mind in a soul-nurturing relational environment. In fact, a popular aphorism commonly attributed to Aristotle accurately captures the spirit of the liberal arts tradition: “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”

So how did they do it?

Liberating Minds for a Life of Leadership

Bruce M. Kimball (1986, 2002) discerns two distinct streams in the liberal arts traditions—the Greek Philosophical and the Roman Oratorical. 1) The Greek Philosophical tradition was consumed with the pursuit of truth. Birthed in the life and teachings of Socrates as recorded by Plato and refined by Aristotle, the liberal arts functioned as liberating arts in that they were designed to “free the mind from traditional beliefs accepted uncritically.” Their aim is to examine “our opinions and values to see whether or not they are really true and good” (Hoeckley, 2002b, p. 1).

2) The Roman Oratorical tradition focused more on leadership development. It’s founder, Cicero never lost sight of his dream that education was about “training citizens to be leaders of society” (Taylor, 2001, p. 1).  In the oratorical tradition studying the liberal arts meant that students were “liberated” from the pragmatic concerns of merely learning a trade. They were learning to think, so that they could lead their culture toward the good, the beautiful, and the true.

Gradually these streams converged in a Medieval curriculum rooted in the Trivium—Grammar, Rhetoric, Dialectic, and the Quadrivium—Arithmetic, Music, Geometry, and Astronomy (Cobban, 1975, p. 10; Hoeckley, 2002a, p. 1).

Education = Friendship

More importantly for our discussion, both traditions fostered highly collegial learning environments that were “spiritual,” at least in a relational sense. Education and what we would call “discipleship” were virtually synonymous. Michael J. Wilkins (1992) notes that the master-disciple relationship was the key to education in the Greco-Roman world. “We find an early relationship between the noun mathetes (disciple) and the verb ‘to learn’” (p. 72). Philosophers and orators alike attracted students and/or were hired by parents or city-states to train young men in apprenticeship-like relationships (p. 73).

Socrates specifically rejected the Sophists’ more distant student-teacher relationships and their charging students “tuition,” branding them educational mercenaries with little or no concern for the souls of their students. The Socratic method of instruction necessitated intimate relationships in tight-knit learning community (p. 74). Socrates and his student, Plato, called their disciples “friends,” precisely because they “wanted a relationship that was characterized by shared community” (p. 75).

Aristotle’s experience with Socrates and Plato led him to assert that virtue and friendship are the inseparable foundations of education. He believed that it is impossible for a student to learn from a teacher who is not also his friend (Kraut, 2005). The relationship between virtue and discipleship was so critical that the “imitation of the conduct of a human master became a significant feature of a disciple of a great master… and involved a commitment that affected the follower’s entire life” (Wilkins, p. 77, 76).

Back to the Future

Socrates and his student, Plato, called their disciples “friends,” precisely because they wanted a relationship that was characterized by shared community.
Socrates called his students ‘friends’ because he wanted a relationship that was characterized by shared community.

It really isn’t all that difficult to imagine what Socrates would make of the distant, academic, and often mercenary approach to education that dominates twenty-first-century colleges and universities. While numerous historical, economic, and pragmatic factors led to most American colleges gradually abandoning the liberal arts tradition of friendship and virtue (even in many ‘liberal arts colleges’), the impact has been devastating.

The liberal arts vision of flooding our culture with  a steady stream of virtuous, truth-seeking leaders has fallen on hard times. Julie Reuben’s (1996) The Making of the Modern University traces the tragic decline of relationally-based moral education and the corresponding decline in morality in American society. It is a difficult thesis to refute. Whereas Plato and Aristotle interacted with their students as friends, depersonalized modern university students are often little more than numbers. No relationship means no moral transformation, at least not for the good.

Perhaps its time to consider going back to the future. It seems highly unlikely that twenty-first-century educators will ever be to cultivate two-handed warriors without a radical reexamination of the student-teacher relationship. Whatever the twenty-first century higher education might look like, whether on residential campuses or online communities, we cannot assemble two-handed warriors in educational assembly lines. They need to be nurtured in tight-knit learning communities.

The Greco-Roman tradition provided an algorithm that has really never been improved upon—the deeper the student-teacher connection, the deeper the impact. Whether you are teaching students to pursue truth, and/or developing them as cultural leaders, relationship is key. Smaller is better. Apprenticeship is ideal. Mentoring is life or death.

After all, 2500 years of transformational education can’t be all wrong.

 

Next post in the series: Rabbinic Higher Education: The Life of the Mind and the Word of God.

See also:

Who Killed the Liberal Arts? And Why We Should Care

Notes
Cobban, Alan (1975). The medieval universities: their development and organization. London: Methuen.

Hoeckley, Christian (2002a). “Introduction to Bruce Kimball’s, Interpreting the liberal arts: four lectures on the history and historiography of the liberal arts.” The Gaede Institute for the Liberal Arts, Westmont College, Santa Barbara, CA.

Hoeckley, Christian (2002b). “The Liberal Arts Traditions and Christian Higher Education: A Brief Guide.” The Gaede Institute for the Liberal Arts, Westmont College, Santa Barbara, CA.

