then yours wasn’t a really good school

From Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (in chapter 9 “The Mock Turtle’s Story”).

‘When we were little,’ the Mock Turtle went on at last, more calmly, though still sobbing a little now and then, ‘we went to school in the sea. The master was an old Turtle — we used to call him Tortoise — ‘

‘Why did you call him Tortoise, if he wasn’t one?’ Alice asked.

‘We called him Tortoise because he taught us,’ said the Mock Turtle angrily: ‘really you are very dull!’

‘You ought to be ashamed of yourself for asking such a simple question,’ added the Gryphon; and then they both sat silent and looked at poor Alice, who felt ready to sink into the earth. At last the Gryphon said to the Mock Turtle, ‘Drive on, old fellow! Don’t be all day about it!’ and he went on in these words:

‘Yes, we went to school in the sea, though you mayn’t believe it — ‘

‘I never said I didn’t!’ interrupted Alice.

‘You did,’ said the Mock Turtle.

‘Hold your tongue!’ added the Gryphon, before Alice could speak again. The Mock Turtle went on.

‘We had the best of educations — in fact, we went to school every day — ‘

‘I’ve been to a day-school, too,’ said Alice; ‘you needn’t be so proud as all that.’

‘With extras?’ asked the Mock Turtle a little anxiously.

‘Yes,’ said Alice, ‘we learned French and music.’

‘And washing?’ said the Mock Turtle.

‘Certainly not!’ said Alice indignantly.

‘Ah! then yours wasn’t a really good school,’ said the Mock Turtle in a tone of great relief. ‘Now at ours they had at the end of the bill, “French, music, and washing — extra.”‘

‘You couldn’t have wanted it much,’ said Alice; ‘living at the bottom of the sea.’

‘I couldn’t afford to learn it.’ said the Mock Turtle with a sigh. ‘I only took the regular course.’

‘What was that?’ inquired Alice.

‘Reeling and Writhing, of course, to begin with,’ the Mock Turtle replied; ‘and then the different branches of Arithmetic — Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision.’

‘I never heard of “Uglification,” Alice ventured to say. ‘What is it?’

The Gryphon lifted up both its paws in surprise. ‘What! Never heard of uglifying!’ it exclaimed. ‘You know what to beautify is, I suppose?’

‘Yes,’ said Alice doubtfully: ‘it means — to — make — anything — prettier.’

‘Well, then,’ the Gryphon went on, ‘if you don’t know what to uglify is, you are a simpleton.’

Alice did not feel encouraged to ask any more questions about it, so she turned to the Mock Turtle, and said ‘What else had you to learn?’

‘Well, there was Mystery,’ the Mock Turtle replied, counting off the subjects on his flappers, ‘ — Mystery, ancient and modern, with Seaography: then Drawling — the Drawling-master was an old conger-eel, that used to come once a week: he taught us Drawling, Stretching, and Fainting in Coils.’

‘What was that like?’ said Alice.

‘Well, I can’t show it you myself,’ the Mock Turtle said: ‘I’m too stiff. And the Gryphon never learnt it.’

‘Hadn’t time,’ said the Gryphon: ‘I went to the Classics master, though. He was an old crab, HE was.’

‘I never went to him,’ the Mock Turtle said with a sigh: ‘he taught Laughing and Grief, they used to say.’

‘So he did, so he did,’ said the Gryphon, sighing in his turn; and both creatures hid their faces in their paws.

‘And how many hours a day did you do lessons?’ said Alice, in a hurry to change the subject.

‘Ten hours the first day,’ said the Mock Turtle: ‘nine the next, and so on.’

‘What a curious plan!’ exclaimed Alice.

‘That’s the reason they’re called lessons,’ the Gryphon remarked: ‘because they lessen from day to day.’

This was quite a new idea to Alice, and she thought it over a little before she made her next remark. ‘Then the eleventh day must have been a holiday?’

‘Of course it was,’ said the Mock Turtle.

‘And how did you manage on the twelfth?’ Alice went on eagerly.

‘That’s enough about lessons,’ the Gryphon interrupted in a very decided tone: ‘tell her something about the games now.’

the good that you sow in the hearts of your children

It will be enough if you take care to instruct your children in the fear of God…. The good that you sow in the hearts of your children while they are young will blossom forth in their hearts when they come to full maturity, and after enduring the bitter trials of school and contemporary life, which often break off the branches of a good Christian upbringing in the home.

St. Ambrose quoted in Living Without Hypocrisy: Spiritual Counsels of the Holy Elders of Optina (published 2005 by the Holy Trinity monastery in Jordanville, NY).

school is only a preparation for the home

From “Uneducating the Educated” in Common Sense 101: Lessons from G. K. Chesterton by Dale Ahlquist (103-107):

“The purpose of Compulsory Education is to deprive the common people of their common sense” [Illustrated London News, September 7, 1929].

