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Temperance and Harmony

~ by Edward Kotynski~

There is a tendency in our society to fragment the self into separate spheres.  Each part of the self is analyzed on its own merits, often without reintegration with the whole, and these analyses are then used to provide simplistic solutions to our problems.  Analysis is good, but does not result in good without reintegration or synthesis.  A liberal arts education according to the classical model provides a much-needed corrective to such fragmentation and leads us to seeing ourselves and reality as a harmonious whole.

Tyrone Benson wrote a couple of good pieces for our blog, which I hope to expand on by talking about temperance as harmony – a fitting together of the parts for the proper working of the whole.  Tyrone gives examples about how the pieces of Latin fit harmoniously together into an integrated whole when one understands the system of the language.  I want to explore further how such integration is achieved in a cross-disciplinary way using Latin as a case study.

It is argued by Pieper in The Four Cardinal Virtues that temperance looks to the self in a way that the cardinal virtues do not (p.147).  Temperance, therefore, may appear to be in direct opposition to the other cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, andpatience, which look outwards.  Yet if we properly view the cardinal virtues in relation to the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love and in relation to each other, this seeming paradox disappears.  Moderation for its own sake is not a virtue (p.149), since, after all, our goal is to pursue God without moderation.  The moderation of temperance orders the rest of our lives to this end as it is informed by prudence, justice, and fortitude.

If you spend enough time with me personally or in my classroom, you will notice that the lens through which I see life, and therefore education, is through the two great commandments – the primary goal of the Christian – to love God and man.  This requires integration at every level, a harmony of all aspects of the classroom.  I try to choose what is best from among the good, to see rightly the relative importance of things, and to curb excesses.

The first step in applying harmonious temperance to education is to consider the purpose of education.  Education has for its purpose bringing children up to follow in the ways of the Lord and raising whole and healthy adults who serve and love other people.  The purpose of a liberal arts education, furthermore, is to see the world as a unified whole – a whole that includes all the subject’s, yes, but more than this the whole person: body, mind, and spirit.  Latin, like many subjects, can be taught isolated from the rest of the curriculum.  It can be self-important – more so in classical education than in other approaches.  It can also be taught simply as a set of rules and words to be decoded because it is “good for its own sake.”  But humility (an aspect of prudence)allows us to see how our subject fits into the big scheme of things.  Latin provides one way of accessing history, language, the thinking of God’s people in ages past, and cultures, all ways that help us reconsider our own time and place.  Language taught in a vacuum becomes vacuous.  It finds its true meaning in relation to other subjects, and in context, classical languages can give us access to “the democracy of the dead” (G.K. Chesterton).  Through Latin, we have access to ideas that are not currently prevalent, helping us see past the fashions of our time, as C.S. Lewis notes.

The second step of application is action.  In order to apply the knowledge gained through prudence and the sense of proportion found through humility, we need to apply temperance – the preservation of our subject for its proper ends in its proper relations to other subjects.  At Scholé Academy, we do not just teach knowledge of the language, but try to enrich the students through a discovery of Roman culture, history, philosophy, philology, agriculture, and more.  We do not just teach a subject, but foster the virtues and provide an atmosphere for the development of the whole person.

Here are some ways that this plays out in the upper school Latin program:

* We care about the student’s spiritual and social life, building community where possible.  Scholé Academy urges liturgical teaching, where we have traditions that are aimed at welcoming students as people, listening to their life circumstances – their daily joys and sorrows – and praying with them.  We formally greet our students as class begins and, when we part at the end of class, we do so deliberately with a formal salutation.  The daily or weekly format is generally predictable but with space built in for variety and even spontaneity.  For my classes, the usual weekly order is: 1) review of previous material related to the new chapter, 2) introduction to vocabulary, grammar, and the weekly motto, 3) practice learning and applying new material, 4) reading an excerpt/adaptation from Latin literature, and 5) assessment to keep students accountable and to enable the teacher to gauge student progress.

* This regularity is broken up with reinforcement activities, games, worksheets, and read-alouds.   Time for discussion or rabbit-trails is built into the schedule.  We don’t just cover the chapter, we discuss the language, its relationship to English and other languages, linguistic principles, and how knowing Latin transforms how we read other translation literature such as the Bible.  We discuss the context of our weekly reading within Roman history, make analogies to other historical times and places, and discuss our authors, trying to get into their shoes.  We consider Latin as literature – how texts are constructed, their poetic techniques, and authorial idiosyncrasies.

* Just as importantly, we joke and have fun. 

* We care about truth, but try to communicate corrections in love.

All of these facets of the classroom are meant to produce a unified whole, a “single self” that, in all its parts, harmoniously lead towards God and the good.

I hope that such an image of the harmonious classroom, rooted in the virtues, gives you inspiration for what education can be for your students. I myself, “have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on” (Philippians 3:13-14, NLT).  I work towards the goal “with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12-13, ESV), for, as Tyrone has reminded us, “with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26, NIV). 

Edward Kotynski, Chair of Latin Department, grew up as a missionary kid in Indonesia, where his parents were Bible translators. He attributes his love of languages partly to his parents’ work and his childhood experience. He received his BA in ancient languages from Wheaton College in Illinois in 2004, and his MA in classical languages from Vanderbilt University in Tennessee in 2007. Mr. Kotynski has been teaching Latin and Greek for the last fifteen years, mostly at classical Christian schools. He loves sharing his passion for the ancient languages with his students, weaving in historical context and modern connections. He has edited two volumes of Latin Alive! for Classical Academic Press and has also been working on their Greek for Children series with Erin Valdez. He is very excited to be continuing with Scholé Academy this year. Besides Latin and Greek, Mr. Kotynski drinks coffee, loves reading, helps homeschool his kids, and plays board games. He lives with his wife, six children, and two cats, enjoying the craziness of life together.

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