Kimball, Bruce A.  (1986). Orators and philosophers:  a history of the idea of liberal education.  New York:  Teachers College.

Kimball, Bruce A. (2002). Interpreting the liberal arts: four lectures on the history and historiography of the liberal arts. The Gaede Institute for the Liberal Arts, Westmont College, Santa Barbara, CA.

Kraut, Richard. “Aristotle’s Ethics.” The Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy. Edward N. Zalta (ed.), http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2005/entries/aristotle-ethics/

Reuben, Julie (1996). The making of the modern university: intellectual transformation and the marginalization of morality. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Taylor, James E. (2002). “Christian Liberal Learning.” Summer 2002 Faculty Workshop, Westmont College, Santa Barbara, CA.

Wilkins, Michael J. (1992). Following the master: a biblical theology of discipleship. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992.

Leading Artists and Musicians, in @CatalystLeader

Part of ongoing series: Paparazzi in the Hands of an Angry God: Servant Leadership in an Age of Self-Promotion.

.

Born in 2000 as a Next Generation Leaders Conference, Catalyst attendance is now over 100,000 and growing

Catalyst was conceived as a Next Generation Leaders Conference in 1999 by Andy Stanley, Reggie Joiner, John Maxwell, Lanny Donoho and several young leaders. Catalyst was able to meet that demand by creating a conference specifically focused on leaders under the age of 40. In October of 2000 in Atlanta, GA, Catalyst convened 1500 church leaders for this inaugural experience. With a unique approach to programming and learning, defined by a fun, dynamic attendee experience, leaders were personally challenged to become “change agents” within their organizations, churches and communities… even and especially Artists and Musicians..

Leading Artists and Musicians

Okay, so alot of us who run organizations, or manage teams, or have staff direct reports, are leading those who consider themselves to be ARTISTS of some sort.

Whether it’s musicians, or designers, or writers, or entertainers, or worship leaders, or those who sketch/paint/draw, I’m going to lump them all together for the sake of this conversation and my thoughts on how to best lead them.

Here is a disclaimer… I’m not so sure I’m the best at this. Specifically leading artists.

Disclaimer #2…. we are ALL artists. In regards that we all are called to create things of excellence. Some of us are way more “Artistic” at our core than others. That is who I’m talking about here. You know who they are on your team. Guaranteed.

I’m also VERY INTERESTED to hear from you on how you best lead/manage artists. Please comment below and share your thoughts.

Here are a few of my thoughts:

1. Start with reality. Artists are different. Not in bad weird way. But in a great weird way. So just begin with this, and it will help tremendously.

2. Lead, don’t manage. Share vision, inspire, and let them loose. Managing an artist type like you would an accountant, or a project manager, or a typical hard charging type A, is not a good idea.

3. Be very specific on areas that most think are ambiguous. Most leaders think that because artists are spontaneous and spatial in their thinking, that they don’t want specifics. So alot of leaders will be totally ambiguous in their interactions with artists. But just the opposite. Most artists need and desire very clear, focused and specific direction.

4. Give them room to dream. This might mean they need to spend an afternoon at a coffee shop or in the park or at the lake. Let them do that.

5. Allow them to decorate and make their area “their own.” Their office or cube or space needs to reflect who they are. Otherwise, finding inspiration could be tough in the office.

6. Release them into their areas of greatest strength. Don’t burden a great artist with tasks and responsibilities outside their strengths. If it’s a money thing, pay them less but let them do what they are great at. Most artists care way more about doing their “art” anyway.

7. Aggregate artists in “pairs” and team lead them. I like to always have at least two artists in a meeting, on a team, working on a project, sitting together, and ultimately working together. It gives them more energy and allows them to vent to each other. Also, if you have personality conflicts with artists on your team, then “team” lead them. Don’t take it personal, but figure out the best way to release them and inspire them. It might be that you are not the best person to do that, and it’s okay that someone else on your team is.

————————.

Since inception, over 100,000 leaders have made the annual trek to Atlanta to participate in the Catalyst Conference experience, and this October, once again over 12,000 young leaders will gather to experience Catalyst up close. In addition, over 3,000 leaders will gather for the Catalyst West Coast experience in Orange County, CA and 3,000 more will gather for the first ever Catalyst in Dallas.

Leadership has been the topic of focus for the Catalyst brand since inception and will continue to be so. Catalyst and the annual Conferences provide a wide cover for addressing a variety of topics specific to Next Generation Leaders, including organizational leadership, personal leadership, integrity, character, relationships, and teamwork, among others. Over the last eleven years, Catalyst has grown in influence and reach, now offering three annual events on the East and West coast and in Dallas, regional One Day events, multiple resources, a dedicated online magazine, online community, the Filter content program, a bi-weekly podcast, and many other tools for young leaders. Catalyst has only just begun to go deeper with the Catalyst Community in taking them beyond a conference experience and into a relationship that provides ongoing support for growth and continued learning.

For other posts and information on how to register for a Catalyst Conference near you visit: Catalystspace.com