Earlier this spring, the Great Hearts Institute played host to a bevy of scholars, artists, teachers, and school leaders. All were gathered in Phoenix for the 4th Annual National Symposium for Classical Education. In the ballroom, meeting rooms, and hallways of the Phoenix Convention Center, we celebrated the fundamental motivation of classical education: making beautiful things, from music to drama to poetry to visual art.
This thirteenth issue of VIRTUE provides an occasion to reflect, with several Symposium 2022 participants, on some themes explored at the March gathering. How does making something beautiful transform the maker? What methods are most suitable for teaching the fine arts in the classical register? How do the fine arts relate to the other subjects taught in the classical classroom? These and other questions were taken up in remarkable lectures, workshops, and lively discussions that filled the convention center for three wonderful days. This issue of VIRTUE serves as a sampler of what hundreds witnessed in person (and online) last March.
An emphasis on the fine arts is a signature of the classical approach, as this issue’s contributors explain. The fine arts are not for the select few “who are into those things,” but for every student, for all are being formed by that which they love. A love of beauty must surely emerge from an open-hearted encounter with beautiful works.
First, Cana Academy’s Andrew Zwerneman provides a compelling argument for how “art is inherently relational”—that is, how the artist’s rendering of a given experience serves as a form of communication and a judgment of the artist’s imagination. Thought and feeling are shared between the artist and the audience, for its appraisal and response.
While such judgments of art are formed by society, Professor Carol (Reynolds) worries that today’s
critics—“a ravenous assembly of professors and activists”—are defaming, even destroying great works. Against the ideological iconoclasts who tend to smash first, then ask questions, she insists that art should be a cultural inheritance for everyone. Reynolds hopes that philanthropists may save many cultural artifacts by simply maintaining their private collections.
The classical approach involves communicating the works of past masters to the next generation—and
certainly to the next cohort of artists. Reflecting on his decades of college teaching, Fred Turner emphasizes the importance of teaching poetry in the earliest years, before “the love of magical rhythmic language has been abandoned in fashionable embarrassment, the emotions are stereotyped, and logic confined to the world of practicality.” For the classical educator, poetry infuses the
curriculum and its pedagogy.
We are truly honored to reprint remarks on the art of story-telling from the late Amy Kass (1940-2015). An extraordinary teacher, Kass was the driving force and co-author of the 2011 anthology, “What So Proudly We Hail.” The Great Hearts Institute is proud to host teacher resources for the anthology—including lesson guides, questions, scholarly interviews, etc.—all with public
access for classroom usage.
In this issue’s profile, Nick Hutchison of the Globe Theater reflects on his time in Phoenix, expressing genuine surprise at the careful attention given to the practices of the arts. “I feared being swamped by huge themes, wildly confident generalizations and grandiose sentimentality,” said Hutchison. Instead, he witnessed scores of teachers, scholars, artists, and leaders delighting in the crafts of human artifice.
Each of the contributors to this issue provide a chorus of voices in support of classical education, which, as Nick Hutchison says, delights in “the love of creation [and] the precision of craft… [where beauty lives.”