Today’s Phrase for Latin Lovers

Rex in Regno suo superiores habet Deum et Legem.

The King in his Realm hath two superiors: God and the Law. -- Henry Care (1646-1688) on English liberties and the Magna Carta


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Ancient History

|Best Books | Prudence Prize

Best Book: The Well-Trained Mind

Watching the recent examples of the abominable behavior of Wisconsin and New Jersey teachers makes me realize someone needs to take to the highest mountain, put a megaphone to their mouth and shout: “Attention, parents of America! Put down the public school registration form. Step away from the teachers’ unions. They are destroying your children’s futures and stunting the growth of their minds.”

With their emphasis on teaching navel exploration and peer relations over language and math skills, teaching politically corrupted history and multiculturalism over logic and rhetoric, government-run schools indoctrinate your kids with touchy-feely nonsense that eschews independent thinking skills and leaves them ill-prepared for life.

What can you do to save your children? Home school them—or supplement your child’s education with after-school home schooling.

Many parents grow extremely nervous and intimidated when thinking about not just the time commitment it takes to home school children, but they also worry whether they have the knowledge and ability to teach their kids on their own.

If you are interested in finding out what a well-founded home-school curriculum includes or are actually considering the possibility of taking control of your kids’ educations, there’s one book that will show you how and why you must: The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home by Jesse Wise and Susan Wise Bauer, a mother-daughter team who write from their own experiences as the home-schooler and the home-schooled.

In it, Jesse writes:

My own children were faced with teachers who brought them down to the level of the class; teachers who thought it was more important to teach social skills than academic subjects; textbooks that had abandoned grammatical rules and mathematical logic in favor of scattershot, incidental learning. They were surrounded by peers who considered anyone good at learning to be a geek. They spent seven hours every day sitting in desks, standing in lines, riding buses, and doing repetitive seatwork so that their classmates could learn what they already knew.

To rectify the problem, the Wise women present a complete “classical education” program that can take your child from birth through 12th grade to emerge with a “well-trained mind.”

General guidelines are offered to prepare a child for education between birth and kindergarten, but a complete syllabus is offered for first through twelfth grade. The Well-Trained Mind program is based on “the classical pattern of the trivium,” in which the 12 years of education are broken into three groups of four years.

The first years of schooling are called the “grammar stage”—not because you spend four years doing English, but because these are the years in which the building blocks for all other learning are laid, just as grammar is the foundation for the language. In the elementary-school years—grades 1 through 4—the mind is ready to absorb information. Since children at this age actually find memorization fun, during this period education involves not self-expression or self-discovery, but rather the learning of facts: rules of phonics and spelling, rules of grammar, poems, the vocabulary of foreign languages, the stories of history and literature, descriptions of plants and animals and the human body, the facts of mathematics—the list goes on. This information makes up the grammar for the second stage of education.

By fifth grade, a child’s mind begins to think more analytically. Middle-school students are less interested in finding out facts than in asking “Why?” The second phase of the classical education, the “logic stage,” is a time when the child begins to pay attention to cause and effect, to the relationships among different fields of knowledge, to the way facts fit together into a logical framework….

….The final phase of a classical education, the “rhetoric stage,” builds on the first two. At this point, the high school student learns to write and speak with force and originality. The student of rhetoric applies the rules of logic learned in middle school to the foundational information learned in the early grades and expresses her conclusions in clear, forceful, elegant language. The student also begins to specialize in whatever branch of knowledge attracts her; these are the years for art camps, college courses, foreign travel, apprenticeships, and other forms of specialized training.

That’s the three stages, but…

A classical education is more than just a pattern of learning, though. First, it is language-focused: learning is accomplished through words, written and spoken, rather than through images (pictures, videos, and television).

Why is this important? Language learning and image learning require very different habits of thought. Language requires the mind to work harder; in reading, the brain is forced to translate a symbol (words on the page) into a concept. Images, such as those on videos and television, allow the mind to be passive. In front of a video screen, the brain can “sit back” and relax; faced with the written page, the mind is required to roll its sleeves up and get to work.

Second, a classical education follows a specific three-part pattern: the mind must be first supplied with facts and images, then given the logical tools for organization of those faces and images, and finally equipped to express conclusions.

Third, to the classical mind, all knowledge is interrelated. Astronomy, for example, isn’t studied in isolation; it’s learned along with the history of scientific discovery, which leads into the church’s relationship to science and from there to the intricacies of medieval church history. The reading of the Odyssey allows the student to consider Greek history, the nature of heroism, the development of the epic, and humankind’s understanding of the divine.

In the classical education program, every four years of a 12-year education follows the same pattern and repeats in the next: Ancients (5000 BC – AD 400), Medieval to Early Renaissance (400-1600), Late Renaissance to Early Modern (1600-1850) and Modern (1850-present). The cycle begins simply for the first round and advances into full complexity in the final repetition.

