Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Classical Conversations trains local parents, students to learn

From Zachary Today: Classical Conversations trains local parents, students to learn

Dorothy Sayers, a friend of C. S. Lewis, gave a lecture at Oxford in 1947. She challenged educators to think about learning in a different way. She asked, “Do you ever find that young people, when they have left school, not only forget most of what they have learnt…but forget also, or betray that they have never really known, how to tackle a new subject for themselves?”
She answered her own question with a practical solution: return to the classical model of education. Teach just three skills: grammar, dialectic and rhetoric and use the best of literature, science and math resources guided by an individual who loves teaching students to learn anything.

In the Baton Rouge area, a program called Classical Conversations (CC) is taking Sayers’ advice and giving a new face to these classic ideas. Leigh Bortins is the founder of Classical Conversations, a North Carolina-based organization which seeks to equip parents and students with the classical tools of learning. As a parent and teacher of four boys, Bortins has found that Sayers’ “tools of learning,” are the foundation of a lasting education.

Since 1997, CC has supported home-centered education by providing teaching tools and training for parents and educational materials for students. Although CC began with a few families meeting in Bortins’ basement, CC communities now exist in over 35 states and several foreign countries, and the programs continue to grow.

Four years ago, the first Classical Conversations community was born in Baton Rouge. Today, there are five locations in our area:

• CC of Zachary meets at Plains Presbyterian Church on Old Scenic Hwy.

• CC of Baton Rouge meets at Florida Boulevard Baptist Church on Florida Blvd.

• CC of Mid-City Baton Rouge meets at Grace Baptist Church on Richland Ave.

• CC of Gonzales meets at First Baptist Church on Burnside Ave.

• CC of Denham Springs meets at Lifepoint on South Hwy. 16

The “three skills” Sayers promoted form the backbone of the classical model and of Bortins’ programs. Grammar, the science of reciting and memorizing vocabulary, begins the study of any topic. It is followed by logic, or the discussion and reconciliation of ideas, often called the dialectic stage.

Finally, rhetoric, the consequences of ideas, is the ability to take grammar and teach it to others. Taken as a whole, classical education means good education: being taught how to learn anything by defining and storing terms, clearly thinking about the reconciliation of new ideas with old information and wisely using knowledge and understanding.

Each community is facilitated by a trained parent-director, and weekly classes are led by trained parent-tutors who model the classical tools of learning.

Using age-appropriate methods, CC’s three central programs are based on the three stages of classical learning - grammar, dialectic and rhetoric.

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