“The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.”
The ivory-white words flashed across the dark screen. I sat and watched. The words seemed vaguely familiar, but I searched vainly through every recess of my mind to cite the source.
Absentmindedly, I read them aloud: “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones….”
My daughter who sat next to me continued from memory “… So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus hath told you Caesar was ambitious. If it were so, it was a grievous fault, and grievously hath Caesar answered it….” She proceeded to recite from memory Antony’s funeral oration from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, flawlessly and in its entirety. I couldn’t even find the reference in my mind; she found the entire speech.
My daughter is thirteen. She’s in eighth grade.
At a time when many teens bury their noses in Twilight novels and the mindless entertainment of digital devices, classically educated students are brought into contact with the highest and best minds that the world has produced. Engaging with those minds and the ideas they generated and refined, and the literature they produced, shapes and informs our students.
For example, the same daughter was recently reading a poem she wrote in her composition class. One of the lines read, “Green is the light that filters through the leaves.” That is a beautiful line of poetry, written by an eighth grader. She could produce such beauty in part because she’s been immersed in the great works of the classical Christian canon: the Psalms and Proverbs, the Apostle Paul, Augustine, Shakespeare, Homer, Virgil, et al.
In Matthew 12, Jesus said, ““Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit.” Though Jesus was addressing the evil hearts of Pharisees the same principle applies in the world of education. One should be able to tell the quality and character of education a student is receiving based on the fruit it produces: bad education will produce bad fruit, while good education will produce good fruit.
Students possessing a love for the most powerful literature the world has produced, having the best lines from that literature at their fingertips, and being able to craft their own beautifully worded sentences are all fruits for which I am thankful.
(By way of an apology, I have tried really hard to avoid bragging about my own kids in this blog. Please forgive this indulgence of a really proud dad. I promise it won’t happen again …. for a while.)