The other subject areas of the curriculum are linked to history studies. The student who is working on ancient history will read Greek and Roman mythology, tales of the Iliad and Odyssey, early medieval writings, Chinese and Japanese fairy tales, and (for the older student) the classical texts of Plato, Herodotus, Virgil, Aristotle. She’ll read Beowulf, Dante, Chaucer, Shakespeare the following year, when she’s studying medieval and early Renaissance history. When the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries are studied, she starts with Swift (Gulliver’s Travels) and ends with Dickens; finally, she reads modern literature as she is studying modern history.

The sciences are studied in a four-year pattern that roughly corresponds to the periods of scientific discovery….

….This pattern lends coherence to the study of history, science, and literature—subjects that are too often fragmented and confusing. The pattern widens and deepens as the student matures and learns. For example, a first grader listens to you read the story of the Iliad from one of the picture-book versions available at any public library. (Susan’s experience has been that first graders think the Iliad is a blast, especially when Achilles starts hauling Hector’s body around the walls of Troy.) Four years later, the fifth grader reads one of the popular middle-grade adaptations—Olivia Coolidge’s The Trojan War or Roger L. Green’s The Tale of Troy. Four more years go by, and the ninth grader—faced with Homer’s Iliad itself—plunges right in, undaunted. She already knows the story. What’s to be scared of?

And so the program goes. How I wish I could have been taught in such a manner…and not still reading books for the first time that I would have read by the end of high school.

Therefore, for showing parents how they can break free of teacher unions whose primary concern is how to meet the needs of teachers for more perks and free time instead of how to educate children, the Prudence Prize for Best Book of the Week goes to Susan Wise Bauer and Jesse Wise’s The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home.

Click the title of the book above and order a copy for every parent of school-age children you know. Let’s take back our country, one well-trained child’s mind at a time.

I’ve had a couple of questions about the contents of The Well-Trained Mind. It is a fast and convincing read, laying out the hows and whys of a classical education program with such simplicity that it makes me want to set up a little classroom for my nephew and niece this very instant.

The program the book suggests is flexible. It’s not a collection of rigid daily lesson plans. Instead, for each of the 12 school years, it

  • tells what topics should be covered,
  • provides large lists of recommended books in each subject (available both for sale and in libraries) along with workbooks and other study materials, and makes clear that parents may use other books they find if they prefer,
  • suggests types of notebook organization each student can use,
  • gives estimates of time that should be devoted daily or weekly to each subject,
  • offers hard-earned advice on teaching those subjects/topics from the authors’ own experience, and so on.

It also makes suggestions for how and when to supplement the basic four subject areas (language, history, science and math) with complementary learning in art, music, Latin (beginning by first grade!) and other foreign languages, computer skills and so forth.

There’s also an entire segment in the book devoted to the basic home-school concerns: “classroom” setup; schedules and socialization; organization, record-keeping and standardized testing; athletics and extracurricular activities; and, of course, college preparation.

The appendices have long lists of home school organizations that can provide additional assistance and guidance, national science competitions and other resources.

All in all, The Well-Trained Mind: A Guide to Classical Education at Home is a home-schooling manual that can reassure and guide you and your child through 18 years of excellence in education, whether you start the program on day one or come into it well into a child’s academic career.

The “Look Inside” preview on Amazon is indeed fairly limited, but the Table of Contents offers a glimpse of at least the structure of the book. Beyond that, I can confidently say it’s well worth the slightly over $25 to learn ways you can improve your child’s education, regardless of whether you actually end up home schooling him or her.

Plus, it has the Prudence Prize seal of approval. There’s no higher recommendation.

|Prudence Potpourri | The Left

Flashback: WI Teacher Union Outraged Over No Viagra Benefits (UPDATED x2)

[Updates at end!…but be sure to check out the new logo that SooperMexican designed for the Wisconsin “public service” union knuckleheads: click here.]

Last August, the Milwaulkee school district’s teacher’s union was all up in arms—insisting they get their Viagra pills put back into their relatively free health insurance plans.

In an article titled “Despite Budget Cuts, Layoff Fears, Milwaukee Teachers Fight for Taxpayer-Funded Viagra,” Fox News reported:

At least one lawmaker questioned why the union is fighting for Viagra while teachers are losing their jobs. A consultant for the school board has estimated that reinstating the drug benefit would cost $786,000 per year — the cost to keep perhaps a dozen first-year teachers employed.

For the math challenged, that works out to a first-year teacher earning $65,500. Sign me up!

The article also said:

The union has argued the costs are tiny compared to the $1.3 billion annual budget. But the school board says they are “particularly burdensome” when it is under pressure to reduce benefit costs.

