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Patrick Halbrook

Books on Education by Non-Classical Authors

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In his essay "On the Reading of Old Books," C.S. Lewis pointed out, "It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones"

As educators committed to a classical vision of schooling, most of us similarly seek to find the right balance between the types of books we read about education, trying to figure out how to divide our time between: 1) the multitude of books about classical education that have been written within the past 25 years, 2) older books that we (at least theoretically) value the most, by Augustine, Mason, or Lewis himself (is he in the "old books" category yet?), and 3) newer books on education from outside the classical or Christian realms, about which we might feel ambiguity or suspicion, but which may at times offer valuable insights or practical suggestions we wouldn't get otherwise.

  • How do you attempt to strike the right balance between these categories? (How would you divide up the categories you try to balance?)
  • What books have you read from non-classical/Christian educators which have been the most (or the least) beneficial? (And have you encountered any authors who are inclined in the direction of a classical approach without realizing it or naming it as such?)

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I don't do a very good job of balancing my reading, unfortunately. Here's what I have typically going on (more or less regularly):

A book on parenting.

A book club book (usually literature, but sometimes history, theology, or philosophy, etc.).

A disciplinary book (I teach rhetoric).

A bible study book (usually a commentary on a book of the Bible).

A random "catches my fancy" book.

As for books from non-CCE folk that have had the biggest impact, I'd say Plato, simply because I've read and reread a few of his dialogues that touch directly and fundamentally on the problems of knowledge/virtue: how to attain them and pass them on. One day, if I ever get around to it, I'd like to write a book on pedagogy using Plato's Gorgias and Phaedrus.

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