What common sense tells us is that most people have this simple basic desire: to have a happy family and a happy home. Chesterton says that “just now there is a tendency to forget that the school is only a preparation for the home, and not the home a mere jumping off place for school” [“The Best Toy in the World”, Merry-Go-Round, June 1924].

As is so often the case in the modern world, we have things exactly backwards. In the process of turning our children over to the public education system, we have turned our backs on the home and the family.

“The human house,” says Chesterton, “is a paradox for it is larger inside than out” [Fancies Versus Fads (London: Methuen, 1923), 196]. When we step out of the home, when we pass from private life to public life, we are passing from a greater work to a smaller one, and from a harder work to an easier one. And that is why most modern people wish to pass from the great domestic task to the smaller and easier commercial one. They would rather be in the business world serving the minor needs of a hundred different needs of a hundred different people than meeting all the major needs of just one person, which includes serving meals, conversation, and the moral support. They would rather teach a course in trigonometry to a hundred children than struggle with the whole human charter of one child. Chesterton says that anyone “who makes himself responsible for one small baby, as a whole, will soon find that he is wrestling with gigantic angels and demons.” [Fancies Versus Fads, 202.]

“The truth is that the modern world has committed itself to two totally different and inconsistent conceptions about education. It is always trying to expand the scope of education; and always trying to exclude from it all religion and philosophy. But this is sheer nonsense.” [The Common Man (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1950), 168-69.]

“The one thing that is never taught by any chance in the atmosphere of public schools is this: that there is a whole truth of things, and that in knowing it and speaking it we are happy” [Illustrated London News, August 11, 1906].

to hear in its full glory

[Pythagoras] was born on the island of Samos about 580 B.C. Like many another ancient philosopher he journeyed in his youth to Egypt, where for an indefinite number of years he pursued studies in astronomy, geometry, and theology under the tutelage of Egyptian priests. After further extensive travels, which some ancient commentators say took him as far east as India (a claim which lacks adequate support, however) he returned to his native insular province only to find it in the grip of a dictatorship. So now, as a man of mature years, he migrated to Crotona in southern Italy, probably accompanied by younger men who had become his disciples.

The city of Crotona, which had been founded as early as the eighth century B.C. by Greek colonists, possessed a good natural harbor, which made it a center of sea trade and thereby economically prosperous. Moreover it was said to possess the best school of medicine in any of the Greek colonies of the west. In this attractive location Pythagoras established a school of his own, distinguished by its pursuit of higher studies in mathematics, astronomy, music, metaphysics, and polydaemonistic theology; by a disciplined community life, which included both a daily regimen of activities and studies and the practice of non-possession by sharing unreservedly all the necessities of living; and by carefully guarded conditions of membership which nevertheless allowed (for the first time in history, so far as is known) the admission of women as members. Unfortunately the inhabitants of Crotona regarded the school as an intruder and its head as a dangerous wizard who was rumored to have a golden thigh and to possess various queer magical powers. Hostilities mounted, and at length when Pythagoras had become a very old man there was a mob uprising, which made a vicious attack upon the school, burned the buildings, and murdered or exiled the members.

The nature of daily living in the school, both its moral and its intellectual disciplines, can perhaps best be understood as an intellectualized development from earlier mystery cults such as the Eleusinian. The main Eleusinian practices involved two steps—undergoing purification and revelation, the ritualistic sea-bathing by boys undergoing initiation and the dramatic exhibition in a dark room of the sacred grain stalk in a flash of light. Granted that the ritual and the mystery had a symbolic character for the ancient Eleusinian worshipers, Pythagoras in talking over the basic pattern minimized the ritual and stressed the symbolic character of the religions formulations. Ritual gave way to purposively guided action. The practice of silence each morning, between rising from bed and the ascetically sparse community breakfast, was a means on the one hand of reawakening one’s inner affinity with the divine, and on the other hand of exercising and strengthening one’s power of memory by daily practice in recalling the ordered events of the preceding day, then of the day before that, and so on. Community meals, readings aloud, and the practice of sharing were at once a zestful part of daily living and a symbolic reaffirmation of the participative nature of life—the human soul’s participation in the divine reality that envelops us and thereby in the aims and needs of the Pythagorean brotherhood. Within this harmonious social framework the higher studies—philosophical, mathematical, musical—were pursued, with the hope (and perhaps the occasional realization) of the ultimate Pythagorean aim—to hear in its full glory, and with an intuitive grasp of its hidden meaning, the Music of the Spheres.

From The Presocratics by Philip Wheelwright, the start of chapter 7 “Pythagoreanism” (200-202).

appointed to prepare the sacrifice

Plato’s Academy was a genuine religious association in which, for example, one of the members was explicitly appointed to prepare the sacrifice. Perhaps the reason why “purely academic” has sunk to mean something sterile, pointless and unreal is because the schola has lost its roots in religion and in divine worship. (61)

From Leisure: the Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper (1952).