That the pills — which can cost $20 apiece without insurance — were included in the first place is somewhat unusual. Health insurer Aetna Inc., which provides one of the district’s two plans, says its standard pharmacy plans exclude Viagra and other “drugs for lifestyle enhancement or performance.”

Note that the teachers pay little if anything at all for their health plans. Yet:

Board and union negotiators reached a deal in 2002 to cover six tablets per month for erectile dysfunction drugs in health plans that insure 10,000 employees, dependents and retirees. They quickly became popular.

By 2004, the number of claimants receiving prescriptions skyrocketed to more than 1,000 per year, costing the district $207,000. During negotiations in 2005, the board proposed eliminating the benefit and an arbitrator adopted the plan.

A gender discrimination suit has apparently held up the removal of Viagra from the health plans.

And now these teachers have flooded the halls of the Madison capitol building complaining that they shouldn’t have to contribute anything to cover their health care—among other whines.

I could make a bad off-color joke here about how this Viagra protest was a perfect example of how the teacher unions can’t even screw the public on their own but instead demand the public pay them to do it…but I won’t.


Several bloggers have done an excellent job in summarizing the events of the Wisconsin union agitations this week:

Jimmie Bise, aka @JimmieBJR, at The Sundries Shack says “This Is the Week That Should End Public Sector Unions” and I could not agree more.

Public sector unions are, as I have said before, a blight on our states and nation. We should do everything in our power to rid ourselves of them entirely and make sure, by law if necessary, that they can never come back again. It would make me very happy if Governor Walker fired every single teacher who called out sick over the past two days. They let down the taxpayers of Wisconsin and, more importantly, taught their students that it’s okay to lie, cheat, and steal in order to get what you want.

What’s more, government “bargaining” agreements with public employees is are no bargain for taxpayers who are essentially unrepresented in any “negotiations.” It’s not the bureaucrat’s money on the line that he gives away without much concern for the fiscal consequences down the line.

Dan Collins, aka @vermontaigne,  of Piece Of Work In Progress says he can’t write much today because of other work and then proceeds to put together an amazing collection of links pertaining to the extortion protests going on in Wisconsin—including creating a new verse to the The Who’s “Magic Bus” which he renames “Union Bus.”

Dan, a former Wisonsin native, wrote at

What I’d like to see is someone go out and video reactions when they tell the kids that these apparent holidays now will mean make-up days in June. Think any of their teachers taking them to rally have told them that? I seem to recall that Wisconsin has laws regarding truancy, too, or at least so I was told with regard to Senior Skip Day when I was in school.

And then there’s @diggrbiii of The Right Sphere, who writes in his post titled “OFA (Obama’s Re-Election Campaign) Organizes Civil Unrest”:

This entire situation is a case study in corruption. As Jenny Erikson explains, Public Sector unions are inherently corrupt because when they protest, they don’t just impact a company or an industry, they impact the whole society. The PUBLIC. In this case, school districts get shut down. A couple of months ago, people died because a Public Sector Union in New York City decided they were going to send a message to the city leadership.  Public Sector Unions can hold the public hostage. How is that fair to everyone else? Where’s the equality there?

He concludes his post with an update saying the DNC is now claiming they haven’t helped the WI hoopla all that much. I’ve been collecting a bit of evidence on that. Let’s see if I find time to “organize” it and get it posted.

Update #2

Nope, sorry, didn’t get it all organized in time. Still plan to give a few links, but in the meantime I highly recommend checking out two items at SooperMexican’s site:

  1. A union teacher forgets to close the flap on her union suit before she calls into the Tim Conway Jr. radio show because she sure shows her bare bottom, and
  2. The Wisconsin public service unions get a new logo.

Also have you heard about the debacle into which the unions have plunged the Detroit schools?

State education officials have ordered the emergency financial manager for Detroit Public Schools to immediately implement a plan that balances the district’s books by closing half its schools.

The Detroit News says the financial restructuring plan will increase high school class sizes to 60 students and consolidate operations.

Hear that? Sixty students per class.  I have substitute taught in high schools before. I can’t imagine how you could ever sufficiently instruct each of those 60 students, let alone even know who they are. A class period would allot for less than one minute of attention per student. Most classrooms barely hold 30 students. How will they pack 60 into one class?

Perhaps Detroit should look at eliminating the administration and the unions and focus on teaching children. Or just give in already and give the money to the private schools to take over the entire system. It would really be for the best.

Oh! and welcome to POWIP readers. Dan Collins has done some fantastic commentary and reporting on the Wisconsin union pity parade (including this post on the shenanigans the Wisconsin Democrats tried to pull in a special lame duck session before the Republicans took over)….AND on the Detroit closing (I can’t stay ahead of that guy)… and the sorry state of the Milwaukee public schools and the interesting reason why they are struggling. I could link to practically all of his recent posts for you. But instead, I suggest just going there and perusing all the posts yourself. I’m sure you’ll find something of interest.