The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had by Susan Wise Bauer

(New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2003-08-17), 444





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The Well-Educated Mind by Susan Wise Bauer

  • Chapter 1 - Training Your Mind
    • From Jefferson: we can fill our “chasms of time” (14) with useful study
    • Mortimer Adler: reading allows us to participate in the “Great Conversation” of ideas (16)
    • Francis Bacon: “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested” (18)
    • Classical Education is divided into three stages, the Trivium
      • grammar: foundational knowledge
      • logic: analyze
      • rhetoric: express your own opinion
    • She emphasizes the importance of being deliberate and focused
      • “Engage no the mind in the intense pursuit of too many things at once” - Isaac Watts (20)
      • Friedrich Schleiermacher described that wide-ranging, unsystematic reading left his mind “like Chaos, before the world was created (21)
    • Set a time for study
      • morning
      • 4 days per week
    • Don’t focus on visible achievement, but on the act of thinking
  • Chapter 2 - The Act of Reading
    • “to be enlightened is to understand an idea and use it to make sense of the facts you’ve gathered” (25)
    • concern about speed:
        1. reading is the life-long process, so you don’t need to do it all now
        1. serious reading is not trying to assimilate as much info as possible, but to understand a few important ideas
    • But, some points from speed readers may be helpful
        1. move your eyes smoothly across the page
        1. scan the page for context
        1. “prior knowledge makes reading easier” should be encouraging: read chronologically and it gets easier
  • Chapter 3 - Keep a Journal
    • “What we write, we remember. What we summarize in our own words becomes our own.” (36)
    • journal for self-education should be modeled after “commonplace book”: quotes and snippets you want to remember
        1. jot down notes/quotes as you read
        1. after reading, write a brief summary of what you read
        1. white your own thoughts/questions
    • “He who is seeking to know himself should be ever seeking himself in external things” -Bronson Alcott (37)
    • the goal is to not stuff facts in your head but to understand them
    • Lydia Sigourney: “At the close of every week, abridge in writing, the subjects that you deem most valuable” (38)
    • Notes while reading
        1. Write the title of the chapter. Read the whole chapter without stopping. Write down phrases that stand out to you
        1. Summarize each section in your own words
        1. Glance over your summaries and write your reactions
  • Chapter 4 - Final Preparations
    • serious reading is hard work: but can be broken down into manageable steps
    • Grammar
      • Just read and keep reading
      • Underline and take notes on your book
      • When first starting read: title page, table of contents, back cover, preface if by the author/translator (but not others who would be offering an opinion before you get to see the text)
      • Don’t take extensive notes on first reading. Stop at end of each chapter and write a sentence
      • Jot down questions as you read
      • Assemble your summary sentences into an informal outline
      • Give the book a title (4-7 words) and descriptive title to capture what it is really about
    • Logic
      • Reread the difficult and important sections
      • Dig deeper into the book’s structure
      • Ask: How well did the writer succeed?
    • Rhetoric
      • So what? What does the writer want to you do/believe/experience?
      • Engage in purposeful conversation to fix knowledge firmly in the memory
        • book groups
        • find one other person who will read with you and discuss with you
        • discussions by letter can be helpful if you are formal and purposeful in your writing
      • You can check up on other people’s opinions of works after you read: Modern Critical Essays
        • stop by a professor at a local university
    • Notes on her lists by category
      • “When you read chronologically, you reunite two fields that should never have been separated in the first place: history and literature” (51)
        • it provides you with a continuous story
      • Don’t feel bound by the lists: add or subtract to match your interests
        • Also pick how much to focus on each: some to digest

Classical Education